2015 MLL Draft Report: Denver Outlaws

Photo Credit: Di Miller

On Friday January 23, the 2014 MLL Champion Denver Outlaws drafted eight players, and traded their third-round pick for Ohio Machine defenseman Max Schmidt. Head Coach B.J. O’Hara said, “We’re excited about the players we drafted tonight in addition to our trade with Ohio for Schmidt, who brings some defensive depth for us. We look forward to cutting down our roster and getting the 2015 season started.”

Here’s how the Outlaws used their draft picks in each of the eight rounds.

In the first round, Nikko Pontrello (5’11”, 180 lbs.) from Loyola was picked up 8th overall. Before attending Loyola he was an amazing attackman at St. Augustine Prep in Richland, N.J. where he earned US Lacrosse All-America; All-Metro First Team honors from the Philadelphia Inquirer; First Team All-State; All-Conference; and All-South Jersey. During his high school career, he was the all-time assist leader scoring 174 combined points during his junior and senior season. In his junior year, he was an All-State; All-Conference; and All-Philadelphia Inquirer First Team player. In his freshmen year at Loyola he played in 17 games; had four goals and six assists. As a sophomore, he finished third on the team in points (35) and second in assists (19) after playing in all 16 games and starting 15. Finally, as a junior he surpassed his first two years where he scored 20 goals and finished with 51, third-most in school single-season history; 12 assists giving him 63 points on the season, putting him sixth-most in school single-season history. His 3.0 goals per game in 2014 ranked him fifth in the nation.

In the second round and 15th overall, Denver picked up another attackman with their selection of Wesley Berg (6’1”, 180 lbs.) from the University of Denver. Prior to his college career, he played 15 years offense for club box lacrosse and four years as attack in club field lacrosse. He’s earned multiple awards and honors some of which include rookie of the week; rookie of the year; First Team All-ECAC; named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team; USILA Third Team All-American; and was a Tewaaraton Award nominee in 2014. During his first year at the University of Denver he saw action in all 16 games; finished tied for second on the team in goals (26); fifth in points (37); and tallied 11 assists. He had three hat-trick games; and finished 13th in the nation in shot percentage (.456). As a sophomore he started 17 of 19 games, and finished with a team-leading 56 goals and 16 assists. At the end of the season, he was ranked No. 5 nationally in goals per game (2.95); and No. 18 in shot percentage (.421). He also recorded nine hat-tricks, and two sick-tricks (6 or more goals in a game). In his junior year he started all 19 games with an average of 2.53 goals; 1.05 assists; 3.58 points; 6.84 shots per game; and a .632 shot on goal percentage. He tallied another seven hat-tricks giving him a career total of 19. In his career with the University of Denver, Berg has played in 54 career games with the Pioneers, and already ranks second in school history for career points (177) and goals (130).

Denver traded its third-round (22nd overall) pick to the Ohio Machine for defenseman Max Schmidt. Schmidt saw action in 37 games during his first three MLL seasons with Ohio, and led the team for most games played. He was a four-year starter at the University of Maryland, and was a member of the Terps team that played in the 2011 NCAA Championship.

The Outlaws next pick came in the fourth round and 30th overall. They selected Carson Cannon (6’4”, 200 lbs.) defenseman from the University of Denver. Prior to playing for DU, he played six years of lacrosse; was team captain in his senior year of high school; and a member of the 2009 U.S. Boys’ High School All-America Team. As a freshmen, he started all 16 games, recording 14 ground balls and eight caused turnovers. During his sophomore year, he started 18 of 19 games, with 17 ground balls and three caused turnovers. He was also a First Team All-ECAC in 2013. In his junior year, he started 17 games, and missed the other two due to an injury. Overall in his career with the University of Denver, he saw action in 52 games; had 20 caused turnovers; and 44 ground balls.

Heading into the fifth round, the Outlaws used their pick and scooped up attackman Dan Taylor (6’4”, 200 lbs.) out of Lehigh. He started playing lacrosse out of Central Memorial High School and the Elev8 lacrosse program. During his high school career he achieved numerous honors as the Under-19 Team Alberta Captain; a member of the Canadian Field Lacrosse Nationals All-Star Team; a two-time Under-16 Team Alberta Captain; a Junior A Mountaineers’ leading scorer two years running, posting 31 goals and 39 assists in 19 games (to finish second in the league in scoring); and much more. In his freshmen year at Lehigh he played in all 17 games, nine as a starter; and had three man-up goals (fourth on the team). As a sophomore, he had a breakout campaign finishing second on the team with 29 goals and 21 assists. He had 12 games with multiple points; 11 with three or more points; finished the season with 10 multi-goal games; and six hat-tricks. He had another breakout season his junior year where he led the team with 47 goals and 29 assists; was seventh in the nation in points. He had an impressive 41.2 shot percentage with 47 goals on 114 shots, putting him fifth in league history; and 28 ground balls.

In the sixth round and 45th overall, the Outlaws would pick mid-fielder Michael Richards (6’0”, 174 lbs.) from Penn State. Richards played four years on the Skaneateles High School boys’ lacrosse team. As a junior he earned Second Team All-League and helped lead the team to a sectional championship. In his senior year, he was named an ESPN Rise Honorable Mention All-American; and earned First-Team All-League honors. During his freshmen year at Penn State, he appeared in all 15 games scoring one goal off three shots; 25 ground balls; 11 caused turnovers; and had a ground ball in all but two games. He was also a member of the 2012 CAA All-Rookie Team. As a sophomore, he played in all 17 games including 15 starts as a short-stick defensive midfielder; scored a goal; had 32 ground balls; and 16 caused turnovers which ranked him third on the team. In his junior year, had 10 starts and appeared in all 13 games. He was also an Academic All-Big Ten honoree.

The Outlaws would use their first of two seventh round picks and 48th overall on David Dickson (6’1”, 182 lbs.) mid-fielder out of Bucknell. During his freshmen year, he earned Second All-Team All Patriot Honors. He appeared in all 16 games, with 15 starts at midfield. He ranked third on the team with 14 goals and 26 assists. He was the first Bucknell freshmen to earn All-Patriot League honors since Charlie Streep in 2009. Among all Division I freshmen, he was ranked second in assists and sixth in points. He was also a three-time Patriot League Rookie of the Week. As a sophomore, he was Third Team All-America; and First Team All-Patriot League. He was the seventh Bucknell men’s lacrosse player to earn All-America honors higher than Honorable Mention level. He started all 16 games at midfield; had at least one assist in every game; multiple assists in 14 of 16 games; eight goals; and 48 assists giving him Bucknell and Patriot League records. He was ranked fourth in the nation with 3.0 assists per game. He was also a member of the Patriot League All-Tournament Team. In his junior year, he started all 15 games, playing both attack and midfield. He led the team in assists and points with 15 goals and 28 assists. He also had a 41-game points streak, the eighth-longest nationally. His career totals to date include 47 games played; 37 goals; 102 assists (139 points); ranks fourth on Bucknell’s career assists; and ninth in points.

Their next pick in the seventh round and 52nd overall would be Joe McCallion (5’11”, 185 lbs.) mid-fielder out of the University of Pennsylvania. While playing lacrosse in high school at Haverford School, he lettered in lacrosse and helped the team to No. 1 national ranking as a senior. Their team won three straight Inter-Ac and Inter-Ac Tournament titles; and he was a US Lacrosse High School All-America as a senior. Heading into his freshmen year, he played in all 13 games as one of Penn’s main face-off men, and was 76-153 (.497) on face-offs. During his sophomore season, he played in all 13 games, mainly as a member of the second midfield unit. As a junior, he played in all 15 games, again mainly on second or third midfield units. He was tied for fourth on the team in assists (9); sixth in points (17); and had four multi-point games. His career stats include: 41 games played; 11 goals; 14 assists; 25 points; 69 shots; 91 ground balls; 25 caused turnovers; and 123-264 face-offs won for a .466 FOW.

The Outlaws would use their eighth round pick 60th overall on Nick Ossello (6’1”, 185 lbs) out of Notre Dame. Ossello was a three-time All-Conference performer at Wheat Ridge High School; received All-State accolades as a junior and senior; a starter in the 2010 and 2011 All-State lacrosse games; and as a junior led his team in points (49) and ground balls (114). During his freshmen year at Notre Dame, he split the team’s faceoff duties; played in 14 games; and was 53-102 (.520) in faceoff attempts. In his sophomore year he played in 14 games on the second midfield line, and shared the team’s faceoff duties where he was 62-124 (.500). During his first three years at Notre Dame, he was a two-way midfielder and a major factor in Notre Dame’s faceoff unit. He played in 28 career games; had five goals; four assists; 66 ground balls; and was 115-226 (.509) in faceoff attempts. He can play on the wing position; is strong; fast; and physical.

It will be interesting to see how each of these players does during their senior year in college. There is so much uncertainty as to their performance in their final year in college; injuries can occur that would take them out of the line-up which can create issues for a head coach in deciding which college players actually make the cut. Since the different conferences end at staggered times, players can become eligible to play anytime between the end of April and Memorial Day. They must make that effort to show their worth in professional lacrosse. Some succeed while others often cannot handle the pressure, and demands of professional lacrosse. During their college careers, they practice every day during the week while the professionals practice the day before the game. It will be critical for them to understand this when they make it to the majors.

The Outlaws will host their open try-outs on March 7, with April 6 being the deadline for cuts to the final 25-man active roster. Any players who are currently playing in the NLL and are on the protected man roster do not count against the final 25-man roster. As each of those players teams are eliminated from the NLL playoffs, they will move on to their MLL teams, and the Outlaws will then have to decide which of their Supplemental Draft picks and Collegiate Draft picks will move to the practice squad or be cut from the team.

I spoke with Jeremy Noble last week and he is hoping to be picked up by one of the Western Division NLL teams prior to the beginning of the MLL season which opens up on April 12 when the Outlaws will head to Boston to play the Cannons. If not, he is considering bypassing the 2015 NLL season and starting with the Outlaws for the season-opener. Eric Law also told me that he may forego the 2015 NLL season as he suffered a foot injury while training after finishing his rehab from shoulder surgery at the end of the 2014 MLL season, and is out for another four to six weeks.

If either or both of these occur, the Outlaws will need to cut or move to the practice squad two of their newly acquired draft picks. Time will tell as the college season begins and the seniors show their stuff during the spring. If they can perform well, they have a good chance of remaining with the Outlaws. If not, there is a high probability they will be released.

Denver has again put together an extremely strong squad for the 2015 MLL season, and it will be an extremely difficult to decision as to who will make that final 25-man roster.