If you’ve ever wondered how the current state of the balance is between the NLL’s expansion and growth and the quality supply of players, we’ll use Andrew Kew’s situation with the New England Black Wolves as an example.
Considering the amount of growth that the National Lacrosse League has had and by how much it is expanding right now, the quantity of draft picks is important to fueling the demand for players in the league, but not nearly as important as quality.
Getting young players into your system to become future stars — this year’s draft class of players like Tyson Gibb, Andrew Kew and others have had that responsibility tasked to them — is incredibly important to being able sustain success from season to season. There are, of course, still major free agent signings and trades to change the landscape of the league, but building through the draft has been the common theme for Knighthawks, Swarm and Rush in particular during their championship runs.
So when you have a high draft pick, this is even more important. All things being equal, the team with the worst record will pick first. But we all know how often these picks are great fodder for trades for those teams trying to ‘win now’ compared to those that can send a veteran to a contender and get themselves a higher pick in a future draft. Here’s how it has worked with the New England Black Wolves and their 2019 Entry Draft choice Andrew Kew.
New England Black Wolves And The Man Known As “Kew Ball”
How The Black Wolves Landed Last Year’s No. 3 Entry Draft Pick
The Black Wolves have had their share of bad seasons. Going back to their first year at the Mohegan Sun in 2015 where they had a 4-14 record, the team then climbed their way to a playoff spot the next season, finishing second in the East. Since then, they have been a playoff team every year and 2019 was no exception as the Black Wolves finished by splitting their record during the regular season and finished fourth in the division. But before the playoff spot was secured, a more important move took place. Last season in 2019 was the first year for the Philadelphia Wings name to have returned to NLL since the former Wings franchise left for New England in 2014. Following an early season holdout, the Wings sent their first round picks in 2019 and 2020 to the Black Wolves for Kevin Crowley. Then, the Wings experienced what one typically expects from an expansion team: finishing last place in the league with a 4-14 record. But, with two new expansion teams for the 2020 season, last year’s last-place finish was turned into a silver-lining with the third-overall pick in the draft that was under New England’s control. For the Black Wolves, this means they made the playoffs and still had the third overall pick. Not a bad deal at all.
The NLL is a very difficult league for rookies to break into and make a roster, and even harder to last an entire season. But for the highest draft picks, they are not only expected to be on the roster, they are expected to contribute immediately. Looking at just the third pick alone, here’s a brief history of who has been selected at the spot:
Previous No. 3 Picks In The NLL Draft
Note: *Denotes rookie of the year winner, +Denotes rookie of the year finalist
Andrew Kew’s Background
It is more than reasonable to say that you can have some incredible, franchise-level players at this position in the draft. What this meant for the Black Wolves was drafting lefty forward Andrew Kew. Kew played over the summer for Major League Lacrosse while also ripping it up in Canada with the Oakville Rock where he led the team with 57 points, good for fifth overall in Major Series Lacrosse. This was following an impressive junior career where he played for a few teams, headlined by his 2015 season with the Burlington Chiefs where he turned in 88 points in 20 games. Aside from his time in the box, Kew’s accolades that he had with the University of Tampa, an NCAA Division II school, also included a pair of first team All-America honors.
‘Kew’ His NLL Debut
For Kew, this NLL season was also off to a great start, adding more points week-by-week. His success seemed to determine how it went with the team’s success. They began with a great 4-0 start, before the Black Wolves’ offense stalled and they went into a three-game losing skid. In the four opening games, Kew recorded four, six, and nine points in each of those first three games, respectively. Once the offense started to stall, Kew did as well. Falling to just one point in the next game, then four following that, then one point and then two in New England’s final game before heading into its matchup with the Knighthawks. Following that two-point effort, he was a healthy scratch for the Rochester game. These losses were, of course, not on Kew, but were rather a different issue of that the team’s offense had lost their rhythm completely. The weakness was most pronounced by the lefty side of the offense, especially in the Vancouver game. In that game, no goal came from the lefties until Kew scored with just under two minutes left after they were already down by six.
According to head coach Glenn Clark, the healthy scratch was very intentionally timed.
“He’s finding his way, and that was sort of a reset button. There’s value sometimes in stepping back and reinserting yourself [into the lineup]. He handled it like a pro. He was obviously disappointed, but I wouldn’t [like] a guy that isn’t disappointed, they all want to play. What’s important is how you project yourself to your teammates.”
Kew’s response to the scratch was just as pragmatic.
“That’s definitely something that as a competitor was really though. It’s been a little while since that’s happened. I think taking a step back and looking at things from a different angle helps as well. Mainly for me it was just confidence, just shooting the ball more. “
Fast forward to this past weekend. After the team’s skid and the Rochester game, the New England Black Wolves responded with a win over the New York Riptide, giving them the season series advantage with that division rival. A win over Halifax followed next — one of the top teams in the league. In those two games, Kew had a goal and four assists against New York while securing first-star honors against Halifax with a hat trick and four assists.
For Clark, there was a definite difference in Kew.
“I thought he changed a few things he was doing. You’ll notice on a few of those goals he was more of an inside presence. He was more of a presences scoring inside [and] cutting through the middle. He’s got layers to his game, that I thought he showed a little bit more, which we knew was there. It takes some time to sort that out, but I thought he did a good job adding those layers.”
Can The Black Wolves Create More Consistency Late In The Season?
Even though the focal point of this offense is without question Callum Crawford and Joe Resetarits on the righty side, the New England Black Wolves have shown they cannot rely on those two along with some transition goals in order to win at the level they want. They need real production from their lefties, like Andrew Kew. And so far, much of that relies on Kew working off of Jordan Durston, Reilly O’Connor and Stephan Leblanc.
With the high expectations that Kew carries with him as a high draft pick, he seems to have reached a point where he can start living up to the high-level of performance that the team needs him to have.
Only time will tell if he truly turned a corner over this past weekend, or if he will catch the dreaded inconsistency bug. If the Black Wolves want to hang on to their first-place spot in the NLL East Division, they would like to keep seeing more of the player they know he can be on the floor for them this weekend.