The Denver Outlaws may have gotten the steal of the 2016 MLL Draft when they took Tufts FOGO Conor Helfrich in the 8th round, with the 66th overall pick. Helfrich has been near unstoppable during his career at Tufts, playing an integral role during their 2014 and 2015 championship runs. During their national title victory over Lynchburg this past spring, Helfrich took home Game MVP honors, winning 23 of 31 face offs, and adding a goal.
Lynchburg couldn’t figure out how to stop him – no matter who they put out against him, or how many times they locked off the wings, they couldn’t keep #22 for Tufts from getting the ball. If the statline alone doesn’t convince you of his ability, consider this: Lynchburg FOGO, Bobby Distler, was winning 60% of his face offs on the season going into the game, and he only won 26% against Helfrich. On the biggest scene, Helfrich delivered a stellar performance.
If you want to watch the full game to see what I mean, you can do so HERE.
Last season, Helfrich won 65% of his faceoffs and added 5 goals and 4 assists, while playing against some of the best D3 teams in the country. He constantly started fast breaks on the draw, and is just as important to the Tufts offense as their attackmen. Helfrich creates goals in transition, and makes sure the ball stays in the hands of the Jumbos’ high powered offense when he pulls it out. He’s a smart player, and doesn’t create unnecessary turnovers.
(Editor’s Note: how good is that Le Tigre song?)
In one game last year against Keene State, a very solid D3 program, he won 35 of 40 faceoffs, which is an absolutely ridiculous stat line. During his sophomore year, he won 56% of his faceoffs and had 6 goals, including one in the national title game against Salisbury. His dominance at the X was enough to earn the attention of the Outlaws in this year’s collegiate draft, and he could be just what they need. Craig Bunker played for Colby in college (also in the NESCAC with Tufts) and has shown a D3 Face Off Specialist can earn a spot as an MLL starter.
Right now, Denver has 3 faceoff guys on their preseason roster. Among Brent Hiken (another D3 guy – Stevenson), Tom Kelly (Virginia), and Chris May (Ohio State), only Hiken has MLL game experience. The faceoff spot is a question mark, seemingly an open competition, and Helfrich might be the answer if his success continues in the pros.
At the very least, he deserves a chance to prove himself in the pros, since he’s already established himself as such a dominant collegiate faceoff man. Thanks to the eye of the staff in Denver, it could pay dividends going forward.