Last week, Rochester Knighthawks General Manager and Vice President of Lacrosse Operations Dan Carey made a series of impactful moves for the future of his organization.
The team acquired the first overall pick in the upcoming 2022 National Lacrosse League (NLL) Entry draft along with forward Connor Fields and goaltender Riley Hutchcraft from the Las Vegas Desert Dogs. In return, the Knighthawks sent several draft picks to the Desert Dogs so the newest NLL franchise can continue building its roster heading into its inaugural season.
“The players that we acquired and moving up to the first overall pick are what we believe are great pieces to add to our team and our organization. Those are players, and future players, that we believe are going to help us with our future success,” stated Carey when asked why it was critical to make the moves that he did for the organization last week.
Maybe the most critical move being the first overall pick in the draft, marking the third time in four years that the Knighthawks will have a top three selection in an Entry Draft and the first time Rochester owns the first overall pick.
“The first overall pick, to me, is very important. We haven’t been in that position yet,” said Carey. “There is a player, and a few players, that we’re really looking at there that we felt were very important to put ourselves in the position that we are in now – the ones to decide who that player is going to be, not waiting to have the team pick ahead of us and then being able to get what’s left over.”
With the new addition of Fields, the Knighthawks are adding to their offense while Hutchcraft adds some more experience at the goaltending position.
In 2021-22, Fields completed his third NLL season and finished the year 67 points on 32 goals and 35 assists in 18 games for the Buffalo Bandits, good for third on the team in scoring. A native of Amherst, NY, Fields, a four-time All-American at the University at Albany, added 16 points (7+9) in six playoff contests while leading the Bandits to their second NLL Finals appearance in three years.
“With Connor Fields, he’s starting to become a proven player and he scored over 30 goals this past year for Buffalo,” commented Carey when asked what Fields will add to the offensive unit in Rochester. “We believe he can do the same thing here in Rochester, and he might even have more of an opportunity and take on a little bit more of an increased role with us when it comes to the amount of opportunities he gets on the power-play and in certain situations.”
For Hutchcraft in 2021-22 with the Toronto Rock, the goaltender posted an 0-1 record with 19 saves along with a 7.89 goals-against average and a .826 save percentage. In four seasons with the Rock, Hutchcraft went on to record a 6.43 goals-against average and a .698 save percentage. He was originally selected by Toronto in the third round (30th overall) of the 2017 NLL Entry Draft.
“Riley Hutchcraft is a young goalie that we believe could be a guy that really helps us win games,” began Carey when asked how Hutchcraft can help better the goaltending tandem in Rochester. “We have a good staff of goaltending, or a good group of goaltenders here in Rochester, that are young and eager to get better.”
Carey then went on to add about Hutchcraft, “I think Riley Hutchcraft is a guy that’s going to help push our other goaltenders to be better and gives us another option to go to if needed. And I think he’s looking for an opportunity as well, too, to be a goalie that can start some games.”
With all the new additions for the present and the future for the Knighthawks organization that were made last week, there unfortunately had to be some goodbyes. In return, the Knighthawks sent forward Charlie Bertrand, Rochester’s first (second overall), fourth (74th overall, compensatory) and sixth-round (91st overall) selections in this year’s NLL Entry Draft and the Knighthawks’ first-round selection in the 2023 NLL Entry Draft to Las Vegas.
For the Knighthawks to pick first overall, it’s going to be critically important for the franchise. Rochester’s previous first round selections, like transition man Ryland Rees and forward Ryan Smith, have proven to be building pieces for the franchise and Carey believes he can do the same this year with the possibility of being able to pick whoever he wants from the start.