Official announcements have been coming out left and right from the National Lacrosse League over the course of this prolonged offseason, leaving fans, players and staff alike itching to get back to arenas all over North America to watch the beloved game of box lacrosse.
Over a month has passed since the league announced Opening Weekend for the 2021-22 season being slated for Dec. 3rd and 4th while free agency opened at the beginning of the month, which in turn prepped teams to see what kind of players they would need to acquire as the draft inched closer. Well, here we are just a few days away from the 2021 NLL Entry Draft and the Rochester Knighthawks have been adding some big names leading up to Saturday’s annual event.
“We had some specific players we had been targeting and we still have a young team,” said Knighthawks general manager Dan Carey when asked what his team’s approach was headed into the free agency period.
Carey then went on to add, “We feel like our roster is much deeper than the one we had in year one, so we wanted to continue to enhance that. There were a lot of great UFA’s (unrestricted free agents) that were available this year and not just great, quality players but great, quality people.”
One of those high-quality free agents being veteran defenseman Dan Coates. Previously, Coates spent nine seasons with the Colorado Mammoth, during which he compiled 75 points (15+60), 492 loose ball recoveries and 139 caused turnovers in 128 career games. Additionally, Coates departed the Mammoth ranked second in franchise history in caused turnovers (139), fourth in face-off wins (477) and games played (128) and seventh in loose balls (492).
Colorado also just happened to be where Coates and Carey originally crossed paths, making it all come full circle when the team acquired the league vet during the first week of free agency.
“I think Dan wearing a ‘C’ as a captain in the National Lacrosse League says a lot about him as a player, teammate and his preparation. He’s a great player on the floor but I also got to see Dan as a player, leader and as a professional, and that was the biggest thing for us.”
WATCH: GM DAN CAREY DISCUSSES FREE AGENCY AND NLL ENTRY DRAFT
Being that the Knighthawks will still be sporting a defense that they consider “young,” they’ve made some big veteran pickups over the last year to try and drive the culture in their locker room. Last summer we saw the signing of veteran defenseman Mike Manley, and now with the addition of Coates, it’s evident that the team is preparing to enhance its abilities out on the floor while focusing on growing the culture in the locker room environment.
“We have what is a great culture in our locker room, so we wanted to enhance that as well. I think we did that and that was our main goal was to not only get better on the floor, but to get better in the locker room as well.”
With the addition of big names like Coates and Manley coming to the roster for the Knighthawks 2021-22 campaign, let’s not forget the players who have been here from the very beginning. Team captain Paul Dawson is still with the club anchoring the defense, transition man Ryland Rees is back for his second year in the league, veteran forward Shawn Evans is returning to the Flower City once again and forward Holden Cattoni, who led the squad with 24 goals in 2019-20, will be back for his second season with the Knighthawks, amongst many others.
However, no matter the names that Rochester has picked up over the course of the past year and a half, Carey feels as if his team still needs to go out and prove itself and thinks they can do just that if they stay eager and ready to compete.
“It does show other teams around the league that we might be a little tougher to play against, but we have to prove that. I think that our approach with our coaching staff, and the players that we do have on our roster, the guys are hungry and they’re eager to get out and compete.”
Looking ahead to Saturday night
For the second straight year, the NLL Entry Draft will be held virtually with comprehensive and expansive broadcast coverage. The first two rounds will be available for live streaming on TSN.ca and the TSN app in Canada along with the NLL’s YouTube channel and Facebook (@NLL). Live coverage begins at 7pm ET. Rounds three through six will be updated in real time on NLL.com and NLL social media accounts.
Heading into Saturday night, all 14 active NLL franchises for the 2021-22 season are participating in the Entry Draft, with the Panther City Lacrosse Club making its inaugural selection, followed by the Georgia Swarm and Buffalo Bandits currently scheduled to make the next two selections, respectively.
The full first round NLL Entry Draft order, as of August 20, pending pre-Draft transactions, is as follows:
- Panther City Lacrosse Club
- Georgia (from New York)
- Buffalo (from Rochester)
- San Diego
- Saskatchewan (from Colorado)
- Saskatchewan (from Philadelphia)
- Philadelphia (from Buffalo)
- Panther City Lacrosse Club (from Toronto via Georgia)
- Buffalo (from Saskatchewan)
- Buffalo (from Albany)
- Calgary (from Panther City Lacrosse Club)
- Albany (Compensatory)
With Buffalo receiving the third overall pick in the draft from Rochester, the Knighthawks are slated to make their first selection of the night in the second pending any pre-Draft transactions. The Knighthawks will also have third and fourth-round selections.
As the focus seems to be continuing to build the Knighthawks culture on the floor and in the locker room, Carey couldn’t help but let out a chuckle when asked about any potential pick-ups that the franchise may be planning on.
“It’s always a fun and interesting time of year to prepare for the draft. The unknown is part of the fun.”
In all seriousness, though, Carey is focused on creating a competitive culture in order to put together a team that’ll live up to the identity of a threatening roster on paper.
“At this point, we’re just preparing our list of draft players that we’re targeting. Our main goal is to continue to add players that are going to help make a more competitive camp and potentially earn a spot on our team.”
On Saturday night, we’ll see what Carey and his crew can put together for the Knighthawks going into the 2021-22 season.
You can catch the first two rounds available for live streaming on TSN.ca and the TSN app in Canada along with the NLL’s YouTube channel and Facebook (@NLL). Live coverage begins at 7pm ET. Rounds three through six will be updated in real time on NLL.com and NLL social media accounts.