Panther City Lacrosse Club is one step closer to hitting the floor in December after the completion of Tuesday’s NLL Expansion Draft. When all was said and done, General Manger Bob Hamley and Head Coach Tracey Kelusky added 16 players to their roster in addition to acquiring two 2021 draft picks. Panther City will take the rest of the offseason to fill out their roster via free agency other avenues, but for now let’s dive into the players acquired during the expansion draft.
#1 – Matt Hossack (RD, Saskatchewan Rush)
The speculation of most in lacrosse media was that Hossack was the consensus pick. Panther City’s decision to appoint Hossack as the first player in franchise history — even though the draft order is inconsequential — leads me to believe that their staff was also in accord. However, part of me wonders if there was an avenue where they could have used the availability of Chris Corbeil as a bargaining chip.
#2 – Charlie Kitchen (RF, Albany FireWolves)
I’m not sure there is a team that lost a player to expansion that was more important to their short-term future than Albany and the loss of Charlie Kitchen. And I know it sounds counterintuitive — considering Kitchen was one of only two 2020 Entry Draftees to be selected — but I truly believe that losing Kitchen puts Albany in a bind. The Firewolves’ right-handed forwards are Joe Resetarits, Jacob Ruest, and a few unknowns. As for Panther City, they get a big-bodied forward who gives me stretched-out Zed Williams vibes. Kitchen is just scratching the surface in terms of box lacrosse acumen. He will likely live in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex and assist efforts at the grassroots level.
#3 – Liam Byrnes (RD, Philadelphia Wings)
Liam Byrnes is probably the least risky selection that Panther City made. He is a polished defender who avoids taking penalties and causes turnovers at an above-average rate. Byrnes becomes one of three Americans on the current roster.
#4 – Connor Kelly (RF, New York Riptide)
Kelly finds himself selected in expansion for the second year in a row. He is another candidate to embed himself in local north Texas communities and schools for camps, clinics, etc. Kelly plays an exciting brand of lacrosse, and I’m eager to see him take the floor after a season’s worth of games played in the NLL.
#5 – Nick Damude (G, San Diego Seals)
Not only does Damude have NLL experience, but he has also excelled in the 300 minutes he played for the Seals. He is a technician who the Seals organization was disappointed to see leave. I imagine Damude has the slight edge to earn the day one starting role for Panther City.
#6 – Patrick Dodds (RF, Calgary Roughnecks)
Admittedly, I was not too familiar with Dodds’ game — a quick YouTube search provided insight. I see some shades of Tyler Digby in how he cuts off-ball and releases himself off extended picks. The youngest current Panther City player will get an opportunity that he might have not immediately received in Calgary.
#7 – Sam Clare (LD, Vancouver Warriors)
Clare is currently Panther City’s definitive — and perhaps only — transition threat. The 27-year-old has only played half a season but did not look out of place in settled 5v5 situations. He will be a mainstay in the Panther City lineup and should see an increase in usage.
#8 – Liam Patten (RD, Buffalo Bandits)
I cannot imagine it will take long for Patten to earn the adoration of Panther City fans. His Tkatchuk-esque ability to goad opponents into taking penalties provides significant value. Patten was the only defender to draw more than one penalty per 20 minutes in the shortened season. He is immediately capable of playing big minutes.
#9 – Phil Caputo (RF, Rochester Knighthawks)
Caputo is the precise type of player who I would like to see benefit from rapid expansion. He has been somewhat of a journeyman who has shot the ball well in complementary roles. Here are the forwards who scored more goals than Caputo on a per-minute basis in the shortened season: Casey Jackson, Rob Hellyer, Chase Fraser, Brett Hickey, Chris Cloutier, and Josh Byrne. That’s the list. However, it is a smaller sample size as Caputo averaged 12.05 minutes per minute — and he likely won’t shoot at a 25% clip over a full season.
#10 – Ryan Benesch (LF, Halifax Thunderbirds)
This was the selection that genuinely caught me off guard. Assuming he isn’t dealt before opening weekend, Benesch becomes the only Panther City forward with extensive NLL experience. As of now, he is the only rostered player that was born in the 1980s. Benesch’s resume speaks for itself and I imagine he will be wearing a letter.
#11 – Kevin Orleman (G, Georgia Swarm)
Kevin Orleman, unfortunately, became the odd man out on Georgia’s goaltender depth chart. The once thought of “goalie of the future” for the Swarm will now get a greater opportunity in Texas.
#12 – Chris Wardle (LF, Colorado Mammoth)
Wardle was traded back to Colorado in exchange for Will Malcom and Jordan Trottier.
#13 – Scott Dominey (LD, Toronto Rock)
Dominey was traded to the New York Riptide following the selection in exchange for Dawson Theede.
Players acquired by trade:
Taylor Stuart – Acquired from the Toronto Rock along with a 2021 2nd round selection in exchange for Panther City’s 2022 2nd round pick.
Dawson Theede – Acquired from the New York Riptide in exchange for Scott Dominey.
Will Malcom and Jordan Trottier – Players acquired from the Colorado Mammoth in exchange for Chris Wardle.
Connor Sellars – Acquired from the Georgia Swarm along with a 2021 1st round selection (11th overall) in exchange for Panther City’s 2023 1st round and conditional 3rd round picks.