This Saturday night, the Buffalo Bandits organization will finally be able to get their first good look at the newest incoming draft class as they face off against the New England Black Wolves for a closed scrimmage showdown at the First Niagara Center.
After the 2014 NLL season had wrapped up and the Rochester Knighthawks were crowned the champions for the third time, each and every team in the league performed their usual postmortems in trying to find out where their weaknesses lie and how they will be able to upgrade their team to hopefully become the new champions during the upcoming 2015 season. While teams like Toronto and Vancouver used big name free agent acquisitions like Shawn Williams and Johnny Powless respectively to enhance their rosters, both the Bandits and the Black Wolves mined the depths of the 2014 NLL draft looking for youth, talent and skill to enhance their rosters.
The Black Wolves used their draft moves to give themselves the largest amount of draft picks in the 2014 draft with ten selections and five of them coming from the first and second rounds. The notable Black Wolves draft selections to look out for during their opening scrimmage with the Bandits will be their seventh selection of forward Mark Cockerton from Virginia/Brooklin MSL, their eighth selection of forward Quinn Powless from Six Nations Jr. A, their 11th selection of transition specialist Rodd Squire Jr. from the Six Nations Chiefs MSL and definitely all eyes will be on their 26th selection of forward Ty Thompson from Albany/Kahnawake Sr B.
The biggest question heading into this opening scrimmage for New England will be in regards to how their new injection of youth into the roster will be able to create solid chemistry with their deep roster of veterans like Kevin Crowley and Brett Manney.
The Buffalo Bandits were also heading into the NLL draft looking to inject some serious youth and depth to the left side of their offense. With no first round selections at the time, the Bandits made a significant trade with the Vancouver Stealth that saw them lose defender Rory Smith, Goaltender Eric Penney and some later round draft selections in order to move into the first round and select forward Brandon Goodwin from Adelphi-Coquitlam Sr. A for their ninth overall selection.
Other notable draft selections to look out for in this opening scrimmage will be the second round selections of transition specialist Matthew Bennett from Brampton Jr. A and forward Tyler Ferreira from Brampton Jr. A. The Bandits also made solid picks in the later rounds of the draft with the third round selection of forward Jordan Dance from Orangeville Jr. A and the sixth round selection of forward Mike Melnychenko from Kitchener-Waterloo MSL.
The main questions for the Bandits to answer heading into this first scrimmage with the Black Wolves will be if Nick Weiss will be able to fill the shoes of departed defensemen Rory Smith and if moving up to select Brandon Goodwin was worth it.
With both teams squaring off twice during the preseason, the lessons they will learn during those opening scrimmages will hopefully pay off deep dividends when they face off against each other when it really counts during the opening week of the 2015 NLL season.