Austin Staats out for rest of season


San Diego Seals rookie standout Austin Staats will miss the remainder of the 2018-19 season after tearing his right ACL, the team announced Monday.

Staats was in the midst of a dominant opening campaign. The Seals chose to pick first in the entry draft in order to land the dynamic lefty, who renounced his final two years of college eligibility in order to enter the NLL.

He didn’t slowly work his way into the league. Instead, the 20-year-old scored five goals and nine points in his debut against the Colorado Mammoth. The Seals would go on to win that game 17-12.

The most hyped matchup of Staats’ season came on April 5 against his older brother, Randy, and the Georgia Swarm. Coming into the game, Austin had 31 goals and 59 points in 13 games. He would get a goal and an assist before being forced out of the game.

In the second quarter, he crashed into the end boards after an awkward collision with Swarm defender Connor Sellars. He needed to be helped off the floor and couldn’t put any weight on his right leg.

He was forced to miss San Diego’s game the following night against the New England Black Wolves.

“I feel for the kid,” Seals general manager and head coach Patrick Merrill said. “He’s the ultimate competitor and has been outstanding for us all year. To see him go down, especially at this time of year, is heartbreaking. He’s had a great rookie season in the NLL but this is just the beginning for Austin Staats. He’s in good hands with our doctors here in San Diego and I’m sure he will come back stronger for many more years to come. He’ll be missed on the floor but will continue to be a key part of our family off the floor. The rest of the team will certainly be motivated to step up in his absence.”

In his absence, Casey Jackson, Turner Evans, and fellow first-rounder Connor Fields will have to pick up the production.

Jackson, 29, leads the Seals in goals with 33 on the year. He also has a career-high 55 points and 40 loose balls to this point in the campaign.

Evans, who was San Diego’s first pick in the expansion draft, is just three points away from tying a career high in points. The 25-year-old has 42 in 16 games.

Fields is coming off his own torn ACL suffered while playing for the University of Albany last year. In his first two games back, the 11th overall pick in the 2018 draft has posted a pair of goals and five points with eight loose balls.

In a corresponding move, the Seals signed three-time NLL champion Joe Walters. He spent time with the team during the preseason. In 103 career games, the 34-year-old has posted 73 goals and 233 points.

San Diego dropped their game against the Saskatchewan Rush to fall out of first place in the West Division. They have three games remaining to retake their spot atop the standings, but if they stay where they are currently, they’ll almost certainly face one of the Calgary Roughnecks or the Colorado Mammoth.

It generally takes up to nine months for someone to recover from a torn ACL. That would have Staats back right around the beginning of the 2019-20 campaign. His team will have to try and win their first championship without him.

Despite not being able to play in the postseason, Staats has made the best case to win Rookie of the Year honours. That should be the first of many pieces of hardware to come in his future.