The Rochester Knighthawks were among the busiest teams during last week’s 2020 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft, which saw the Knighthawks acquire a total of eight players and participate in five trades with four different franchises.
Now that a week has passed, we had the chance to sit down with Knighthawks general manager, Dan Carey, to get the scoop on what he thinks all of these athletes will bring to the table during their NLL careers here in Rochester, whether that’s this coming season or in the very near future.
The Knighthawks began the night by acquiring the third (first round) and 28th overall (second round) picks in this year’s Draft from the Vancouver Warriors in exchange for Rochester’s second (first round) and 69thoverall (fifth round) picks. Additionally, the Knighthawks received a conditional first-round pick in the 2021 NLL Entry Draft from the Warriors as part of the deal.
Rochester then subsequently used its third overall pick to select highly touted forward Ryan Smith from Robert Morris University (RMU).
1st Round | 3rd Overall | Ryan Smith
Position: F Height: 6-2 Weight: 220 lbs.
Shoots: R Birthdate: Dec. 23, 1997 Hometown: Burlington, Ontario
School: Robert Morris University Drafted: First round (3rd overall) in 2020 NLL Draft
Playing Experience: A native of Burlington, Ontario, the 22-year-old Smith is one of the most decorated players in school history at RMU, where he is a three-time All-Northeast Conference selection and remains the men’s lacrosse program’s only NEC Rookie of the Year honoree. In four seasons with the Colonials, Smith has amassed 146 points on 94 goals and 52 assists in 56 career games, good for sixth all-time in program history, and has contributed 77 groundballs and 18 caused turnovers defensively. He also averaged 2.61 points per game since joining the Colonials prior to the 2017 season, ranking fifth all-time in that category.
During his senior campaign in 2020, Smith, who will return to Robert Morris for a fifth season, posted a team-leading 28 points (17+11) while appearing in all six games prior to the cancellation of the season due to COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020 season opener, Smith broke the RMU single-game record for points (10) and tied it for goals (8) in the 22-10 win at Canisius. For his efforts, he was named a 2020 USILA Scholar All-America.
Between 2018 and 2019, Smith totaled 90 points (57+33) while starting in 35 of 36 games over that span and earning back-to-back All-NEC Second Team honors. He finished his junior season with 10 hat tricks and ranked fifth in the NEC in goals-per-game (2.35) and points-per-game (3.53) while ranking third overall in team scoring.
His most impressive season, however, came in 2017 as a freshman after leading all RMU rookies in scoring and ranking third on the team in goals (20) and fourth in points (28). Smith would later be named the NEC Rookie of the Year, becoming just the first player in program history to win the award, while also earning a selection to the NEC All-Rookie Team that year.
In 2019, Smith also saw action in 18 games for the Oakville Rock of Major Series Lacrosse. He had 49 points with 22 goals and 27 assists, including two game-winning goals and four power-play goals.
Carey’s Scouting Report: “He’s a well-rounded player and he’s played at the Senior “A” level in Ontario and had success there. He was a tremendous Junior “A” player and he’s had a great career so far at Robert Morris, so we’re excited to have him as part of our organization. He’s got a ton of character and is just a very solid individual on and off the floor.”
Rochester then went on to complete its second trade of the night to open the second round, sending the 19th overall pick along with a first-round pick in the 2021 NLL Entry Draft and a second-round pick in 2023 NLL Entry Draft to the Buffalo Bandits in exchange for defenseman Matt Gilray and Buffalo’s fourth-round pick (54th overall) in this year’s Draft.
2nd Round | Acquired via trade with Buffalo | Matt Gilray
Position: D Height: 6-3 Weight: 206 lbs.
Shoots: R Birthdate: May 11, 1995 Hometown: Oshawa, Ontario
School: Bucknell University Drafted: First round (3rd overall) in 2018 NLL Draft
Playing Experience: A second-year pro from Oshawa, Ontario, Gilray is coming off a banner year with the Buffalo Bandits this past season, setting career-highs in goals (5), assists (7) and points (12) while also adding 81 loose ball recoveries in 11 games. In 2019, he totaled five points (3+2) in all 18 games as a rookie for the Bandits before notching two assists during Buffalo’s run to the NLL Finals.
Gilray, a former first-round selection of the Bandits in 2018, played his collegiate lacrosse at Bucknell University, where he was a two-time team captain and an All-Patriot League Second Team selection in each of his last three years. In 53 games with the Bison, he totaled 10 points (5+5) and 149 ground balls, including eight points (4+4) during his sophomore season.
Before joining Bucknell, Gilray was a four-year letter-winner in both lacrosse and hockey while attending Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. As a member of the lacrosse team, he was part of three NNELL championship teams and was named a 2014 All-America selection after setting a single-season school record for points by a defenseman with 26 (10+16). He was also named among Inside Lacrosse’s top 100 recruits following his senior season, during which he served as team captain.
Gilray’s pro lacrosse experience also includes two seasons with the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse and an international appearance with Team Canada at the 2018 FIL Lacrosse World Championship.
Carey’s Scouting Report: “From our perspective, he’s already one of the better, young defensemen in the league and I think he’s got a really high ceiling still. You look and you see where he was last year in a shortened season, and he’s going to be great for us. Another character guy, he’s young and another two or three years from now is when he’s going to really come in to his own.”
Later in the second round, the Knighthawks acquired their second defenseman of the night in John Wagner from the New York Riptide in exchange for Rochester’s 25th pick and defensemen Darryl Roberston and Jay Thorimbert.
2nd Round | Acquired via trade with New York | John Wagner
Position: D Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 lbs.
Shoots: L Birthdate: May 4, 1997 Hometown: York, Ontario
School: Marquette University Drafted: Third round (34th overall) in 2019 NLL Entry Draft
Playing Experience: The native of York, Ontario, completed his rookie season in 2019-20 with five points (2+3) and 48 loose ball recoveries in 10 games with the New York Riptide.
Wagner is a product of Marquette University, where he was a two-time All-BIG EAST selection and a two-time team captain. In 59 games with the Golden Eagles, he recorded 109 points on 45 goals and 77 assists, twice leading the team in scoring. During his junior season, Wagner captained Marquette University to an All-BIG EAST championship after leading the team with 30 goals and 39 points, including five game-winning tallies that came in either overtime or the final seconds of regulation. That season, he was named an All-BIG EAST First Team selection and won his first of back-to-back BIG EAST Scholar-Athlete Sport Excellence Awards.
He was also a BIG EAST All-Academic selection in all four years and was named the Ralph H. Metcalfe Senior Male Athletics Award winner.
Before playing at the collegiate level at Marquette University, Wagner was a three-time all-state and US Lacrosse All-America selection while attending Cranbrook-Kingswood preparatory school. He served as team captain during his senior season, scoring 69 goals and adding 41 assists on his way to earning Perani’s Michigan Lacrosse 2015 Player of the Year honors. He led his team to three straight regional championships and helped the squad to state championships in 2013 and 2015. He was also an accomplished hockey player at Cranbrook-Kingswood, leading the Cranes to two state titles in three years, including the program’s 17th state championship as a senior.
Internationally, he competed in the U-19 World Lacrosse Championship with Team Canada back in 2016.
Carey’s Scouting Report: “We felt that bringing in Wagner was better than what we would’ve acquired at the 25th pick. As far as our needs, maybe not necessarily the best player, but he was a guy that we knew and wanted to bring in because of the need that we had at that time. So, this move just seemed to make a lot of sense for us.”
To conclude the second round, Rochester dealt the 28th overall pick, originally acquired as part of the opening round deal with Vancouver, to the Colorado Mammoth in exchange for forward Jeff Wittig.
2nd Round | Acquired via trade with Colorado | Jeff Wittig
Position: D Height: 6-2 Weight: 205 lbs.
Shoots: L Birthdate: Sept. 4, 1997 Hometown: St. Catharines, Ontario
Drafted: Fourth round (39th overall) in 2017 NLL Entry Draft
Playing Experience: A native of St. Catharines, Ontario, the 23-year-old Wittig has spent the last two seasons in Colorado after being selected by the Mammoth in the fourth round (39th overall) of the 2017 NLL Entry Draft. In 14 career games with the Mammoth, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward has totaled 29 points, including five goals in six appearances this past season.
Wittig also notched 264 points (115+149) in 106 career games over seven seasons while playing Junior “B” lacrosse with the St. Catharines Athletics of the Ontario Lacrosse Association.
Carey’s Scouting Report: “He’s player that has a physical presence on his side and can contribute by chipping in goals and making sure he’s making room for guys. He was a guy that we were looking for that type of player, and I knew him fairly well from Colorado, so it seemed to make sense.”
With their 38th overall pick to begin the third round, the Knighthawks selected transition man Kevin Owen Hill from the Six Nations Arrows.
3rd Round | 38th Overall | Kevin Owen Hill
Position: T Height: 5’ 10” Weight: 156 lbs
Shoots: L Birthdate: Apr. 11, 1999 Hometown: Oshweken, Ontario
School: Syracuse University Drafted: Third round (38th Overall) in 2020 NLL Draft
Playing Experience: Hill spent parts of the last five seasons splitting his time between the Six Nations Arrows and Rebels Junior “A” and “B” teams, respectively. During the 2019 season with the Arrows, the 5-foot-9, Oshweken, Ontario, native produced 22 points on nine goals and 13 assists in 19 games.
Hill posted his best season in 2017 as a member of the Rebels when he amassed a career-high 45 points (16+29) in 18 games while also adding a team-high 22 points (8+14) in 10 playoff contests.
In 73 career games with Six Nations, Hill has totaled 113 points (44+69) and 47 points (23+24) in 36 postseason appearances.
Carey’s Scouting Report: “Owen is a very smart and skilled player and he’s going to be a guy that can be an NLL player. We see a lot of positives and good things in him and I think that over time we see him as a little bit of a player that may need a little bit of time to develop, but he may prove us wrong from that perspective. I think that his skill level and IQ are definitely appealing to us. He just seems to be a great, young player that’s destined to play in the NLL.”
Rochester then went on to use its second pick of the third round to select defenseman and Pittsford native Jared Conners from the University of Virginia.
3rd Round | 45th Overall | Jared Conners
Position: D Height: 6-5 Weight: 210 lbs.
Shoots: R Birthdate: Hometown: Pittsford, NY
School: University of Virginia Drafted: Third round (45th overall) in 2020 NLL Draft
Playing Experience: A two-time Inside Lacrosse All-American selection, Conners registered 25 points (16+9) and scooped up 193 ground balls while appearing in all 59 games over his four seasons at the University of Virginia, leading the Cavaliers to an NCAA National Championship in 2019. It was the program’s second title of the decade and the first since 2011.
As a senior, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound defenseman scored three goals with one assist, earning Inside Lacrosse All-American First Team honors despite only appearing in six games prior to the cancellation of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was also one of four team captains for the Cavaliers.
It was during his time in high school that Conners, who is slated to return to the University of Virginia for a fifth season, established himself as one of the most dynamic lacrosse players to come out of Rochester. A four-year letter-winner at Pittsford Sutherland, Conners was named an Under Armour All-American and was twice named a US Lacrosse All-American. He also earned First-Team All-County and All-Greater Rochester honors in addition to being a two-time Section V Defensive Player of the Year selection. As a senior, the two-time captain was listed as the fourth-best defenseman in the country and was ranked among the top 20 recruits overall by Inside Lacrosse.
Carey’s Scouting Report: “That was part of the appeal, to know that he is a Rochester native and a guy that lives here. He’s had a tremendous career at Virginia but we also know how uber competitive he is and we know that when he does get exposure to the indoor game, that he’s going to be a player that not too many people are going to be excited to play against. You watch him in field lacrosse and he just changes the game. He’s very dynamic, he’s aggressive, he moves so well for his size, and with a guy like that, the sky is the limit.”
With their lone pick of the fourth round, the Knighthawks selected defenseman Mitch Ogilvie.
4th Round | 54th Overall | Mitch Ogilvie
Position: D Height: 5-9 Weight: 200 lbs.
Shoots: L Birthdate: Jan. 1, 1999 Hometown: Peterborough, Ontario
School: University of Guelph Drafted: Fourth round (54th Overall) in 2020 NLL Draft
Playing Experience: A native of Peterborough, Ontario, Ogilvie is fresh off an 18-point season with his hometown Peterborough Lakers in 2019, including a career-high eight goals. In his Junior “A” career, he has collected 51 points (15+36) over 56 games.
Carey’s Scouting Report: “Mitch was a player, that watching him play, he just gets the job done. He’s a player that is very intelligent, strong and he’s one of those players that has the will to just get it done. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to come up with a ground ball, to make sure he’s helping his teammates out and he’s a player that’s going to surprise some people. With the way that he plays, it’s very deceiving as to how good he is.”
In their final move of the night, the Knighthawks acquired the 70th overall pick from Vancouver in exchange for Rochester’s fifth-round pick in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft and selected forward John Vezina.
5th Round | 70th Overall | John Vezina
Position: F Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 lbs.
Shoots: L Birthdate: Jul. 29, 1999 Hometown: Georgetown, Ontario
Drafted: Fifth round (70th overall) in 2020 NLL Entry Draft
Playing Experience: In his two years with the Brampton Excelsiors, Vezina has produced 28 points (11+17) over 16 Junior “A” games. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound forward also had 30 points, including 18 goals, in 17 playoff contests.
Carey’s Scouting Report: “Coach Hasen and Coach O’Toole both believe in him and think that if he comes into camp and invests in his conditioning and being in shape and ready to play at this level, then he can be a guy that can contribute in the NLL.”
WATCH: POST-DRAFT INTERVIEW WITH DAN CAREY
After a night long draft that lasted around five hours, your Knighthawks added eight new faces to their already loaded franchise.
Between four defensemen, three forwards and one transition player, it seemed the team’s focus was that on the defensive side of the game headed into Rochester’s second season in the league. A stronger defense will ultimately lead to less goals for the Knighthawks opponents and more of a chance for the new faces added on offense to make their mark.
Heading into next season, Rochester is really looking from going to the bottom to the top. Carey truly believes that all the moves he and his team made during the 2020 NLL Draft will help get his franchise exactly where he wants it – first place in the North Division.
WATCH: BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE 2020 NLL ENTRY DRAFT