Boston, MA - Major League Lacrosse kicked off its off-season draft calendar today with the 2016 MLL Expansion Draft. Atlanta Blaze fans finally discovered which current unprotected MLL players will take the field for their team in the Spring of 2016. The last time the expansion draft format was used was when the Ohio Machine and the Charlotte Hounds were added to the league in 2012.
The expansion draft process involves fifteen rounds of picks given to the league’s newest addition, the Atlanta Blaze, in which they are given the opportunity to set the foundation for the organization’s inaugural season roster. Prior to the draft, each team chose a list of 10-12 protected players off of their current roster that could not be picked by the Blaze during the expansion draft. The Blaze were then limited to 15 draft picks, all originating from the remaining “unprotected” players that were left after the protected rosters were chosen from each of the 8 existing teams. The draft was conducted over a league-facilitated conference call, with the inaugural Blaze making all 15 of the draft selections.
The general consensus throughout the lacrosse media landscape prior to the draft acknowledged that Atlanta Blaze general manager and head coach John Tucker had access to an unprecedented amount of talent based on the quality of athletic availability among the dozens of unprotected players.
MLL Commentator and Analyst Evan Washburn had this to say when asked about the importance of talent versus availability, "Availability is more important. The priority has to be one to two players for each position group to count on to be weekly active players starting in training camp and playing throughout the season. Continuity has become paramount in this league." Washburn went on to list Brodie Merrell, Ryan Walsh and Rob Emery as his own personal "Top 3" available.
MLL fans eagerly awaited news of John Tucker’s picks earlier this afternoon prior to the start of the 2016 MLL Expansion Draft. After a brief explanation of the rules behind the draft, the former Boston Cannons coach began picking the roster for the newest addition of the MLL, the Atlanta Blaze.
The first selection in the 2016 MLL Expansion Draft was Boston Cannons goalie Adam Ghitelman. The Atlanta Blaze stuck with the Boston roster as they went back for picks two and three, with Brodie Merrill and Ryan Tucker respectively. Boston was afforded a small measure of relief in being able to protect Mitch Belisle after loosing three of their players.
"We wanted to force the hand of some of these teams, to see which personnel they’d pull back after we took three guys. That's why the Boston guys went first and then Rochester" said coach Tucker.
Immediately following the Cannons picks, The Atlanta Blaze focused their attention on the Rochester Rattlers, taking Justin Turri, Randy Staats and John Ranagan. Rochester protected Kyle Denhoff as their pull back selection after they too lost 3 players.
The Blaze continued their theme of sticking with teams for multiple picks as the Bayhawks became their next victim. Chesapeake lost Henry Schoonmaker, Chris Hipps and CJ Costabile. Jeff Reynolds became a protected asset as a result.
The draft continued on with rounds 10 through 14 with the following selections, Justin Pennington (Denver), Mark Matthews (Rochester), Jeremy Noble (Denver), Casey Ikeda (Florida) and Dominique Alexander (Ohio). The final selection of the 2016 MLL Expansion Draft came via the roster of New York Lizards in attackman Ryan Walsh.
Here is a recap of MLL Expansion Draft by round…
1. Adam Ghitelman Goalie Boston Cannons
2. Brodie Merrill Defender Boston Cannons
3. Ryan Tucker Attack Boston Cannons
Cannons pull back Mitch Belisle
4. Justin Turri Midfielder Rochester Rattlers
5. Randy Staats Attack Rochester Rattlers
6. John Ranagan Midfielder Rochester Rattlers
Rattlers pull back Kyle Denhoff
7. Henry Schoonmaker Midfielder Chesapeake Bayhawks
8. Chris Hipps Defender Chesapeake Bayhawks
9. CJ Costabile Defender Chesapeake Bayhawks
Bayhawks pull back Jeff Reynolds
10. Justin Pennington Midfielder Denver Outlaws
11. Mark Matthews Attack Rochester Rattlers
Rattlers pull back Mike Poppleton
12. Jeremy Noble Midfielder Denver Outlaws
13. Casey Ikeda Defender Florida Launch
14. Dominque Alexander Midfielder Ohio Machine
15. Ryan Walsh Attack New York Lizards
At the conclusion of the draft, each existing MLL team was asked if they would like to return all remaining rostered players to their active roster, or release them to the MLL Player Pool. Each of the 8 teams chose to pull back all of the remaining players to their rosters.
There were some trade happenings on the day as well. The Ohio Machine traded midfielder Kevin Cooper and goalie Scott Rodgers to the Atlanta Blaze to reacquire Dominique Alexander, as well as sixth round draft pick in the upcoming MLL Collegiate Draft presented by Cascade.
Next up on the MLL off-season calendar is the Supplemental Draft that will be held on Wednesday, December 16th at 2pm ET. The Supplemental Draft allows all teams to replenish their 23 man rosters, with Atlanta holding the first pick in the process.