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Protected Players and Potential Panthers: NLL Roster Construction and Panther City’s Expansion Draft Prospects

A constant influx of new teams is the telltale sign of a burgeoning league. With the addition of Panther City Lacrosse Club, and the most recent Las Vegas franchise announcement, the expansion process has become an almost-annual tradition in the NLL under the direction of Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz.

Last week, front offices submitted their list of protected players in advance of the Panther City expansion draft set to take play on Tuesday, June 29. The release of the lists saw the 13 returning franchises take differing approaches to protected player position breakdown.

There were four different roster constructions employed:

  • 4 F, 8 D (Georgia)
  • 4 F, 7 D, 1 G (Albany, Halifax, Toronto)
  • 5 F, 6 D (Saskatchewan)
  • 5 F, 5 D, 1 G (Buffalo, Calgary, Colorado, New York, Philadelphia, Rochester, San Diego, Vancouver)

Fans can analyze the protected rosters and predict which player might be headed to the Lone Star State. This exercise is a unique opportunity to get a better idea of how their teams’ coaches and executives view their rosters. I like to think of each team’s protected list as their “core”.

First, I wanted to look at the age factor. For this, I used the age of each protected player on opening weekend (December 3, 2021) and calculated the average for each team. Then, I compared it to the average age of the protected players (27.57 years old).

Which teams have a youthful core? Which teams have an older core?

Additionally, I was curious about how each teams’ protected roster stacked up in career games played and points. While this juxtaposition was compelling, unlike average age, this is not a perfect comparison due to the various roster construction strategies. Some teams did not protect a goalie, some protected four forwards, etc.

Some takeaways…

  • Calgary elected for youth on defense, while San Diego did the same with their forwards.
  • Vancouver’s aging core does not align with its current chances of contending. This is not promising for a team that has finished last in their division in both seasons under the Warriors’ rebrand.
  • Philadelphia and Saskatchewan – possibly the two teams that are most in “win now” mode – both have older nuclei. This makes sense given their timeline.
  • Rochester and New York (excluding 36-year-old Callum Crawford) appropriately have the two youngest cores.
  • Calgary’s RF Haiden Dickson (20 years old) was the youngest player to be protected.
  • Seven-time Goaltender of the Year Matt Vinc (39 years old) was the oldest player on the protected lists.

The Next Three

Let’s take a look at which players found themselves on the outside looking in. These are the players that I believe each team would protect if they were gifted three additional protected slots.

*Disclaimer: The NLL chooses to leave fans somewhat in the dark when it comes to the contractual status of players. For this reason, I have not included veterans that are 34 years or older and have the choice to reject the “Franchise Designation.” However, the list below is fallible. I would love to hear any other contractual loopholes that I am unaware of.

These are also some of the players that I expect Panther City to target. Stay tuned for a Forth Worth mock expansion draft later this week.

Albany – Charlie Kitchen, Ty Logan, Jean-Luc Chetner

Buffalo – Nick Weiss, Jordan Stouros, Liam Patten

Calgary – Mitch Wilde, Marshal King, Liam LeClair

Colorado – Joey Cupido, Will Malcom, Tim Edwards

Georgia – Joel White, Connor Sellars, Laine Hruska

Halifax – Ethan Riggs, Mike Burke, Brad Gillies

New York – Connor Kelly, Andrew Suitor, Travis Longboat

Philadelphia – John Ranagan, Anthony Joaquim, Alex Crepinsek

Rochester – John Wagner, Phil Caputo, Matthew Bennett

San Diego – Casey Jackson, Jeremy Noble, Nick Damude

Saskatchewan – Chris Corbeil, Matt Hossack, Matthew Dinsdale

Toronto – Bill Hostrawser, Reid Reinholdt, Scott Dominey

Vancouver – Sam Clare, Owen Barker, Tyler Codron

What are your thoughts on the potential pool of players that Coach Tracey Kelusky and his staff could select in the upcoming NLL Expansion Draft?

Playing From Behind provides lacrosse fans with easy to understand, statistically-driven analysis and visualizations.

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