NLL Draft Preview

by Budd Bailey, Buffalo Sports Page

You knew something good would come out of the terrible season of the Buffalo Bandits earlier this year.

Monday is the day it happens. The draft will take place outside of Toronto, starting at 7 p.m. (nlltv.com)

The Bandits staggered to the worst record in the National Lacrosse League last season at 6-12. The only other time that Buffalo has gone first in the draft was in 2004, when it took Delby Powless in the first round. Powless had four decent years with the Bandits from 2005 to 2008, and then his numbers dropped off – perhaps due to injuries – and he was released in 2010.

They probably hope to do better in 2017 with the pick. The late Chris Hall, a popular NLL coach for several teams, once said that the first round was where teams get their offensive stars. The good defenders can come later. Following that philosophy, you can expect the Bandits to go after a scorer.

Who’s the Number One Pick?

But who? This isn’t the NFL, where there are draft previews on the shelves of your neighborhood grocery story in the magazine section.

I’ve learned over the years that Stephen Stamp – a top lacrosse writer – is one of the best when it comes to keeping up with the draft. When he speaks, I pay attention. Stephen says the leading candidate for the Bandits is Josh Byrne out of Hofstra. Byrne is from British Columbia, and he’s spending his summer with the Major League Lacrosse. In fact, he had seven goals in his very first game as a pro with Chesapeake, which shows that he shouldn’t be overwhelmed about the idea of joining the NLL.

The trade of Ryan Benesch means the Bandits have room for Byrne up front. With Dhane Smith around, Byrne probably won’t feel much pressure to score right away too. It all makes some sense. But we’ll see.

A Bills-Like Draft Stockpile

Buffalo also has the first two picks in the second round. That would seem to be the spots to help at transition and defense, although it’s never a good idea to overlook a good scorer if someone is available. But after those picks, the team should have some building blocks for the future. The Bandits also have selections in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

One other warning: Trading in the NLL has an odd rhythm. Deals aren’t too common until the draft gets closer, so we could see some moves on Monday night around the league. Bandits’ general manager Steve Dietrich is never shy about such matters, so expect him to be kicking some tires on Monday. I’d be shocked, though, if he deals the first overall pick.

Budd Bailey

Budd Bailey has been involved in almost every aspect of the local sports scene for the last 40 years. He worked for WEBR Radio, the Buffalo Sabres' public relations department and The Buffalo News during that time. In that time he covered virtually every aspect of the area's sports world, from high schools to the Bills and Sabres and everything in between. Along the way, Budd served as a play-by-play announcer for the Bisons, an analyst for the Stallions, and a talk-show host. He won the National Lacrosse League's Tom Borrelli Award as the media personality of the year in 2011, and was a finalist for that same award in 2017. Budd's seventh and eighth books, one on the Transcontinental Railroad and the other about Ichiro Suzuki, are scheduled to be released in the fall.

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