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Vancouver Stealth Saskatchewan Rush NLL 2018 Expansion Draft

2018 NLL Expansion Draft: Preview and Projections

Yes, the 2018 NLL Expansion Draft is a half-year away! But it’s going to rock the box lacrosse world and make some serious waves so we set our sights on it now to monitor how each of the 9 current teams prepare for it.

This projection will continue to change several times before the NLL Expansion Draft actually occurs. Just a reminder, we’ve got two teams joining the league in the 2018-19, San Diego Seals and Philly Wings, bringing our total to 11.

Don’t be surprised to see trades made to simply get something back for a player that is likely to get selected if he’s unprotected, and a non-expansion team can use him and protect him.

How the Expansion Draft affects each team is different. A team like Georgia has just one Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) this off-season. Vancouver, Calgary and New England have several. And now the news of the makeup of the Protection List threw a wrench into some teams’ decision making, especially Georgia. Keep in mind when reading this, most UFA’s don’t have to be protected.

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Making Sense of the UFA

To understand the UFA conundrum, I am working on the assumption that the Expansion Draft will occur in June, or early July, so that expansion teams can be full participants in Free Agency and existing teams can attempt to fill the holes created by the Expansion Draft with Free Agents.

If a player is a Restricted Free Agent (RFA – under 30 years old, made a qualifying offer, not on the practice roster), you have incentive to protect that player because you have the ability to match any offer given to that player. If he’s picked up in the Expansion Draft, the expansion team would now have that right to match offers instead of you.

New England Black Wolves NEBW vs GA Swarm Photo Jeff Melnik NLL 2018 week 4
Photo: Jeff Melnik / Conquest Photos

However, if a player is an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA – in most cases 30 years old or more, with some exceptions), there is little need to protect him. Since he’s a UFA, he’s free to sign with any team he chooses. As such, there isn’t much of any incentive for an expansion team to draft that player when he can leave the expansion team just the same. Technically, the expansion team could draft one UFA in their entire Expansion Draft and apply the franchise tag to that player. However, that’s a risk (that if I were a GM of an existing team) that I would take, as the player is lost for one year only in the rare event it does happen.

NLL Expansion Draft Rules

As for the rules for the Expansion Draft, the clarifications provided by the Commissioner in February are as follows:

  • Each team will lose 2 players.
  • Each team can protect 11 players, with a maximum of one goalie and a maximum 5 forwards.
  • Unlike previous Expansion Drafts, teams will not be able to protect additional players after they lose a player in the draft.
  • The expansion teams do not have to draft one player from each team.  Expansion teams may draft multiple players from the same team.  For example, San Diego can draft 2 players from Colorado, which means Philly gets no players from Colorado, but gets two players from another team, such as New England. This assists dealing with geographic concerns with player’s living and working situations.
  • Expansion teams will receive additional draft picks, starting with extra picks at the end of Round 2 in 2018 (thanks Corporal) the next few years to help them build.  If you would like to see how the extra picks work in 2018, dive in for yourself!

It is unclear if teams will be able to make trades to protect additional players or to have expansion teams agree to draft a specific player. Unlike the recent NHL expansion draft, these deals are harder to agree to as you have more than one expansion team to deal with. For now, I’m going to ignore any potential trades that could be made. I wouldn’t be surprised to see players being drafted and then trades being made after the fact for teams trying to get that player back.

Getting Ahead of Ourselves

A few more assumptions for this draft projection…

  • Teams won’t protect UFA’s and they won’t be selected with one exception that is such huge UFA, he would certainly be drafted and franchised.
  • Expansion teams won’t be too concerned about the positions they are choosing, except for drafting one goalie.  They’re only getting 9 players each and still have half of their lineups to fill so getting the best player available will be the primary concern.

Draft Projections…

Saskatchewan Rush

Protected

Mark Matthews, Kyle Rubisch, Ryan Dilks, Mike Messenger, Jeff Cornwall, Robert Church, Ben McIntosh, Ryan Keenan, Evan Kirk, Chris Corbeil, Matt Hossack (4F, 6D, 1G)

UFA Prior to Draft

Brett Mydske, Tyler Carlson, Jeremy Thompson

Unprotected

Tor Reinholdt, Curtis Knight, Matt McGrotty, Marty Dinsdale, Dan Taylor, Adrian Sorichetti, Nic Bilic, Jeff Shattler, Johnny Pearson, Nick Finlay, Adam Shute.

Projected Selections

Adrian Sorichetti, Curtis Knight

Saskatchewan Rush Colorado Mammoth NLL 2018 Photo: Jack Dempsey
Photo: Jack Dempsey

I haven’t changed my projection on the protected list since the last projection. What has changed is who my projected selections are. Given that Shattler is a UFA in 2019 and recently had a son, I don’t see him flying out to San Diego or Philly and I’m certain if the two GM’s made a phone call to him, they would come to the same conclusion.

People have questioned me about Knight, given that he is so close to Keenan. But Keenan did let go of Lafontaine who he was also close to this past summer. Matt Hossack is the final guy protected in my mind because of his upside potential and the fact that he’s not a UFA for a very long time. His age also puts him ahead of Sorichetti in my mind in the decision as to whom to protect. Sorichetti becomes a UFA at the end of the 2020 season.

The one key to keep in mind, the Rush have three 1st round picks in 2018 (Rochester’s, Toronto’s and their own), and three more in 2019 (Vancouver’s, Toronto’s and their own). They have a lot of capacity to fill the holes that will be created, as well as having players like Finlay who will be able to step into the role.

Vancouver Stealth

Protected

Matt Beers, Jarrett Toll, Rhys Duch, Corey Small, Logan Schuss, Justin Salt, Eric Penney, Brandon Clelland, Tony Malcolm, Pat Saunders, Andrew Suitor (5F, 5D, 1G)

UFA Prior to Draft

Chris O’Dougherty, Cliff Smith, Jon Harnett, Joel McCready, Peter McFetridge, Ian Hawksbee

Vancouver Stealth Buffalo Bandits NLL 2018 Photo: Bill Wippert
Photo: Bill Wippert
Unprotected

Evan Messenger, Tye Belanger, Travis Cornwall, Tyler Garrison, Ryan Fournier, Casey Jackson, Brandon Goodwin, Tyson Roe, Brodie MacDonald, Tyler Haas, Garrett Billings, Cody Teichrob James Rahe

Projected Selections

James Rahe, Evan Messenger

The Stealth had some leeway this summer in being able to sign some UFA’s to multi-year deals because they had so little to protect. I’m not certain what the full story is with Jarrett Toll, but for now, I’ll assume he is coming back and is protected.

In the first draft of this, I had a goalie being picked from Vancouver, but after Penney is protected, based on the situation as of now, I think there are two other goalies that expansion teams want to pursue instead of Belanger or MacDonald. But who is selected here is a complete crap shoot.

Colorado Mammoth

Protected

Robert Hope, Cameron Holding, Jacob Ruest, Jeremy Noble, Eli McLaughlin, Joey Cupido, Ryan Lee, Dillon Ward, Ryan Benesch, Tim Edwards, Dan Coates (5F, 5D, 1G)

UFA Prior to Draft

Greg Downing, Brad Self, Scott Carnegie, Stephen Keogh

Unprotected

Chris Wardle, Zack Greer, Josh Sullivan, Taylor Stuart, Jordan Gilles, Bryce Sweeting, Brent Adams, Brody Eastwood, Steve Fryer, Quinn MacKay, Jarrod Neumann, Rowan Kelly

Projected Selections

Chris Wardle, Zack Greer

This list has changed now due to the five forwards max rule. Initially I had the Mammoth protecting 6 forwards. The reason I leave Greer as exposed is that due to his injuries the Mammoth have other priorities, plus, he is a UFA at the end of the 2019 season. Despite this, as long as he’s healthy, I think the Seals take him.

Steve Fryer, Colorado Mammoth
Steve Fryer, Colorado Mammoth. Photo: Jack Dempsey

One thing to keep in mind is that Colorado does not have its first round pick in 2018 or its 2nd round pick in 2019 to help recover from the holes caused in this draft.

Calgary Roughnecks

Protected

Wes Berg, Tyler Digby, Mitch Wilde, Tyson Bell, Dan MacRae, Holden Cattoni, Christian Del Bianco, Zach Currier, Tyler Pace, Riley Loewen, Curtis Dickson* (5F, 5D, 1G)

UFA Prior to Draft

Tyler Richards, Curtis Manning, Mike Carnegie, Curtis Dickson, Creighton Reid, Bob Snider, Dane Dobbie, Tyler Burton

Unprotected

Garrett McIntosh, Chad Cummings, Ryan Martel, Frank Scigliano, Greg Harnett, Kellen LeClair, Steph Charbonneau, Anthony Kalinich, Cole Pickup, Tyler Richards

Projected Selections

Frank Scigliano, Greg Harnett

Calgary Roughnecks Vancouver Stealth NLL 2018
Photo: NLL

You see an asterisk above on Curtis Dickson and he’s the one UFA that gets protected. Its highly likely that if he’s exposed, one of the expansion teams draft him, franchise him and either convince him to play or trade him away. That’s too big of a risk for Calgary to take.

We have known for some time that Calgary loses a goalie, and it’s Scigliano. CDB has earned the starting spot and is the future in Calgary. But other than a goalie, Calgary has a lot of Free Agents which helps them in who to protect.

Toronto Rock

Protected

Rob Hellyer, Tom Schreiber, Challen Rogers, Brett Hickey, Latrell Harris, Nick Rose, Adam Jones, Reid Reinholdt, Bill Hostrawster, Damon Edwards, Sheldon Burns (5F, 5D, 1G)



UFA Prior to Draft

Sandy Chapman, Brodie Merrill, Brandon Miller

38729729814_f297c3b89d_k
Photo: Ryan McCullough
Unprotected

Kieran McArdle, Turner Evans, Bradley Kri, Dan Lintner, Phil Caputo, Brock Sorenson, Paul Rabil, Jordan Magnusson, Riley Hutchcraft, Drew Belgrave, Dan Craig, Jesse Gamble, Darryl Robertson, Brandon Slade, Adam Jay, Zac Masson

Projected Selections

Kieran McArdle, Bradley Kri

I debated over the last few players that the Rock will protect. I think that McArdle will be a high priority for Philly given his proximity. Kri was a tough one as to whether to protect him or not given his faceoff abilities.

As for filling gaps, the Rock have already traded their next two #1 picks to the Rush.

New England Black Wolves

Protected

Shawn Evans, Reilly O’Connor, Doug Jamieson, David Brock, Colton Watkinson, Stephan LeBlanc, John Lafontaine, Joel Coyle, Seth Oakes, Brett Manney, Matt Spanger (4F, 6D, 1G)



UFA Prior to Draft

Aaron Bold, Kevin Crowley, Kevin Buchanan, Jay Thorimbert, Kyle Buchanan

Unprotected

JP Kealey, Derek Suddons, Adam Bomberry, Andrew Mullen, Mark Cockerton, Anthony Joaquim

Projected Selections

Adam Bomberry, Anthony Joaquim

New England Black Wolves 2018 Photo Jeff Melnik
Photo: Jeff Melnik

You should have seen this list when I first drafted it in June 2017. They had me literally protecting practice roster players because of how many UFA’s New England had.

They still have some and that helps protecting what they have, although this assumption could be challenged once again with Buchanan or Crowley, the same way it was with Dickson. Whether either of those two is worth the franchise tag elsewhere is debatable. New England only has one player on the practice roster at the moment which is why this list is so short.

Unless things change, there will be slim pickings for the expansion teams out of New England. The flip side to this is that New England doesn’t have a 1st round pick until 2021 to replenish their roster as future Expansion Drafts eat away at it.

Buffalo Bandits

Protected

Alex Buque, Kevin Brownell, Mitch DeSnoo, Thomas Hoggarth, Nick Weiss, Steve Priolo, Mitch Jones, Jordan Durston, Dhane Smith, Josh Byrne, Matt Bennett (5F, 5D, 1G)

UFA Prior to Draft

Callum Crawford, Mark Steenhuis, Bill O’Brien

Dhane Smith Buffalo Bandits 2018 NLL
Photo: Bill Wippert
Unprotected

Craig England, Davide DiRuscio, Ryan Wagner, Justin Martin, Gowah Abrams, Chase Fraser, Reid Acton, Ethan Schott, Zac Reid, Vaughn Harris, Zach Higgins, Liam Patten, Alex Kedoh Hill, Zach Herreweyers

Projected Selections

Zach Higgins, Craig England

The Bandits’ list of UFAs in the first draft back in June was quite extensive. Now it’s terribly short.

Through retirements and decisions not to re-sign certain veterans, the list has dwindled dramatically. 

The obvious situation here is that Buffalo will lose a goalie. It’s perhaps a good thing that Buffalo has three reasonable goalies, so that you still have a full roster post Expansion Draft. For now, Buque is the guy they hope will be the long term solution, and that exposes Higgins, who I think will be picked up. Buffalo also has the problem of not enough forward spots to protect everyone, so England is exposed and is drafted in my opinion.

Rochester Knighthawks

Protected

Paul Dawson, Graeme Hossack, Brad Gillies, Joe Resetarits, Cory Vitarelli, Josh Currier, Kyle Jackson, Cody Jamieson, Jake Withers, Ian Llord, Scott Campbell (5F, 6D, 0G)

UFA Prior to Draft

Dan Dawson, Matt Vinc, Angus Goodleaf, Billy Dee Smith, Dylan Evans

Unprotected

Austin Shanks, Eric Fannell, Luc Magnan, Dan Lomas, Quinn Powless, Sid Smith, Adam Perroni, Eric Shewell

Projected Selections

Austin Shanks, Luc Magnan

Rochester Knighthawks Georgia Swarm NLL 2018
Photo: NLL

Rochester is the one team where you will see 11 runners protected as opposed to 10 runners and a goalie. The reason is both of Rochester’s current active goaltenders are both UFAs at the end of the season.

While Rochester has an aging lineup, many of their veterans are under long term contracts, signed long ago, that continue beyond the current season. This makes the Expansion Draft tricky for them, and you could also see them not protect veterans, hoping that expansion teams will pass on them.

That’s why I struggled to project which players would be protected and which ones would be made available. Paul Dawson is one such player; so is Sid Smith. If the lineup is wide open, Shanks is protected, but with just 5 spots for forwards, he’s the first one not protected, but Rochester could change their mind on that.

There are some major decisions in Rochester to make. Either continue to get younger or protect players out of respect for years of service.

Georgia Swarm

Protected

Lyle Thomspon, Miles Thompson, Randy Staats, Jordan MacIntosh, Shayne Jackson, Joel White, John Ranagan, Mike Poulin, Jason Noble, Jesse King, Zed Williams (5F, 5D, 1G)



UFA Prior To Draft

Jerome Thompson



Unprotected

Kiel Matisz, Jordan Hall, Johnny Powless, Alex Crepinsek, Chad Tutton, Connor Sellars, Ethan O’Connor, Bryan Cole, Warren Hill, Frank Brown, Brayden Hill, Kevin Orleman, Leo Stouros

Projected Selections

Kiel Matisz, Jordan Hall

Georgia Swarm Rochester Knighthawks NLL Week 4 2017-18
Photo: Kyle Hess

Georgia is the team that is hurt the most, both by what is lost, and the five forward maximum rule. When you look at who is exposed, its stunning. If Georgia has carte blanche to protect any 10 runners, they might have protected 7 forwards. As why Matisz is the one exposed, its simply the fact that you already have three righty forwards protected and lefty forwards will be at a premium. While the stats this year tell you expose Miles Thompson and protect Matisz, from a marketing standpoint, I don’t see that happening.

Still Collecting Thoughts

I am still of the opinion that allowing teams to protect 11 players each is far too many. You want to make these expansion teams competitive from the start to give them the best opportunity to succeed financially.

If you look at what the Vegas Golden Knights were able to receive out of the NHL Expansion Draft, the results on the ice have been fantastic and the team has quite the buzz going. I’m not so certain that the players listed will create enough buzz considering what they will be facing.

Even reducing the number of protected players to nine gives the expansion teams considerably better talent without having too large of an impact on the existing teams.

 Where these expansion teams will have to go in order to have a chance of winning is to go after Free Agents, and find a way to get those Free Agents secondary incomes to entice them to come.

Luckily the two owners, that we know of so far, have the deep pockets to be able to spend the salary cap to go after Free Agents, and have the ability to provide second incomes. 

If there is further expansion in 2020, the number of protected players will have to be reduced as the next few players that would be available are less talented than the selected players on this list.

But needless to say, there are still 5 months to go before the Expansion Draft, and things will change.

 Let the debate continue.

As always a big thank you to all the readers out there. For the latest, follow me on Twitter.

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