Yesterday, in a matter of just four minutes, the NLL expansion draft was held. Everything we had been anticipating for over a year now, was over in four minutes. It provided several surprises, several deals being made, and we finally have a little resemblance as to what the Philadelphia Wings and San Diego Seals will look like in 2019.
And with all the work I put into this, I had only 9 of the 18 picks right. Well perhaps I shouldn’t feel so bad. Other “experts” admitted to having just 6 or 7 right. In all fairness, if you had Davide DiRuscio as the one of the three Buffalo goaltenders that would be picked, that would have been a rarity. Very few would have had Vaughn Harris as one of the picks, especially when Buffalo made a deal with Philly to take him. If you had Matt Rambo being picked, who has played a total of zero games of pro, Sr. A, Jr. A or B, or US Boxla in his life, nobody would have believed you.
Garrett McIntosh was on nobody’s radar. Not a single person had Brett Mydske on their list since he’s a UFA. And then we have Brandon Ranford, who also hasn’t played a single NLL game, and is a pro hockey player. If anybody would tell me they had him on their draft list, I would say you had Patrick Merrill’s phone tapped. Just those six alone should have your score knocked down to 12 out of 18 at best.
I’ll do my best to explain some of these surprises, but keep a few things in mind. There were more deals made than the two revealed post draft, and that makes a lot of difference when it comes to who was picked and when. Also, we are still two weeks away from free agency commencing. In those two weeks, expect more deals to be worked out, some of which couldn’t happen until after the draft was over. Also keep in mind that both teams still have 11 roster spots and four practice roster spots to fill between trades, draft picks and free agents. They are far from done their work at this stage. The roster freeze is now over, so expect sparks to fly.
2018 NLL Expansion Draft Results
Losses – Kiel Matisz, Jordan Hall – both to Philadelphia
The Swarm lose two key forwards, and given their talent at forward and the limit as to how many they could protect, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Matisz was the best available player in the draft. Hall is a great player, but the reason he was not on my list was that he is 34 years old, has one year left on his deal, and can reject the franchise tag next season. Philly had much more of a “win now” attitude in this draft, so that may explain the pick.
Every team will be hurt in some form, and the names are bigger when it comes to the Swarm, but they are deep enough at forward and have one first round pick (#8) and five 2 nd round draft picks (#18, 19, 20, 21 & 23) this year to start to recover. The Swarm will be just fine, given that their defense and goaltending were left alone.
New England Black Wolves
Losses – Anthony Joaquim, Matt Rambo – both to Philadelphia
The pickings were pretty slim with New England, and Philly made the right call taking Joaquim, a little tested former first round pick, with a lot of upside potential. The pick for Rambo is a little confusing. Rambo is the former Tewaaraton Award winner for the NCAA player of the year, and as I mentioned earlier, has zero box lacrosse experience. He was taken in the 5 th round by New England as a flyer, with the faint hope that he can turn into a great box lacrosse player the same way Tom Schreiber did.
I get that for Philly, if they can get Rambo to play, it’s a huge marketing tool for them to get the
crossover fans from field lacrosse. But at this stage, that’s an if. Also, Philly has two picks in every round from rounds 2 to 5 in this year’s draft. If they wanted Rambo so badly, trading one of their 4th round picks to New England would have likely been sufficient. There is simply more value in Johnny Powless, who was traded for a 2nd and 3rd round pick just a few months ago than there is in Rambo. This was a miss by Philly in my mind.
Losses – Josh Currier, Frank Brown – both to Philadelphia
There’s not much to say here as I agree with both picks. Currier is a fantastic forward, who nearly put Rochester over the top in the finals. Brown is a big strong brute that didn’t get a chance in Georgia and was picked up as a free agent by Rochester with very positive results. Well done by Philly to get the best two players available from the Knighthawks.
Losses – Vaughn Harris, Davide DiRuscio and Zac Reid to Philadelphia
Trade – Obtain Bryce Sweeting from San Diego in exchange for Ethan Schott and the #17 (2nd round) pick in the 2018 draft. First, let’s explain this to some Bandits fans who are a little confused. Instead of Philly picking Chase Fraser, a player most people had on their list to go in the draft, Buffalo cut a deal to keep Fraser in which Philly would also receive Reid if they selected Harris. This move makes sense for both teams. Philly gets more depth and Buffalo keeps their coveted youngster.
As for the DiRuscio pick, he’s 3rd on my chart of who I would have taken in this draft. It makes you wonder if Philly is going after a free agent goalie, which Rochester has two of them, to be their starter. Buffalo have the #3 and #4 picks of the draft, but then don’t pick again until the 4th round after trading away their 2nd round pick in the Sweeting trade. This trade makes sense given that Buffalo desperately needs to improve on defense.
Losses – Brett Hickey to Philadelphia, Turner Evans to San Diego
The pick for Hickey wasn’t a big surprise. He’s a former 50 goal scorer, but injury prone as of late. He was certainly the best talent that was exposed on the Rock roster. Evans was a bit of a surprise, but keeping in mind that if you’re San Diego, you have limited options to get guys that have the flexibility in their work careers to move to the opposite corner of the continent. Evans missed the entire 2018 season due to knee surgery.
Toronto will have to rely on players like Phil Caputo and Dan Taylor filling some of the gaps as they don’t have a 1st round pick this year, having traded it to Saskatchewan in the Adam Jones trade. Their picks this year come in at #24 (2nd round) and #44 (4th round).
Losses – Adrian Sorichetti, Brett Mydske – both to San Diego
Adrian Sorichetti was the first name that popped up as an expansion draft casualty over a year ago, so it’s no surprise that San Diego picked him. He’ll also likely be a major part of the marketing push in San Diego as he was a fantastic community ambassador in Saskatchewan.
To explain Mydske, here’s the best I can come up with. Derek Keenan stated in an interview that he too was shocked by the Mydske selection and thought Marty Dinsdale was all but gone.
So why would San Diego take Mydske, who is a UFA? Mydske was the only UFA selected in the draft, so assuming that San Diego didn’t use the franchise tag on Buchanan, they can use it on Mydske. When I spoke with Mydske the day after the Champions Cup, he stated to me that he wanted to be back in Saskatchewan, as winning was far more important than the size of the paycheque. Going to an expansion team can’t be easy for him.
This isn’t to say that he still can’t be traded after the franchise tag is applied to him. But even with this scenario, I don’t believe that this selection was the right one. Patrick Merrill focused hard on defense in this draft, so to that point, Mydske makes some sense. But even with the franchise tag applied, Mydske only remains with San Diego for one year. To me, there’s a lot more value in drafting Dinsdale, who is still 3 years away from being a free agent, as he has more long term value and trade value, depending what your plans are.
This now leaves three holes in the Rush defense (with Cornwall unlikely to play next season), one of which will be filled by Nick Finlay. It will give Tor Reinholdt a shot at making the roster. Plus the Rush have three first round picks at #5, 10 and 11 to recover their losses. Their potent offense stays completely intact.
Losses – Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting – both to San Diego, Sweeting subsequently traded to Buffalo
Cam Holding was the obvious pick in this draft, although keeping in mind that his knee injury that kept him out of the 2018 season and the fact that he coaches at Michigan State could be obstacles still to him suiting up for the season opener. I can’t disagree with the Sweeting selection either as he was amongst a group of four Mammoth players of which any two could have been the selection that San Diego made. The trade gets San Diego some depth and should suit them well.
Colorado does not have a draft pick until #22, late in the 2 nd round, to help fill the holes created, although there is only one hole to fill as Holding was not in the lineup last year.
Losses – Frank Scigliano, Garrett McIntosh
Frank Scigliano was perhaps the second name to be out there as an expansion draft casualty after Sorichetti, and given the performance Christian Del Bianco put on in Calgary, it was obvious as to which of the two goaltenders was going to be protected. I’m honestly happy for Scigliano as he is a proven starter, and you hate to see proven starters sit on the bench as backups. Now he’s the clear starter once again.
As for McIntosh, I’m not a fan of that pick. Given how much defense San Diego selected, forwards Ryan Martel or Riley Loewen would have been better picks in my mind. Calgary have already signed Tyler Richards who will be their likely backup to replace Scigliano. Calgary does have four first round picks, two of which are compensatory draft picks at #13 and 14 (for losing
Mike Poulin and Jeff Shattler to free agency), the #6 pick (their own) and #7 pick (part of the trade that sent Shawn Evans to New England). Calgary will have lots of options to fill their holes and have the ability to trade picks away to fill holes for future expansion drafts.
Vancouver Lacrosse Club
Losses – Casey Jackson, Brendan Ranford
Let’s start with the basics, Casey Jackson was widely expected to be selected. He’s a lefty forward, which are tough to come by, and he’s having a great season in the WLA. With the slim pickings Vancouver had to take from, he was an obvious choice.
Now for Ranford, who’s selection had many people, myself included, saying “who?” Ranford was signed by the Stealth on October 12, 2015, and then placed on the hold out list on October 30, 2015. He’s remained there ever since, without having played an NLL game. He’s been playing in the American Hockey League for three different teams since 2013, and was called up to play for the Dallas Stars for one game. He is slated to play in the German Hockey League next season. The pick is very confusing, and once again, a 5th or 6th round pick would have secured him. The Seals will have to wait to get him to play there, if ever, at a time they need bodies. Asking around, it appears that he won’t be in the NLL next season. Perhaps Joe Tsai can make him a financial offer to make it worth his while to leave hockey and play lacrosse.
That being said, a player such as Seth Oakes has a lot more value, so why not trade your late 5th round pick to get Ranford’s rights and take a chance on Oakes? While Vancouver has limited draft picks the next few years, and their first pick this year is currently at #29 in the third round, Vancouver had been testing out a lot of players late in the season, and you should expect that one or more of those players will crack the lineup.
Everyone likes to pick a winner, and for now, I won’t pick one because there are still a ton of deals to be worked out.
On San Diego’s side they went heavy with defense, which I have to say I’m not the biggest fan of. If you’re trying to sell lacrosse to a new market, you want goals. As of now, your offense is Buchanan, Turner Evans and Jackson. That’s not going to excite many people enough.
For the moment I’m a bigger fan of Philly’s lineup with some very good young talent and enough fire power to get the fans back into their seats, but we still have to await what the other half of their lineup will look like to fully gauge it. With the other five teams so tightly packed in the standings last year, Philly has a harder road ahead of them than San Diego to avoid finishing last in their division.
So stay tuned and watch all the excitement of a bunch of player movement still to come. It will be an exciting summer.
For all the latest, follow me on Twitter @evanschemenauer.