NLL: Black Wolves hoping to replace Crawford’s scoring touch with field stars

Grant Ament. Penn State at Rutgers, May 2, 2019. (Photo credit: Laura Kupsey)

The New England Black Wolves selected one of the smallest draft classes last week, acquiring just five new players in the NLL’s first virtual draft. They also acquired Jacob Ruest and the 24th overall pick from the Colorado Mammoth for their own two second rounders.

The Black Wolves had to wait until the second round to get involved in the action, having traded their 2020 first-round pick to Georgia in 2017 so they could move up to draft Colton Watkinson seventh overall that year.

This year their first pick was 6’4 Charlie Kitchen, taken 24th overall in the second round. Head coach Glenn Clark coached the righty forward with the Toronto Beaches Jr. A club last season where he scored 41 points in 17 games. The Marlton, NJ native is returning to the Delaware Blue Hens for a fifth season. He was the CAA’s Offensive Player of the Year selection after his junior year.

Michael Sowers of the Princeton Tigers fights off a Cornell Big Red defender on April 29, 2017. (Photo credit: Robert Goldstein)

In rounds three and four the ‘Wolves got a couple of steals in Michael Sowers (3/41) and Grant Ament (4/65). Sowers is Princeton’s all-time leading scorer with 302 points. He has been named Inside Lacrosse’s DI Player of the Year, was a Tewaarton Award finalist, a two-time unanimous first-team All-Ivy League honoree, the unanimous Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and a USILA second and third team All-American. He’s transferring to Duke for his fifth year of eligibility.

Ament was the breakout star of the Premier Lacrosse League this past summer, but his NLL intentions aren’t clear and that, coupled with a lack of box experience, may be why he fell to the fourth round. If he does commit to the Black Wolves, he could be a star right away. He was a star at Penn State, making it into the record books at sixth all time on the NCAA assists list (191). He led the Archers this summer with six goals and 14 assists, finishing ahead of Tom Schreiber and Will Manny.

Nick Ellerton was the Black Wolves’ fifth-round selection at 80th overall. A lefty defenseman, Ellerton spent five years with the Toronto Beaches, improving his transition game each season. A captain at Boston University, he made the Patriot League Academic Honour Roll three times. He’s back at BU to obtain a Master’s Degree this year.

Their last selection was lefty forward Jeremy Bomberry from the Six Nations Arrows. Bomberry brings a championship pedigree with a Minto Cup win and two medals with the Iroquois Nationals.

With Kitchen, Sowers and Ellerton headed back to school, only two draft picks will be competing for roster spots this season. As good as Ament is, he’s untested in box lacrosse, and Bomberry’s late selection suggests he may be more of a long-term project. That’s where the Ruest trade comes in – he helps immediately on offense. He’s a big addition for the team that lost Callum Crawford and Stephan Leblanc to free agency. Crawford scored nearly a quarter of New England’s goals in 2020 (24.4 per cent). Ruest spent four years with the Mammoth after being drafted as a fourth rounder in 2015. During his time with Colorado the righty forward saw action in 67 games, scored 73 goals and tallied 115 assists for a career 188 points.

Other new faces include Ryan Conrad, acquired from Toronto, who was a star at UVA; and Brad Smith, a star at Duke who played in the PLL this summer and was signed as a free agent. The Black Wolves have previously forayed into turning field stars into solid box players as seen with Joe Nardella and Dave Emala, so their hopes are high for Conrad, Smith, Ament and Sowers.