NLL Draft: Grading Each Team’s Draft Night

Photo Courtesy of Halifax Thunderbirds/NLL                                                                                                

The 2019 NLL Draft came and went on Tuesday night, welcoming in the next generation of talent into the league. While it was a more top-heavy draft class than in past years, there were still some surprises. 

Grading each team from A-F, here is a breakdown of how each team fared on draft night. 

Buffalo Bandits – B

Coming into the draft, the Bandits had seven picks including a top-15 selection at number 12. While many expected them to go for a forward at that 12th spot they ended up taking defenseman/transition player Brent Noseworthy out of Brooklin LC/Michigan which gives them another body on the back end that can also run transition and handle the ball very well, having played attack in college at Michigan. 

Buffalo did pick up two forwards in the third and fourth rounds with Nathaniel Kozevnikov out of the Langley Thunder Jr. A/Robert Morris and Ryder Garnsey, a lefty, out of Notre Dame. While Kozevnikov has plenty of upside and could contribute as a rookie, there is no guarantee that Garnsey will take to the box game or even stick with it, despite how great of a talent and athlete he has proven to be in the field game.

In the fourth round, Buffalo picked up defenseman Taylor Kaufeldt out of Brampton Excelsiors Jr. A and lefty transition player Tyler Halls out of Orangeville. They selected goalie Joel Watson out of Whitby with their final pick in the sixth round. 

Buffalo did a good job of adding some solid depth on both ends of the floor and even got a young goaltender that could show some promise in the years to come as he gets groomed in the system. They did take a gamble early on Garnsey which could come back to bite them despite how good of a talent he is, the Bandits didn’t need that much, to begin with, and look to make another deep playoff run in 2019. 

Calgary Roughnecks – A

The defending champs had seven picks in the draft including two in the first round at 7th and 8th. Calgary took defenseman Liam LeClair out of Six Nations Jr.A and forward Haiden Dickson out of Coquitlam Adanacs Jr. A. Getting a big physical defender in LeClair and a big righty shooter are obviously two pluses for the Roughnecks and help them out in multiple ways. 

Calgary got two steals (in my mind) with forward Marshal King, Jesse King’s younger brother, out of the Victoria Shamrocks/Drexel early in the second round and forward Cordell Hastings out of Calgary Shamrocks Jr. B in the fifth round. While King may be further along in his development towards the NLL they both have plenty of upside to eventually be mainstays in this league. Calgary also picked defenseman Nick Scott from Langley Thunder and goalie Landon Kells out of Peterborough Jr. A in the third round. In the final pick of the draft, Calgary picked lefty forward Travis Getz out of Brooklin LC/Wheeling. 

The Roughnecks lost some offensive pieces to free agency, the expansion draft and saw Jesse King get injured late in the summer. With those facts looming, Calgary did good filling some holes in the draft but maybe got one too many “project” guys than expected. Still, they bring in some promising young talent into camp on both ends of the floor. 

Colorado Mammoth – B-

Trading away Jermey Noble and Zack Greer to San Diego for a 2019 2nd rounder and a conditional pick in 2020 was head-scratching to some, but it appears the Mammoth are going to rely heavily on the talented youth they bring in from this draft and already have on the roster. 

Colorado picked a big strong and physical defenseman in Warren Jeffery out of Brampton Excelsiors/Vermont with the sixth pick and then got lefty forward Will Malcolm out of New Westminster Salmonbellies and defenseman Brett Craig out of the Maple Ridge Burrards/Seton Hill in the second round. Those first three picks are huge for the Mammoth as they add talent and depth on both ends, and each of those guys should make an impact as a rookie, especially Jeffery. 

The Mammoth got forward Jake McNabb out of St. Catherines with their compensatory pick in the third round before picking defenseman Dylan Kinnear out of Langley Thunder/Towson and forward Daniel Bucaro out of Georgetown in the third and fifth rounds. They finished the draft picking Liam Osborne out of the Brooklin Merchants/Belmont Abbey in the sixth round. 

With a strong young core, Colorado just added to that in this year’s draft. While the additions of Jeffery and Malcolm are the most exciting, they got some good talent in the later rounds, as well and it could pay off down the road. Their draft class is pretty decent, even if most fans wanted to try and replace all their loses in one night, which will never happen for any team. 

Georgia Swarm – C

Georgia came into draft day with 11 picks including five in the first two rounds. Well, they traded a second-round pick to San Diego for Zach Miller on Tuesday morning and then traded three picks away during the draft for picks in later drafts and didn’t pick anyone with their last pick. 

With their two first-round picks, Georgia got defenseman Kason Tarbell out of the Six Nations Chiefs/Cornell and lefty transition player Ryan MacSpadyen out of Brooklin LC/Mercy. Both of those guys can contribute heavily and should fight for quality playing time as rookies, especially on the back end where Georgia struggled a bit last season. 

Georgia picked transition/defenseman T.J. Comizio out of Villanova in the third round, defenseman Gunnar Schimoler out of UMBC in the fourth round, Jordan Gillis out of the Hamilton Bengals Jr. B and Mikey Herring out Virginia in the fifth round. 

Tarbell and MacSpadyen are the marquee players in Georgia’s draft class, without a doubt. Other than those two they went with a few more guys that are either unknown or haven’t had much box experience, if any. Truthfully, this Georgia team will still be a contender in their division with or without the help of a heavy rookie class. 

Halifax Thunderbirds – A

Coming into the draft Halifax needed some depth on the defensive end. They filled those holes and got one of the best young players in the game with the number five pick. Halifax, sneakily, had one of the best draft nights of any team. 

Halifax picked forward Clarke Petterson out of Brampton Excelsiors/Cornell at number five and got transition player Trevor Smyth out of Oakville Rock/RIT at. Petterson may just be one of the best shooters in the game and Smyth can make an impact on both ends of the floor. Both guys should be competing for serious minutes as rookies. Also, getting lefty forward Clay Scanlan out of Six Nations Jr. A in the second round was a steal, as well. He may need some more development, but is already a highly-skilled player and looks ready to compete at the next level. 

They then picked Showahnonkon Thompson out of Awkesasne Jr A in the third round, transition player Matt Dziama from Virginia in the fifth round, and Brad Fannell out of St. Catherine’s Jr. A in the sixth round. 

New England Black Wolves – B

The New England Black Wolves won this draft when Andrew Kew fell to them at number three. Plain and simple. The forward out of Oakville Rock/Tampa was projected as the number one pick and should fit right in with that Black Wolves offense. However, some of their other picks are players that may take a few years to develop or have little to no box experience. 

New England picked transition player Zach Goodrich out of Towson with their compensatory pick at the end of the first round. They then picked goalie Bailey Brown from Toronto Beaches in the third round, forward Tristian Rai our of the Burnaby Lakers/Lehigh in the fifth round, and transition player Travis Brown from Oakville Jr. A. 

While getting Kew is the best things that could have ever happened to New England in this draft, some of their other picks are a little more questionable, especially Goodrich. However, some of those lower round guys have serious talent and could surprise this season or next. 

New York Riptide – B

Coming in as one of two expansion teams, New York had holes to fill on the defensive end of the floor and needed some offensive depth on the offensive end. Getting righty forward Tyson Gibson out of the Victoria Shamrocks/Robert Morris with the first overall pick was surprising to many, but he just what they need and can contribute right away with his scoring ability and willingness to do the little things, as well. They also got defenseman Tyson Bomberry out of Six Nations/Syracuse in the first round, as well to help fill that void on the back end with a big aggressive defender. 

Outside of the first round, New York picked forward Jake Fox out of Brooklin LC/Johns Hopkins, faceoff man Connor Farrell out of LIU, and Gale Thorpe, Regy Thorpe’s son, out of Akwesasne Buck Sr.B/Ohio State in the second round. They then grabbed forward John Wagner from Brooklin LC/Marquette and Travis Longboat out of Six Nations Jr. A/Onondaga CC in the third round, defenseman Jack Rowlett from North Carolina and defenseman Matthew Borges from Ohio State in the fourth round before picking Daylen Hill from Six Nations and Brad McKinney out of Syracuse in the fifth and sixth round. 

New York got some very highly touted prospects in the first round with Gibson and Bomberry in the first round but seemed to make some questionable picks in later rounds. However, I do believe that Regy Thorpe did a good job in filling the holes that needed to be filled with the draft, and did so with very talented players. 

Philadelphia Wings – D

Trading for Kevin Crowley last year cost them a first-rounder and really set them up bad in this draft after a pretty bad first season in 2019. However, they did gain some proven talent on the offensive end in free agency with Cory Vitarelli and Ian Llord, but that defense is still a work in progress. 

Philadelphia picked forward/transition player Alex Pace from Brock and defenseman Matt Marinier out of the Burlington Chiefs in the second round. They then proceeded to pick current Northwestern basketball player and former Loyola star Pat Spencer in the third round. The Wings picked forward Kyle Marr from Johns Hopkins in the fourth round, forward Jordan Krug from Cabrini in the fifth round, and defenseman Austin Fusco from Syracuse in the sixth round. 

Some of the picks they made are kind of weird, but Paul Day can get field guys to transition and have success as he has done with Matt Rambo and Trevor Baptiste. Still, many were puzzled by some of the Wings picks and things just didn’t seem to line up for them. 

Rochester Knighthawks – B

After putting together a solid veteran core in the expansion draft and free agency, Rochester came into this draft with some defensive needs and they were able to fill those holes and more.

With the second pick, they got transition/defense Ryland Rees out of Burnaby Lakers/Stony Brook and then picked transition player Cory Highfield out of Oakville Rock/UMass-Lowell. They then picked defenseman Dustyn Pratt out of Orangeville Jr. A late in the second round before getting defenseman Thomas Whitty from St. Catherine’s and defenseman Sean Darroch from Brooklin LC/Lindenwood in the third round, Tyler Biles from Brampton Jr. A and forward Bradley Voigt out of Syracuse in the fourth round, forward Carter Badour in the fifth round, and Alec Simons out of Mimico Jr A in the sixth round. 

Rees and Highfield are certainly the most pro-ready out of this draft class and will likely make impacts as rookies this season. Outside of those top two, Rochester got a mix of players that can all fit into areas where they have needs, even if some of those guys may need a few years of progression before being heavy contributors in the pro game. 

San Diego Seals – C

After picking Austin Staats first overall last season and putting together a very successful inaugural year, San Diego hasn’t lost much and didn’t have many clear needs coming into this draft at all. 

They got defenseman Matthew Sykes from Mimico and defenseman Devyn Mayea, out of the Burlington Chiefs with their first two picks in the second round to help build more defensive depth, In addition, San Diego picked forward Kyle Dawson out of Nanaimo Jr. A in the third round, defenseman/transition Oliver Bolisteri from Six Nations Jr. A in the fourth round, forward Ryan Jones from Delta Jr. A in the fifth round, and forward Russ Oakes from Onondaga CC in the sixth round. 

San Diego didn’t make many splashes in this draft, but they didn’t really need to. The one downside to this Seals draft class is that they didn’t pick up a goalie, which they desperately need with only Frank Scigliano on the active roster after Rylan Hartley went to Rochester in the expansion draft. 

Saskatchewan Rush – B

With three first-round picks and not many holes on their roster, Saskatchewan was able to get some young talent to continue to build toward the future. In the first round, they picked transition player Holden Garlent out of Brooklin LC/ Canisius, defense/transition player Justin Robinson out of BrooklinLC/Robert Morris, and forward Tanner Thompson from the Brampton Excelsiors/Marquette. 

In addition to their first-rounders, the Rush picked goalie Cameron Dunkerley from Victoria Jr. A. in the third round, Luke Keenan from Princeton in the fifth round, and forward Jordan Getz from Wheeling in the sixth round. 

While Keenan won’t be able to play for a few years, the Rush picked up some great additions with Garlent, Robinson, and even Dunkerley. All three can grow and develop in a deep roster in Saskatchewan and may even get a chance to make an impact as rookies. 

Toronto Rock – C

This Toronto draft class doesn’t jump out at you in any way, but they did get some good pieces and took advantage of their picks in the first and second rounds. Toronto doesn’t have many holes in that roster but did get some good depth on the offensive end to help out Johnny Powless, Dan Dawson, and others. 

Toronto picked transition player Aaron Forster out of Burnaby Lakers/NJIT in the first round, lefty forward Zach Manns from Victoria Shamrocks/Drexel in the second round, defenseman Jamie Dilks from Six Nations Jr. A. in the third round, and goalie Troy Holowchuk from Six Nations Jr.A  in the fourth round, transition player Ryan Conrad from Virginia in the fifth round, and Jordan Caskenette out Orangeville Jr A. in the sixth round. 

While Manns and Forster are the obvious headliners in this draft class for Toronto they also have some other late-round guys like Dilks and Caskennette that can make some headway in camp. Overall, Toronto put together a pretty average draft class this year, but they didn’t need to make a big splash as other teams did. 

Vancouver Warriors – F

The ‘F’ is not because of the talent Vancouver picked, it’s because they only had THREE picks in the entire draft and their first pick wasn’t until the fourth round. Oh yeah, they haven’t had a first-round pick since 2013, either. 

Vancouver has some very good pieces on both ends of the floor that have a ton of upside and know how to win and play at a high level. This team gained even more upside in the draft with Vancouver picking transition player Derek Lloyd out of the Victoria Shamrocks/Stony Brook in the fourth round, forward Keegan Bell from the Langley Thunder/ Tusculum in the fifth round, and defenseman Gord Phillips out of Nanaimo Timbermen/Monmouth. 

For not having a pick until the fourth round the Warriors did a very good job, but still just having three late picks doesn’t help a struggling team like Vancouver at all unless you can get some late-round gems as they did. 



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