Outlaws Stay Atop ALL Power Rankings After Week 2
1 (Last week 1) Oshawa Outlaws (2-0)
Last week: W14-7 vs Peterborough
This week: v St. Catharines at ILA
Oshawa ran away with their game in Week 2 as Peterborough's discipline broke down and the game degenerated to the point that the referees made the teams stand at their benches while the final two and half minutes ticked off the clock. It would have been a whole lot closer than the final score if it wasn't for Zach Higgins, though. Higgins has been in the NLL and left little doubt that he's keen to get back there when he stopped 34 of the 39 shots he faced when he entered a game in relief after being signed as a backup when Calgary's starting goalie was suspended. He's done nothing but reinforce that he's ready when needed with his outstanding play in two ALL games. Teams start to look frustrated and desperate after a while when Higgins just keeps turning aside almost everything he throws at them.
Zach Tomkinson is a blazer who can blow the lid off a team's reverse transition plans by simply outrunning their ability to change and cut off his scoring chances. As with many guys who make their names in the running game, Tomkinson at times could stand to be a little more selective about when he takes off; after all, the first requirement for being a great transition player is to play well in your own end before you think about pushing the ball up the floor. He's not far off being ready, though. The approach the Peterborough Lakers took with Chad Tutton a couple of years ago could pay dividends for Tomkinson. They told the explosive transition player they had just acquired to focus on his own end and not worry about running the ball, that those chances would come naturally. He developed into a beast on defence and the next winter was one of the top rookies in the NLL.
Up front, Mike Triolo is showing that he's closer than ever to being ready for the big time. The knock on Triolo was that he could play pretty much any position but didn't excel in any one to crack an NLL roster at it. Well, for his first two weeks in the ALL Triolo has played mostly out the front door and he's made effective use of his size and strength to play a dominant role in ball possession and creating space for himself and his teammates. Every team loves to have a big player who doesn't need to have the ball a lot to be useful but knows what to do with it when he has it. The 6'8” Triolo is well-suited to that role and doing a good job of making his case to pro teams.
2 (2) Toronto Monarchs (2-0)
Last week: W14-10 vs St. Catharines in Oshawa
This week: @ Six Nations
If you're an NLL team looking for a goalie who can step in and play right away, Higgins is probably your guy. But if you're looking for someone to be a practice roster guy with a chance to prove himself and eventually earn minutes between the pipes, Craig Wende could be the man for you. Wende went undrafted in 2012 and has taken a while to really hit his stride, which isn't unusual for goalies. The 25-year-old was brilliant last summer, winning the OLA Sr B MVP award. In two games, he's been Toronto's best player. It's great for him that the ALL has decided to use the same 4' by 4'9” nets as the NLL; it makes his performance easier to translate to the pro league. Wende has shown an excellent sense of balance between playing his angles to stop most shots and using his athleticism to make the spectacular saves when he needs to.
Sometimes a single moment or image can highlight a player's career. For Jayson Crawford, a picture that Tim Prothero captured of him with arms spread wide in celebration after scoring the shorthanded overtime Creators Cup championship winning goal sticks in the minds of many show have seen it. It was a great photo of the aftermath of a great play that showed off Crawford's defensive awareness, speed and stick skills. The Monarchs' transition player, though, hopes that rather than being the pinnacle of his career, he'll be able to look back on that moment as a step on the path to his ultimate goal of playing well in the NLL. His solid, physical defence and smart approach to transition early in the ALL season suggest that he'll be ready to compete for a job next time he finds himself in a pro camp.
3 (6) Six Nations Snipers (1-1)
Last week: W18-7 v Paris
This week: v Toronto
Jacob Crans spent his whole junior career playing Jr B with the Rebels in Six Nations' stunningly deep pool of athletes. The D/tranny was immediately an impact player when he joined CLax's Southwest Cyclops and fit right in with the Six Nations Chiefs when he got a chance to play 10 games with the MSL team over the 2014 and '15 seasons. It's not easy to crack the roster of the team that's won three of the last four Mann Cups, though, so Crans has spent most of his last few summers playing for the Sr B Rivermen. His speed, toughness and lacrosse IQ are apparent wherever he's playing.
Travis Longboat is only 20 years old and has only played 13 games of Jr A lacrosse. His regular NLL draft year would be 2018, so you can't even say he's ready to go up to the pro league yet. But teams will be keeping an eye on the talented righty forward, make no mistake. He's quick, agile, shoots well and has good playmaking skills. Longboat posted a hat trick in his first ALL game, which seemed pretty good at the time. But he stepped up the pace with 3 goals and 4 assists in Week 2.
4 (4) St. Catharines ShockWave (1-1)
Last week: L14-10 v Toronto in Oshawa
This week: v Oshawa at ILA
There's never been any question about Chris Attwood's talent. The righty forward is a great shooter who can do the kinds of things with a lacrosse stick and ball that not many people can. The challenge for him, since being taken in the fifth round of the 2012 NLL draft, has been to either displace a veteran for a leading man role or prove he can be effective as a depth player who doesn't need the ball to help his team. The reality is that Attwood is at his creative best when he's able to carry the ball and generate scoring chances for himself and his teammates. The problem is, there are plenty of high-level righties in the NLL, so it's hard to break through. Expansion may prove a boon for Attwood; a new team may be just the spot for him to get a chance to prove he can make it as a pro.
Jordan Houtby won't make jaws drop the way Attwood does. His steady, effective defence in the ShockWave's first two games will draw the attention of NLL teams. While it's not a glamorous role, being a solid stay at home defender is valuable. Houtby was a fourth-round pick by Minnesota in 2013 but has never found a regular spot in an NLL lineup. His game has matured over the years and he looks like he's ready for a regular depth role in the pros when someone needs a force in its own end.
5 (3) Paris RiverWolves (0-2)
Last week: L18-7 @ Six Nations
This week: v Toronto Monarchs
I didn't get to see Paris' second game because I was calling the Oshawa/Peterborough game at the Tribute Communities Centre when they were playing the Snipers in Six Nations. In the RiverWolves' opener, I was impressed by the energy and athleticism of Brett Ulbikas. After being named the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association's best midfielder and top graduating player in 2016, Ulbikas is focussed on forging ahead in his box lacrosse career. He needs to refine his game, learning to channel is abundant energy more efficiently, but the transition player has shown plenty of promise.
6 (5) Peterborough Timbermen (0-2)
Last week: L14-7 @ Oshawa
This week: @ Paris
Riley Campbell was outstanding in Week 1 and solid in Week 2. He has shown a steady upward trajectory since being Vancouver's fourth-round pick (33rd overall) in the 2015 draft. I had him ranked at 42 in my draft prospects list that year, saying “Not ready to play at the pro level but has the drive to improve and potentially make the grade down the road.” Prospect projections don't always work out but I'm feeling pretty good about that one: Campbell has improved by leaps and bounds and could find himself in the NLL if he keeps working at his game the way he has been.
Much like Ulbikas above, Doug Utting has been a CUFLA standout who has some serious indoor chops as well. Utting hails from Brockville, Ontario and plays his university ball as a midfielder for Nipissing University in North Bay after spending four years with the Western Mustangs. He hasn't gotten a lot of attention, but he can play. Timbermen coach Joe Sullivan had a chance to coach Utting with the Capital City Axemen of the Quebec Sr B league and was impressed enough to bring the transition player to Peterborough.