January 11, 2014

MLL Draft Reaction: Run on Defense, Firsts and Best Steals

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive | Full Draft Results

Loyola's Joe Fletcher was the first defenseman taken in Friday night's Major League Lacrosse collegiate draft. A record six defenders were taken with the first ten picks, and seven in the first 12. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

Ohio State men's coach Nick Myers was speaking from campus in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday morning when the subject of Buckeyes defenseman Joe Meurer came up.

"All the MLL GMs that I've spoken to have called me about him," Myers said. "He'll be our first guy off the board."

He was -- with the tenth overall pick -- by Major League Lacrosse's newest franchise, the Florida Launch, at Friday night's MLL Collegiate Draft in Philadelphia, held in conjunction with this weekend's US Lacrosse National Convention.

In most years, the second pick of the second round might mark a spot where the second or third defenseman in the draft was taken. In fact, in only three of MLL's 13 all-time collegiate drafts heading into Friday had more than two defenders been taken in the first ten picks. Once was last year, when five were taken in the first ten. The trend continued again. Meurer was the sixth defensive player selected. Seven were taken in the first 12 picks of the night.

"He's a little bit of a hybrid," Myers said. "He's 5-foot-11. He's not super-imposing when you look at him, but he's got great feet. He's a great slider. He's a great off-ball defender. He can cover a big-time dodger or a good off-ball player. We can put him on almost any matchup. Each week we play we say, 'Joe's got him,' and then we go to what's next."

Defenders, ones that have proven to consistently cover top threats in college, are a valuable commodity. New York, a team searching for defensive help after offseason moves previously reworked its offense, took Loyola close defenseman and Team USA hopeful Joe Fletcher with the third overall pick and doubled-up on D by grabbing physical Duke long-stick midfielder Luke Duprey with the very next selection.

A pair of battle-tested ACC defenders, Michael Ehrhardt of Maryland and Scott McWilliams of Virginia, completed the first round, going seventh and eighth to the Charlotte Hounds and Boston Cannons, respectively.

Loyola's Pat Laconi was the first short-stick defensive midfielder off the board at No. 9 overall to Charlotte and fellow d-middie Ryan Creighton of North Carolina went to Florida with the 12th pick.

It was a good night for the defense.

The Thompson Plan

Rochester drafted Albany attackman Miles Thompson with the 20th overall pick and took his cousin and Great Danes linemate, Ty, six picks later. And that was only after the Rattlers picked Duke attackman Jordan Wolf second overall. That's an incredible starting attack to think of on its own, but of course, it seems inevitable that this time next year Rochester will also be drafting this year's preseason Tewaaraton Award favorite, Lyle, who is only a junior. The Rattlers will position themselves to do it by trades if they need to.

In the meantime, two-thirds of the Thompson trio are now Rattlers. Miles and Ty may be overshadowed by Lyle, but they shouldn't necessarily be. Miles had 73 points in 12 games last season, but because he missed too many contests with injury, his 6.08 per game average didn't qualify in the NCAA's season-ending official stats. If he did, the average would be third, just off Lyle's national best 6.65. Ty averaged 3.78 points per game and led Albany in goals as a lefty finisher.

Albany coach Scott Marr raves about all three, but especially points out Miles, and not just in his skill, but leadership ability and dedication. Between his sophomore and junior years at Albany, Miles lost 40 pounds by sticking to a workout plan and diet. "To do that takes real discipline," Marr said. "It's not easy."


Running down the notable firsts of the 14th MLL collegiate draft:

"It's a great honor. There had been a lot of speculation and I just tried to enjoy the process."

-- Tom Schreiber, on going No. 1 overall

Overall pick
Tom Schreiber, Princeton, M (No. 1 -- Ohio Machine): The returning Tewaaraton Award finalist went first overall as expected. He projects well in the MLL, with great dodging and vision. "It's a great honor," he said Friday. "There had been a lot of speculation and I just tried to enjoy the process. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to keep playing lacrosse after graduation."

Attackman taken
Jordan Wolf, Duke (No. 2 -- Rochester Rattlers): Speedy, explosive attackman is "pound-for-pound" the strongest player on the defending NCAA champs, according to Duke coach John Danowski. That will serve him well against physical MLL defenders.

Defenseman taken
Joe Fletcher, Loyola (No. 3 -- New York Lizards): He's not flashy, but has great fundamentals and on-ball cover skills. Those were honed first at West Genesse (N.Y.) and have been developed at Loyola, where Fletcher was an underrated key piece of the Greyhounds 2012 title team. The Lizards have a plethora of long-stick midfielders and needed a guy who could play close.

Long-stick midfielder taken
Luke Duprey, Duke (No. 4 -- New York Lizards):
"Six-foot-seven and nasty," Lizards coach Joe Spallina said of Duprey earlier this winter. That just about sums it up, although Duke lists him at 6-foot-5. I first saw Duprey at a summer club recruiting event at Hofstra many seasons ago. The former hockey player was physically dominant then and still is. Could play down low, too. Just watch his penalty minutes.

Pick by the Florida Launch
Kieran McArdle, St. John's, A (No. 5): Went a little higher than I thought he would, but not because he didn't deserve it. I didn't think teams would put as much value in his lifting the St. John's program to new heights as they should. He works well in two-man games, can score and feed, which should fit in well with some of the Canadians on the Launch, formerly Hamilton Nationals, and also Florida attackman Kevin Cunningham, who had a great rookie year.

Short-stick defensive midfielder taken
Pat Laconi, Loyola (No. 9 -- Charlotte Hounds): This may have been the draft's first surprise, not that he was the first short-stick defensive middie taken, but that it was with the first pick of the second round.

Prolific Duke faceoff man Brendan Fowler went 14th overall to the Charlotte Hounds. (Kevin P. Tucker)

Faceoff guy taken
Brendan Fowler, Duke (No. 14 -- Charlotte Hounds): The NCAA's most prolific faceoff man gets taken first by a North Carolina franchise. Makes perfect sense. Geoff Snider resurfaced with the Hounds at the end of last season, but Charlotte hasn't had a consistent faceoff threat since it came into the league.

'Small College' guy taken
Brent Hiken, Stevenson, FO (No. 16 -- Denver Outlaws): Won 70 percent of his faceoffs for the Division III champions last season, including going 60-for-90 in the NCAA tournament and 17-for-27 in the title game against RIT.

Goalie taken
Austin Kaut, Penn State (No. 19 -- Boston Cannons): Returning first-team All-American and an invitee to Team USA tryouts over the summer. Should have been the first goalie taken and he was.

Top Steals

Some said this wasn't a deeply talented draft, but there were studs to be had in the later rounds. These guys could have gone earlier:

Rob Emery, Virginia, M (No. 17 -- Boston Cannons): An extremely talented outside shooter will have the opportunity to carve out a role with a veteran Boston offense. "[He] is one of the biggest, strongest midfielders in the game today who can score with both hands," Cannons coach John Tucker said. "He is also very good off the ground, and defensively." Tucker, whose son Ryan plays midfield for Virginia, has had an up-close look at Emery, a California kid.

John LoCascio, Villanova, LSM (No. 25 -- Rochester Rattlers): He's a beast all over the field for the Wildcats. One college coach said he makes you fear him the same way current New York Lizard Brian Karalunas used to at Villanova. LoCascio posted 85 ground balls and 53 caused turnovers in 2013 and gets involved in transition offense, too.

Henry Lobb, Duke, D (No. 31 -- Charlotte Hounds): Duke has consistently called on him to cover some of the top players in the game in recent seasons, from Steele Stanwick to Rob Pannell.

Alex Love, Hobart, A (No. 36 -- Chesapeake Bayhawks): I have a gut feeling many more people will know about this big-time dodger by the end of the season. The entire ECAC already does. He averaged 3.21 goals per game last season, third best in the nation.

Mark Cockerton, Virginia, A (No. 56 -- Rochester Rattlers): Really surprised the guy who finished second in the nation in goals per game last season (3.50) wasn't taken until the final pick of the seventh round.

Ben McIntosh, Drexel, M (No. 62 -- Denver Outlaws): Scored 38 goals for Drexel last season. Can really springboard nationally this year if the Dragons contend for the CAA title, which they can with Penn State ineligible for the conference crown.

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