The Rochester Knighthawks were among the busiest teams during Thursday’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.
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 69th overall (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).
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.
WATCH: RYAN SMITH HIGHLIGHT REEL
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.
WATCH: RYAN SMITH REACTS TO BEING DRAFTED BY ROCHESTER
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.
Rochester completed 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.
A second-year pro from Oshawa, Ontario, Gilray is coming off a banner year with the 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.
Later in the round, the Knighthawks acquired defenseman John Wagner from the New York Riptide in exchange for Rochester’s 25th pick and defensemen Darryl Roberston and Jay Thorimbert. 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 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.
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. 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.
With their 38th overall pick to begin the third round, the Knighthawks selected transition man Kevin Owen Hill from the Six Nations Arrows. Committed to Syracuse University, 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.
Rochester used its second pick of the third round to select defenseman and Pittsford native Jared Conners from the University of Virginia. 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 with the Cavaliers, whom he led 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 letterwinner at Pittsford, 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.
With their lone pick of the fourth round, the Knighthawks selected defenseman Mitch Ogilvie. 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.
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. Rochester then selected forward John Vezina, who in two years with the Brampton Excelsiors, 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.
2020 NLL Entry Draft Class – Rochester Knighthawks
|1||3||Ryan Smith||Forward||Robert Morris University (NCAA)|
|3||38||Kevin Owen Hill||Transition||Six Nations Arrows (Junior A)|
|3||45||Jared Conners||Defense||University of Virginia (NCAA)|
|4||54||Mitch Ogilvie||Defense||Peterborough Lakers (Junior A)|
|5||70||John Vezina||Forward||Brampton Excelsiors (Junior A)|