NLL Draft: Top 10 picks all from north of the border

First overall draft pick Tyson Gibson with his proud mom and dad. NLL Draft, September 17, 2019. (Photo credit: Laura Kupsey)

The NLL’s growth in the United States continued this week with the 2019 draft at Xfinity Live in Philadelphia. It was the second consecutive draft held in the city of the league’s headquarters, boosted with the return of the Wings in 2018.

Prior to 2018, the draft had been held at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, with a large number of draftees hailing from the Canadian province of Ontario. Though the NLL has been focusing on drawing more American field players to the box game, the number of early draftees still remained largely Canadian. The top 10 picks were all from north of the border.

The 2019 draft opened with an announcement that the league’s first annual NLL Players Business Summit was created with insight from several players who were there signing autographs this included Kevin Crowley who plays for the Philadelphia Wings.  The draft got underway after the announcement.

The NLL generally favours announcing what school their draftees graduated from, as many players, even though they hail from Canada, attend US colleges to play lacrosse. This helps American fans learn more about their teams’ new players, but Canadian fans are likely more familiar with the player’s minor or summer teams.

The New York Riptide had the first pick in the draft. They chose Tyson Gibson who is a right hander from Robert Morris. The Canadian forward started all of his games during one season and was successful in leading the college. He is also coming off his sophomore season with the WLA’s Victoria Shamrocks, leading them in scoring during the Mann Cup. Gibson, whose father Darryl is a coach with the Black Wolves, spent five years playing for the Jr. A Brampton Excelsiors, not far from his hometown of Maple, Ontario.

The Rochester Knighthawks had the second pick. They selected Port Coquitlam, British Columbia native Ryland Rees from Stony Brook University. Rees is a right handed transition player who was named a first team All America player. He represented Canada at the 2018 World Championships in Netanya and this summer played his first season of senior lacrosse with the WLA’s Burnaby Lakers.

New England had the third pick of the night because of the trade that allowed Kevin Crowley to return to Philadelphia. The Black Wolves went with Andrew Kew who played at Tampa. Kew is a left handed forward who won several honours in college and also lit up the MSL this year with his hometown Oakville Rock, scoring 29 goals in 14 games. Kew spent his junior career with the Burlington Chiefs before a trade to powerhouse Mimico in his final season.

The fourth pick went to the Saskatchewan Rush. The organization went with left handed defender Holden Garlent, who played three years at Canisius before declaring early for this draft. Garlent caused multiple turnovers at Canisius, where he was twice named to the All-MAAC first team. The Thorold, Ontario product played minor lacrosse for the St. Catharines Athletics before finishing his career with the Six Nations Arrows. He joined the Brooklin Lacrosse Club in 2018 and has had two solid summers with the MSL club.

Clarke Petterson from Cornell was drafted fifth, by the Halifax Thunderbirds. Petterson, who also played for Brodie Merrill at the Hill Academy in Vaughn, is another Canadian who looks to have an immediate impact on his team when he joins Halifax as a left handed defender. Petterson, from Mimico, played five years of junior for the Brampton Excelsiors and had a great rookie MSL season in 2019 with the big club.

Colorado had its first pick at number six. They selected another Mimico boy, Warren Jeffrey, who played with Petterson in Brampton this summer, though he spent most of his junior career with the hometown Mountaineers where he won the award as top defensive player. Jeffrey spent his college career at Vermont, where he caused 21 turnovers in his junior season (third most in a single season at the school).  At 6-3, he is one of the tallest guys to be drafted.

The Calgary Roughnecks selected Liam LeClair with the seventh pick. Although he doesn’t play anymore, LeClair can probably rely on older brother Kellen to give him some advice on what lacrosse is like at a higher level. The younger LeClair is a left handed defender from Windsor, Ontario who should provide some solid and physical play for the Roughnecks. He is another top defensive player winner at the junior A level where he plays for the Six Nations Arrows, and has played a handful of games as a call up for the MSL’s Chiefs.

Calgary also had the eighth pick. They asked for a five minute extension before selecting Haiden Dickson after getting the slot from San Diego. Dickson is a forward from Delta, B.C. who declared early for the draft. In 2018 he helped Canada to a World Junior gold medal with six points in three games. This summer he finished second in the BCJALL with 50 goals in 20 games.

Justin Robinson was drafted at number nine for the Saskatchewan Rush. Robinson is a lefty transition player from Pickering, Ontario, who spent five seasons of junior A with Brampton before his MSL rookie season this summer in Brooklin. He declared early for the draft after two years at Robert Morris where he played as a midfielder. Robinson should easily adjust to the back-and-forth play that appeared to cause some issues for the Rush last season.

Tyson Bomberry went as the tenth pick to the New York Riptide. He can cause turnovers, scoop up ground balls and he stayed healthy at Syracuse where he was a team captain and a USILA Scholar All-American. He’s spent his whole career with his hometown lacrosse program in Six Nations, where he won a Founders Cup and three Mintos before graduating the MSL’s Chiefs. His international play with the Iroquois Nationals has given him a lot of experience and he should fit right in to the Riptide’s plan.

The biggest surprise of the draft seemed to be the lack of defenders and goalies picked. With high scoring games and powerful attack plans last season, it seemed that a lot of teams needed goalies and defenders. However, the first 10 picks did not include any goalies – it took until number 42 to get to a goalie and it was Saskatchewan who picked up Cameron Dunkerley from the Victoria Jr. Shamrocks I’m the third round. Landon Kells from the Peterborough Jr. Lakers went a few picks later to the Calgary Roughnecks at 46.

Another gamble is Pat Spencer’s selection at 36 by the Philadelphia Wings. Has Spencer shown any interest in box lacrosse? He’s playing basketball this season anyway but if someone can convince him to give the box game a try in the future it’ll be Wings’ GM Paul Day.

Although there are strong players who were drafted, sometimes matches seem better on paper. It will be interesting to see how these new guys mix with the dynamic personalities already in the National Lacrosse League. It will be interesting to see who can rise to the top with the best players in the world.


— with files from Anna Taylor