The New England Black Wolves head into the 2016 NLL draft without a selection until the third round. That fact has made it difficult for general manager of the year candidate Richard Lisk and his team to prepare for the draft, and have a focus to use it for team building.
“We’ve focused a lot on the free agency period,” said Lisk. “We wanted to get younger at goalie, we did with Doug Buchan. We wanted to defense and faceoff, and we did with Jay Thorimbert. We also added a veteran presence on the left side of the offense with Chad Culp.”
The Black Wolves don’t pick until the 29th overall selection in what is already a weaker draft class than previous years. New England is a veteran team without many spots open even if they had high picks, so it became difficult for Lisk to prioritize the draft to add players.
“Free agency was our draft. We identified the three pieces we needed and added them.”
The New England organization is evolving from its previous identity, known as a team that built around Americans when it was based in Philadelphia. After trading for the former MVP last season in Shawn Evans, that seemed to be changing, but New England is still providing more opportunities for American based players than other organizations.
“History shows we always have the most Americans,” said Lisk. “We added Marty Bowes, we’re running a free agent camp for Americans on November 18th with Randy Fraser and Chuck Jaffe out of Boston where the Boston Box League plays out of.”
With the lack of draft picks, leagues like the Boston Box Lacrosse League give Lisk and the Black Wolves a gateway into finding new talent. The team is still in talks with Boston Cannons’ all star Josh Hawkins, and has been historically open to signing field lacrosse players. The Black Wolves have been under the league’s salary cap the past three years, but with the free agent signings, it is getting tighter and New England has to find different avenues.
“With the cards we were dealt, it’s hard to focus on the draft,” Lisk said. “It’s tough for rookies to make teams, and they have to put in time on the practice rosters. Until I can rebuild our picks, I have to go to free agency and look for diamonds in the rough.”
New England has found talent in untraditional places before, such as Pat Saunders emerging from the now-defunct Canadian Lacrosse League or field lacrosse players such as John Ranagan. Lisk cited a draft pick last season in defender Sheldon Burns who dropped, and he is hoping to find another surprise rookie this coming month.
“We found Sheldon Burns low in the draft, and he blossomed and played well. I’d love to find the next Burns.”
Brody Eastwood, F, Stony Brook—Eastwood should fall to the late third or fourth round, and as a player based on Long Island out of Stony Brook could become a fit for a New England practice roster. He dropped off dramatically when he began playing senior lacrosse in British Columbia, but was formerly a top prospect in the BCJLL.
Garrett Naimie, F, New England/Vermont Sr—This could be a stretch, but given the Black Wolves connection with the Vermont Voyageurs organization and their proficiency with American players, this could be a late round selection. Rosters are difficult to fill with rookies anyhow, so a local player who can be added to the practice squad in a weaker draft year where New England isn’t uber-focused on the draft might be reasonable.