NLL: Thunderbirds targeted defence at the 2020 draft

Ethan Riggs (red) was drafted by the Halifax Thunderbirds. (Photo credit: Ryan Nolan)

The Halifax Thunderbirds targeted defence during the 2020 NLL draft. They took a defender in the first and second rounds, and they also acquired Tyson Bell from the Calgary Roughnecks for their 14th and 20th picks.

“We were trying to shore up our defence with young talented defenders,” said head coach Mike Accursi. “We did that tonight with Riggs, Bell, Terefenko and Friesen. They are all fantastic young big defenders that will solidify the strength of our defence for years to come.”

With the Thunderbirds’ first pick, 11th overall, they went a bit off the board taking left-shot defender Ethan Riggs from the Burlington Chiefs in Ontario Junior A. Riggs is a big defender at 6’4 and 240 pounds as a 20-year-old. He is known as a physical defender. In 53 games in his Junior A career, Riggs scored eight points and had 109 penalty minutes.

Accursi said during the team’s virtual draft party that he sees a lot of upside in Riggs.

“I think if Junior A would have been playing this summer, he would be one of the top picks in this draft,” said Accursi. “I think he has not hit his ceiling yet. The thing we want to continue to do is to grow through youth. And he gives us size, grit, he plays with an edge, he doesn’t take a lot of penalties, he’s only going to get better.”

Halifax wasn’t done with their surprises in the first round. Near the end of the round they traded for Calgary’s Tyson Bell. Bell has played five seasons in Calgary and is known as one of the fastest and best transition players in the league. He collected 208 loose balls between 2017 and 2018.

Accursi said Bell is a player they’ve targeted for a while.

“We knew that if we had the opportunity to grab Tyson, we would definitely do it,” said Accursi during the draft party. “He adds some size, grit, speed, he’s a vacuum on loose balls and shores up that left-side of our defensive squad that is already going to be formidable.”

Halifax’s defence looks great going into this season. They have Graeme Hossack, who has won three-straight defensive player of the year awards, and they also have one of the best faceoff players in Jake Withers. Adding Bell should make them tough to beat. This is with an offence that scored the third-most goals in the league last year.

The defensive trend continued in the second round when Halifax picked Ohio State midfielder Ryan Terefenko. He is a three-time-All-America selection by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association, and is a three-time Ohio State scholar-athlete.

After the second round, Halifax drafted forward Matt Gaudet from Yale University and the PLL’s Chrome LC with the 47th pick, and defender Owen Friesen from the St. Catharines Athletics in the Ontario Junior A Lacrosse League with pick 48. With the 78th pick, they drafted goaltender Dustin Hill from the Six Nations Arrows and Six Nations Snipers.

Halifax selected local player Brett Draper from the Dartmouth Bandits in the East Coast Junior Lacrosse League with their last pick.

After the pick Draper tweeted, “at a loss for words, excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to get to work!” It is a feel good story to finish an otherwise excellent draft by the Thunderbirds that should leave their fans feeling good.