The 2020 NLL draft is mired in mystery. Sure, we know the main players, we know who is eligible, and some of us might even think we know who will be good, but we don’t know who is going to play when the season kicks off.
With so many eligibility questions as athletes have the opportunity to return to college next season, and after some of the major talent missed a summer that would have been vital for projections, none of us have a clue what reality is going to look like even when the dust settles on the draft.
That makes this one of the most intriguing draft classes in the history of the NLL, and also one of the most important. Teams saw last season cut off and we don’t know who would have turned out on top and who would have bottomed out, making next season a revenge season for the teams who thought they missed their chance.
It’s a deep class especially at the top, and there’s a lot of what-ifs and that can turn into franchise-changing, generational players.
Jeff Teat – Forward – Cornell/Brampton
Teat showed he can play at an elevated level in box a year ago with 80 points for Brampton, earning rookie of the year honors. He’s also competed on a large stage in the NCAA as Cornell propelled into the national conversation in his time with the Big Red. Teat’s a natural goal scorer and he makes life easier on his teammates as well with a strength facilitating the ball.
Jeff Henrick – Defense – Ohio State/New Westminster
The right-side defenseman could go high in the draft after a strong Senior league debut last year. Losing a year of development with the Salmonbellies is a blow, but Henrick still projects as someone who can step into an NLL defense and succeed early.
Ryan Smith – Forward – Robert Morris/Burlington/Oakville
Smith has had a 100 point season before in junior play and has held his own in Senior with the Oakville Rock. He creates his own offense and is a sparkplug type of player who can slot into an NLL lineup and make things happen. In a league that has become tougher and tougher for rookies to contribute early, that makes Smith an asset.
Reid Bowering – Defense – Drexel/Coquitlam
Last season’s BCJALL defender of the year, Bowering is used to receiving honors; it was his third time. The physical defenseman didn’t get a chance to show what he can do at the next level in Sr A this season, but long-time box lacrosse observers don’t need much more than his Jr days in Coquitlam to see he’s someone who translates to the NLL.
Tre Leclaire – Forward – Ohio State/New Westminster
There’s another NLL universe where Leclaire is a first overall pick, but in an extremely deep draft, he could fall all the way to fifth. Leclaire is the definition of a goal scorer, notching 52 goals with Delta with the junior Salmonbellies. He’s produced consistently over four years.
Tanner Cook – Forward – UNC/Whitby
The left-handed forward missed what would have been a huge development year with Brooklin so he’s kind of a wild card. He projects as a top 6-7 pick, but there’s a notable drop off from the other elite tier guys. He’s someone who could be a pleasant surprise in year one in the NLL but isn’t a total gamble either. He’s big at 6-foot-3 and makes a lot of space to either score himself or dish it to his teammates.
Robert Hudson – Transition – Vermont/Brampton
Hudson really flourished when he moved up to Senior, which is a good sign as far as projecting how he’ll do in the NLL. He’s in a transition role but leans towards the offense, using his size at 6-foot-3 to make opportunity, and has the speed to get down the floor. When he moved up to Brampton his defensive game shone through.
Ethan Walker – Forward – Denver/Peterborough
If anyone could have used a 2020 season to improve their draft stock it was Walker. He already missed a year to injury in 2017 and has been back-and-forth playing outdoor with Denver. He’s a solid left-handed shot, though, and has been able to produce in the past.
Connor McClelland – Defense – Marquette/Brampton
McClelland’s offense saw a boom when he rose up to Senior level, notching 12 points in 2019 after never reaching higher than nine while in junior. That transition ability might be what sets him apart from the rest of this tier of defenders in the late first round.
Jordan Stouros – Defense – Limestone/Peterborough
He doesn’t have a ton of time in Senior but he was around two Mann Cup championship teams while he was, and he didn’t trip over himself, which is saying a lot for a young player. He isn’t going to rush down field and do an Air Gait but he is the kind of defender who has the potential to become a lockdown guy.
Ron John – Transition – Albany/Six Nations
John is somewhat of a mystery with just one full season in Junior. Yet, he’s still highly regarded in the lacrosse community thanks to his toughness, and the field game has helped elevate his skills. He’s played on some big stages in the Worlds for field lacrosse and a few other major tournaments, and that he’s graduated early and is available to play makes a difference when there’s extra years of eligibility looming.
Ty Thompson – Forward – Hartford/Nepean
Thompson stood out in the postseason to help Orangeville get to their Minto Cup and there’s no denying 96 points with Nepean, but that he didn’t get a full Senior season is certainly going to hurt his draft stock. Much like Cook, though, he could be a real pleasant surprise for someone willing to work with him early.
Brad McCulley – Forward – Robert Morris/Langley
McCulley held his own when he got to the Senior Thunder with 37 points in 18 games. He’s a left handed shot and consistent with his scoring ability. He’s someone who, if that translates to the pro level, could be a reliable stalwart in a lineup for many years.
Harrison Matsuoka – Transition – Stony Brook/Okotoks
Expect Matsuoka to head back to Stony Brook next season and get another year under his belt, but when he is NLL ready, his speed is what makes him standpoint. Matsuoka can put the ball in the net but his biggest asset is simply getting the ball downfield. Think a Ryan Dilks or Damon Edwards type.
Jackson Suboch – Defense – UMass/Brooklin
The left-handed defender could be a steal if he drops after missing his Senior season, because he seemed one solid year away from being in that elite tier. He could easily get into the first round depending how teams evaluate their needs, and anyone who takes him will get a a responsible 6-foot-5 defenseman.