October 2, 2012

Stevens: Love of Sport Shines Through During NLL Draft

by Neil Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Full Draft Results

Mark Matthews, who was picked No. 1 overall by the Edmonton Rush on Monday night, clearly is playing for the love of the game, writes Neil Stevens.
© Tim Prothero/Vintage LaX

TORONTO – The National Lacrosse League has come a long way.

At the entry draft Monday night, teams were drafting players in the fourth round who would have been first-rounders 10 years ago. The sport is oozing talent.

Most of the prospects are Canadians and get this: they're willing to play the punishing pro indoor game for practically nothing – a base rookie salary of $9,000 at most.

Mark Matthews, Brock Sorensen and Kiel Matisz went 1-2-3 and there has never been a more impressive upper echelon in NLL entry draft history. Their physical attributes are obvious at a glance. Matthews is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Sorensen is 6-6 and 220, Matisz is 6-5 and 220.

We asked Matthews if he had any idea what a first-year NLL player's salary amounts to.

''I don't know, to be honest,'' he replied.

The 22-year-old native of Oshawa, Ontario, said he'll spend at least two seasons with the Edmonton Rush before combining lacrosse with an outside career.

''I'm young now and I'll get some fun out of the way now,'' he said.

Matthews amassed 87 points in 21 post-season games in helping the junior team in Whitby, which is next door to his home city, win the 2011 Canadian junior championship. He then returned to the University of Denver for another impressive NCAA campaign. He played field lacrosse this summer for Major League Lacrosse's Denver Outlaws.

Edmonton GM-coach Derek Keenan coaches the Whitby team each year after the NLL season wraps so it's no surprise there are Warriors graduating to the Rush. He used his second pick, 10th overall, to select forward Curtis Knight, who was captain of the Warriors this summer after being named MVP of the 2011 championship tournament.

''I haven't played [indoors] for a while but I practiced with the Warriors and Derek over the course of the summer a bit to get the rust off and work on the speed and agility I'll need in the NLL game,'' Matthews said.

Sorensen, 23, a bruising defenseman who was an Ohio State captain outdoors and who has also helped his indoor team in Peterborough, Ontario, win a Canadian senior title, was selected second overall by the Minnesota Swarm. He's the younger brother of Washington D-man Kyle Sorensen. Brock sat out the 2012 indoor season rehabbing from ACL surgery last May. Swarm head coach Joe Sullivan is a Lakers assistant coach during summers so was well aware of what the new Swarm defender can contribute.

''My rehab is right on schedule,'' Sorensen said. ''I'm expecting to be ready for late November, which is great.''

He moved into new digs in Toronto earlier Monday to start a job with a Toronto firm in the advertising and sign business so will combine that with lacrosse. He's happy to be hooking up with Swarm returnees Andrew Suitor and Jordan McIntosh, who played in Peterborough this summer, in the Xcel Energy Center.

Matisz, 23, of Stoney Creek, Ontario, also joins the Swarm. He played junior in neighboring Burlington and won the league scoring title in 2010 with 108 points including 59 goals. He got into field games with the MLL's Ohio Machine this year while also suiting up for the Brooklin team in Ontario's senior indoor league alongside NLL players such as Pat Smith and Jeff Gilbert of the Swarm and Adam Jones of the Colorado Mammoth. He imagines himself to be in the mold of a Dan Dawson. Matisz attended Robert Morris University as did Swarm players Smith, Gilbert, Corbyn Tao and Andrew Watt.

''This is something I've dreamed about my whole life,'' Matisz said of joining an NLL team. ''Since I was eight years old I wanted to go play collegiate lacrosse and I did that and now that this draft is done I'm pretty happy about it. I couldn't be happier to go to the Minnesota Swarm. It's a great organization. I just can't wait to contribute. I'm looking to step right in and provide a positive impact.''

Matthews, Sorensen and Matisz are world-class athletes as former Team Canada teammates but they'll be paid by their NLL teams just one-half of what Olympians get in government funding from Canada's federal government.

Joe Resetarits become the first American picked in the first round of the NLL draft in the last three years.
© Tim Prothero/Vintage LaX

Shayne Jackson, 23, a feisty 5-foot-9 forward from Bowmanville, Ontario, was the No. 4 selection, again by Minnesota. He's another member of the triumphant 2011 Whitby junior team. He's since moved up to senior with the Langley, British Columbia, team that includes the Swarm's Nik Bilic.

Jackson's comments echoed those of the top three picks.

''It's been a dream ever since I started playing to be in the NLL,'' said the Limestone College grad. ''I never thought about the money when I was little so I'm not going to think about money now. I don't play the game for money at all. I'm just going to play lacrosse -- like I've done ever since I was 10 years old.''

Playing with Swarm vet Ryan Benesch is his goal.

''I'm a guy who likes to get to the middle and set picks and get other guys open,'' he said. ''I like to play a team offense were we feed off each other. Talking to the Swarm coaches, that's the way they play out there and I'm excited to get there.''

Buffalo was up fifth and snagged forward 2012 OLA scoring champion Dhane Smith of Kitchener, Ontario. He just turned 20 and he's a cousin of Bandits D-man Billy Dee Smith.

''It's been a dream to play with him,'' he said. ''I can't wait to get there and be in camp to try my hardest.''

The Calgary Roughnecks used the sixth and seventh positions to get forwards Joe Resetarits of Hamburg, N.Y., and Matthew Dinsdale of Coquitlam, B.C.

Resetarits was the only American selected in the first round in the last three years. He honed his indoor skills playing junior in St. Catharines, Ontario, and senior in Brampton, Ontario, where he teamed with older brother Frank to win a Canadian title. Joe also played for the MLL's Hamilton Nationals this summer. He was deemed by many of the scouts to be the most pro-ready prospect available.

''To be taken in the first round is something special, something I'll always remember,'' he said. ''Coming to Ontario to play helped me develop as a player and living close to the border helped me do that. I'm thrilled I've been able to play most of my life in Canada.''

And now he joins one of Canada's three NLL teams.

Dinsdale led the British Columbia junior league in scoring this year playing for his hometown Coquitlam team.

The Colorado Mammoth added depth on the right side by taking forward Colton Clark of the Burnaby, B.C., senior team via Bellarmine Univesity, and Minnesota closed out the first round when it called the name of defenceman Alex Crepinsek of Oakville, Ontario, via RIT.

Washington's got its first picks with the 11th and 12th spots and GM Doug Locker grabbed tough defenseman Tyler Garrison, captain of his Coquitlam, B.C., junior team and Billy Hostrawser, a defenseman with the 2012 Canadian-champion Orangeville Northmen.

The Toronto Rock selected defenseman Brad Kri of the Northmen 14th overall, and they got the only goalie taken in the draft, Tyler Glebe, from a Jr. B side in London, Ontario.

Minnesota drafted 10 men in all including Salisbury star Sam Bradman of Canton, N.Y., 24th overall. This is a striking example of a player who would have gone much higher in previous years. The Salisbury midfielder scored 71 goals in his senior year, helping the Seagulls to the 2011 and 2012 NCAA Division III championship. He was named most outstanding player both years. The Swarm also added Yale's Matt Gibson (46th).

The Philadelphia Wings didn't have a pick in the first three rounds but were happy to get American defenders, Duke teammates and MLLers Michael Manley (32nd) and C.J. Costabile (39th).

No trades involving active players were announced.

Only a fraction of the 56 selected will make the NLL grade and those who do won't get rich playing lacrosse, but they'll have the time of their lives in one of the fastest-growing sports on the continent.

Neil Stevens has covered pro and Canadian lacrosse since 1971. He and the late Tom Borrelli -- a longtime Lacrosse Magazine contributor -- are the only media members recognized by the NLL Hall of Fame.

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