September 8, 2009

Smith, Greer Top Canadian-Rich NLL Draft Pool

by Theresa Smith | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

With his best friend Cody Jamieson returning to Syracuse for his final year of eligibility, Orange defenseman Sid Smith is expected to be the No. 1 pick in Wednesday's NLL draft.

© Kevin P. Tucker

Sid Smith and Zack Greer lead a deep Canadian-born class for Wednesday's National Lacrosse League entry draft at the HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

Smith, a defenseman, grew up playing the box game in his native Six Nations, Ontario, and was a member of the Iroquois Nationals in the World Indoor Championships and a 2007 Minto Cup champion with the Six Nations Arrows Express. While Smith adapted quickly to the field game, helping Syracuse win the 2008 and 2009 NCAA titles, his box prowess is likely to make him the No. 1 overall pick in the NLL draft.

Greer, who was raised on box lacrosse in Whitby, Ontario, and excelled in the field game at Duke University (where he set the NCAA career goals record) and Bryant University, is expected to go No. 2 or No. 3. Garrett Billings, a British Columbian who played the field game at Virginia, is slotted for a top-five spot.

The 7 p.m. Eastern draft is closed to the public, but fans can follow at NLL.com.

Rochester, owner of the first two picks, is expected to take Smith, but since 2007 Minto Cup Most Valuable Player Cody Jamieson decided to return to Syracuse for his senior year, the Knighthawks might trade their No. 2 pick in the hopes of landing Jamieson in 2010.

"Who knows what could happen, whether we use a trade or keep our picks," said Rochester head coach Paul Gait.

As for the question of choosing the best athletes available or the best players to fill a positional need, Gait said: "We want both. There are some exceptional athletes available. As long as the talent available is better than existing talent, you'll always take a look. If a kid warrants being on any team at any position they'll demand a position."

While the Knighthawks struggled on offense last season, they expect to be revived by the return of star players John Grant Jr. and Scott Evans, both of whom missed the 2009 season due to knee surgery.

Minnesota has the third pick, followed by Colorado with No. 4 and No. 5, Toronto with the next two selections, followed by Boston, Minnesota and Orlando -- the new home of the erstwhile New York Titans.

Along with the Canadian talent in the draft pool, there are  a handful of American-born, field-bred players expected to be selected, led by Max Seibald and Dan Hardy.

Colorado Mammoth general manager Steve Govett believes that Seibald of Cornell and Hardy of Syracuse are prime candidates for a quick transition from the field game to the box game, which requires more accurate, quicker shooting at a smaller goal and more physical play because of the tighter space.

"Max Seibald and Dan Hardy come to mind because of their appearance in the Memorial Day final game," Govett said of their stellar performances at the NCAA's highest levels, including the title match between Seibald's Big Red and Hardy's Orange. Syracuse prevailed in overtime.

"Those two will find it easier to make the transition, but I will tell you it is a very rich Canadian draft, especially in the first round."

Seibald and Hardy, along with rookie teammate Shane Walterhoefer, gained valuable experience competing in Major League Lacrosse's championship game Aug. 23, when their Denver Outlaws fell to the Toronto Nationals, including rookie Sid Smith, 10-9.

Gait says the skills he looks for in determining whether a field-bred player can make a smooth transition to the box game depend on the position.

"You're looking for the athleticism for a role player and shooting skills for an offensive player," he said. "And defensive players can make the transition easier than anyone, so with defensive players you're looking for athleticism and defensive positioning."

Among potential American players who could be drafted: defensemen Walterhoefer, P.T. Ricci, and John Glynn; forwards Brandon Corp, Kenny Nims, Brad Ross, Danny Glading, Mark Kovler and Matt Abbott.

The second round is also deep, to the point where Govett and his staff projected the draft order to 30 players.

"We don't normally project out that far," he said. "We came up with 30 names that can play in the NLL; that's not normally the case."

With consecutive picks, Govett could make it a family affair, choosing one or both brothers of Mammoth transition player Nenad Gajic.

Ilija Gajic was dismissed from the University of Denver program in March for breaking team rules -- he was involved in a fight outside a bar last January and was charged with assault.

Alex Gajic, who would have been a sophomore, left DU and made himself eligible for the draft.

Ilija has gained recent experience and exposure as a member of the New Westminster Salmonbellies playing in the Mann Cup, Canada's national championships.Among the other familiar names in the draft: faceoff specialist Bobby Snider of the Salmonbellies, brother of Philadelphia all-star Geoff Snider, and Holden Vyse of Six Nations Arrows Express, brother of Buffalo Bandits forward Roger Vyse.


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