Editor’s Note: This is part of an ongoing series, previewing each NLL team as the season approaches. Today, we preview the San Diego Seals. This is San Diego’s first season as a member of the NLL. Read our other NLL team previews: Calgary Roughnecks, New England Black Wolves, Colorado Mammoth, Buffalo Bandits, Toronto Rock, Saskatchewan Rush, Philadelphia Wings.
It’s been a long time coming but the 2019 season is finally here! It’s game week for a lot of teams, but even though the Seals don’t play until Week 2, their camp must be relieved that the wait is finally over. Excitement over the prospect of pro lacrosse in San Diego has been brewing since the Seals were introduced last fall, and it’s encouraging to see that 5,000 fans showed up last weekend for an open practice just to meet their new team. The lacrosse community is small, and it’s competitive by nature, but at the end of the day, there are a lot of people that want to see GM, Head Coach and former Toronto Rock great Patrick Merrill and his boys succeed on the West Coast.
Entry Draft/Expansion Draft
The biggest headline out of San Diego this past offseason was the Seals taking Austin Staats (Six Nations Arrows/OCC) first overall in the Entry Draft. The lefty forward is poised to become one of the greats in the sport, and is considered by many to be a generational talent. He’s proven he can score at any level, from NJCAA to Jr A to the world stage (as demonstrated this past summer in Israel), and he already has a Mann Cup ring to his name. The kid can flat out play, and I have no doubt he’ll make an immediate impact in the pros. His best years are still ahead of him – he turns 21 this coming spring – and he’ll be giving goalies nightmares for a long time.
Including Staats, thirteen players on the Seals’ inaugural 21-man roster were taken either through the Expansion or Entry Draft. Merrill has brought in a good mix of veterans and rookies and guys in between, and they’re definitely players who will work to prove themselves right away, and some who might not have had the same opportunities had they stayed with their old squads.
In terms of the Expansion Draft, forward Turner Evans (14 GP, 8 G, 37 A, 45 PTS, 74 LB in 2017), a former teammate of Merrill’s in Toronto who missed the 2018 campaign due to injury, could be depended on heavily to put up points. Defensively, seven-year vet Cam Holding (18 GP, 9 PTS, 160 LB, 25 CTO) will be tasked with helping lead a defensive unit that leans toward the younger side. And after spending his entire career with Calgary, net-minder Frank Scigliano (18 GP, 1-4 W-L, 14.34 GAA, .754 SV%) joins the Seals looking to re-establish himself with his new club.
There’s always the chance that a draft pick – especially an Entry Draft pick – can turn up as a bust, and even a young GM like Merrill knows that, but I don’t think San Diego will have that problem. The two Connor’s, Connor Kearnan (11th Overall, Brooklin Redmen/Canisius) and Connor Kelly (33rd Overall, Maryland), will bring significantly different games to the floor in San Diego, as Kearnan is a seasoned box player and Kelly started playing box this past fall. However, both are highly intelligent players and adept scorers. I don’t think that either will be affected too much by the learning curve that comes with the pro game.
Former assistant Rock GM and past Cup MVP Josh Sanderson is the first Offensive Coordinator in San Diego’s history and will work closely with the likes of Kyle Buchanan (17 GP, 19 G, 31 A, 50 PTS, 111 LB) and future Hall of Famer Dan Dawson (13 GP, 11 G, 26 A, 37 PTS, 24 LB with Rochester and Saskatchewan last season) to build an offensive unit essentially from the ground floor up. Dawson is reaching the twilight years of his storied career, and his production has been down the last couple seasons, but he brings tremendous leadership to the locker room. So look for guys like Zach Miller (Denver) to benefit greatly from Dawson’s presence.
Bill Greer will be in charge of the defense, a unit that will be led by the other Merrill in the mix, Brodie Merrill (17 GP, 22 PTS, 127 LB, 14 CTO), the three-time Transition Player of the Year winner and someone who keeps the Toronto connection in San Diego strong. Adrian Sorichetti (18 GP, 15 PTS, 64 LB, 20 CTO), Brandon Clelland (18 GP, 20 PTS, 51 LB, 6 CTO) and the aforementioned Cam Holding all provide a huge boost to the defensive core, one that could possibly be highly effective under Greer’s tutelage.
December 22nd is going to be a historic night for San Diego, marking their franchise debut against the Mammoth at in downtown Denver. Playing at the Pepsi Center is no easy task for any team, let alone a first-year expansion squad, but if word out of training camp proves true, they’re up for the challenge. Win or lose, San Diego is going to make a statement.
But, with the season starting later than we all expected, their original December 8th home opener against the Bandits was pushed to April 27th. So, the Seals have a three-game road trip right out of the gate, all against Western teams, facing Colorado, Calgary (December 28th) and Saskatchewan (January 5th). Their home opener at Valley View Casino Center isn’t until January 7th against the Knighthawks, East Division Champs from 2018. With that being said, six of their first nine games are against teams that made the playoffs last year, and to compound that, four of their final nine games are against the Mammoth (Away March 9th & Home April 19th) and the Rush (Home March 22nd & Home April 12th), two of the best teams in 2018.
Should playoffs even be in the conversation? It’s safe to say not. They play in an already highly competitive West Division, and with the new-look Warriors and a Calgary team that will want to repeat their playoff success from last season, not to mention Colorado and Saskatchewan, it’s going to take a lot of bounces their way to make a playoff push happen.
However, the Seals are in safe hands, and they’re going to compete this year; that I know for sure. This is a league where it’s “any given night” and look for them to surprise a few teams along the way. I predict they finish with a record of 6-12.
To see the Seals full schedule, click here.
Kyle Buchanan F
Dan Dawson F
Turner Evans F
Casey Jackson F
Connor Kearnan F
Connor Kelly F
Zach Miller F
Austin Staats F
Drew Belgrave T
Johnny Pearson T
Adrian Sorichetti T
Graydon Bradley D
Brandon Clelland D
Garrett Epple D
Cam Holding D
Garrett McIntosh D
Brodie Merrill D
Tor Reinholdt D
Ethan Schott D
Rylan Hartley G
Frank Scigliano G