Breaking Down NLL team's protected player lists
We’re just weeks away from the 2019 NLL Expansion Draft and finding out who the newest members of the New York Riptide and Rochester Knighthawks will be.
The respecitve general managers of those teams, Regy Thorpe and Dan Carey, got their first glimps at who they could land on July 9, as the exsisting NLL franchises submitted their protected player lists for the draft on Tuesday.
There were some surprises when it came to exposed players, as well as some interesting choices for protections. We go through all the decisions and who could be on the move come the draft.
Mitch De Snoo
We start off with the Bandits, who had two big surprises up front when it came to exposed players.
Buffalo decided to go down the route of youth by protecting forwards Thomas Hoggarth and Chase Fraser. However, that left former league MVP Shawn Evans and Corey Small open to being taken from them in a few weeks.
As for the back end, there are also a few good pieces, like Bryce Sweeting and Nick Weiss, that could be picked up. Backup goaltender Zach Higgins has also been speculated as a goaltender that could be high on the expansion team’s respective lists.
There shouldn’t be a doubt that both Small and Evans will be taken in the expansion draft. Buffalo could try to trade back for one of them, but it would likely be a steep price for either of the talented forwards.
Christian Del Bianco
The defending champions are another team that didn’t have to worry about losing too many big names in the expansion draft.
Fans seem to be concerned that Rhys Duch isn’t included in this list. Yes, he was an integral part of the Riggers last season and he scored the NLL Cup-clinching goal in overtime. He is a franchiseable unrestricted free agent, but he suffered a serious injury recently and will be out for a while. Duch also wouldn’t likely agree to play out east if he was good to go to start next season.
Wes Berg was protected, but he could be on the way out. Regardless, it’s better for Calgary to use a slot and get a return than lose him for nothing - he would’ve been snatched up if he was unprotected.
There are still some solid pieces to look at if you’re New York or Rochester. Riley Loewen and Dan Taylor each finished with 46 points apiece last year.
Calgary also left its captain, Dan MacRae, unprotected. The 30-year-old was third on the Riggers in loose balls with 98 on the year. He also put up 11 points from the back end.
It’ll be tough to lose some faces from the championship team, but Calgary has generally done a great job with its asset management.
The Mammoth had a tough time season on the offensive end last year, and they decided to keep an extra player on the back end rather than protecting a fifth forward.
That’ll leave two solid contributors from last season ripe for the picking. Colorado did expose both John Grant Jr. and Zach Greer, but they’re both very much retired - Jr. returned to the MLL this summer, but that was to break the all-time points record.
Jeremy Noble had his worst campaign as a pro, but he should be poised for a bounce back next year. Jeff Wittig also impressed in his eight games with the Mammoth this season, posting 21 points.
Steve Fryer has also been looked at as one of the best goaltending options available in this draft. “Deep” proved his worth in relief appearances this past season, even holding Vancouver to four goals in a game back in March.
No goalie protected
The Swarm possess one of the most talented roster the league has to offer. They’re just deep in every position, and with this draft, you see what a tough position they were in.
Up front, Holden Cattoni has been left unprotected. He was brought over to Georgia in a draft-day deal with the Calgary Roughnecks that saw Jesse King head the other way.
Cattoni had a great opening campaign with the Swarm, finishing tied for third in team scoring this year with 80 points - which set a new career high.
Instead of protecting Cattoni, Georgia went with Williams, who they selected fourth overall back in 2017.
For me, the Swarm not protecting a goalie changes the plans for goalies being taken. Mike Poulin is a non-franchiseable UFA, so he wasn’t expected to be on this list, but Kevin Orleman being available is interesting. The 23-year-old was a second-round pick back in 2016 and is considered one of the best goaltending prospects in the game.
He’s having a strong summer with the Cobourg Kodiaks and could hold down a starting spot on an expansion team.
The newly-named Thunderbirds decided to protect Ryan Benesch, which was a bit of a surprise given that the lefty was a non-franchiseable UFA. Regardless, they’ll be able to maintain Beni, who's been a consistent 70-plus point guy over the majority of his career.
When it comes to who was left off the list, it’s a little hard to forecast who will be taken from Halifax. Curt Styres cleaned house at the trade deadline this past season, opting to move veteran pieces for picks.
Chris Boushy will likely be a selection. As for the other pick, Eric Fannell looks like he could be a good bet as well.
New England Black Wolves
The only surprise on the New England list is the exclusion of Tyler Digby, who had 27 goals and 72 points on the year and filled in nicely when Crawford was suspended.
Alex Buque is likely finished in New England, as Jamieson proved to be the unquestioned starter of the Black Wolves in 2019.
David Brock was also left exposed. He’s a UFA but can be franchised, so he could be a pick.
No goalie protected
The Wings opted to not protect a goaltender, and that was the right move for the team. All due respect to Doug Buchan, but he had a rough campaign in 2018-19 and Philly needed to maintain their best runners after an equally rough year.
Philadelphia has two main players available that I believe will be heading to new teams in a few weeks. Vaughn Harris had solid production last season despite only featuring in 13 games, and Frank Brown is a big body that’s a solid transition player.
Justin Guterding is also a possibility, as he’s one of the best field players in the world and put up 11 points in four contests with the Wings last season.
Philadelphia is one of the teams that can’t afford to give up talent at this point. Mix them losing two players with the lack of a first-rounder and it’s going to be tough for Paul Day and his staff this offseason.
San Diego Seals
Following a successful inaugural campaign, San Diego is on the other side of the expansion draft this summer.
Last year, their inaugural pick was lefty forward Turner Evans, who has been left unprotected by the team this time around.
Additionally, the Seals’ top two scorers from last season, Dan Dawson and Garrett Billings, were also left to be selected. Dawson is a non-franchiseable unrestricted free agent, and while Billings could be franchised, he likely wouldn’t play for a team in the east.
There are some really good pieces to consider. Connor Kelly had a promising first year in the box, Evans could be taken in an expansion draft for a second consecutive year - especially if Rochester takes his cousin, Shawn. Rylan Hartley could also be a very interesting pickup, as the 21-year-old has had a solid Junior A career with the Orangeville Northmen. He would only be an option if a team already had a goalie in place to start.
It’s truly a toss-up as to who will be poached in the expansion draft. It’ll be very interesting to see what happens with this particular squad.
Another team with a stockpile of talent, Saskatchewan is going to lose a couple of quality pieces, but with their depth, they’ll still be one of the favourites for the championship next year.
The Rush decided to expose Curtis Knight and hold onto lefty Connor Robinson, who the organization holds in very high regard.
Saskatchewan is another example of a team that has players who are more than likely unwilling to move out east.
There’s also a strong possibility that Derek Keenan uses a few of the three - possibly four - first-rounders the Rush possess to trade back for one or even both of the players selected.
It’s a little surprising that the Rock didn’t use an extra slot to hold on to a defender, but they also need to keep their complimentary pieces on the left side for next season.
The names on the board really shouldn’t come as a surprise. Craig and Powless both eclipsed 40 points this past season playing alongside Jones on the left side. Bill Hostrawser has proven himself to be one of the best shutdown defenders on the team, and he’s also a physical presence that Bruce Codd’s defence needs.
They’re going to lose a few quality players in this draft, but the Rock still have some solid young pieces for the future regardless of the outcome.
Vancouver is another team that is hard to pick names from. They were a young team that, outside of the individuals protected, were fairly fresh to the league.
There are certainly some interesting players to take and develop, but there’s also the issue of nearly the entire roster hailing from British Columbia. One of the lone Eastern players is Penney, who was protected.
Either of the expansion teams could have to convince a player to travel to play this upcoming season.