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Massive trade between Vancouver and Las Vegas heats up NLL Draft

NLL Draft 2023 NLL Draft 2023

The 2023 NLL Entry Draft is on the horizon, and even though the draft is a few nights away, general managers are already hard at work trying to position their teams for a successful night.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Vancouver Warriors and Las Vegas Desert Dogs swapped draft picks, including Top 5 picks in this year’s entry draft, as well as players, with the hopes that they’ll be able to secure the players that they think will be the best fit for their team in the future.

All of the draft picks are for this year’s draft. Here are the details of the trade:

The Desert Dogs traded the fourth and ninth overall picks, as well as Jackson Suboch, to the Warriors for the second overall pick, a 5th round pick (70th overall) and Jonathan Gagliardi.

Warriors head coach Curt Malawsky is known for his skill in building successful teams through the draft. In the years leading up to the Calgary Roughnecks’ 2019 championship, then-head coach Malawsky and GM Mike Board masterfully picked some incredible talent, including the likes of Christian Del Bianco, Zach Currier, Tyler Pace, Shane Simpson, Eli Salama and Reece Callies, to name a few.

All of those players are still with the team, and some of them, such as reigning NLL MVP and Goaltender of the Year, Del Bianco, and Currier, the reigning Transition Player of the Year, have established themselves as two of the best players in the league.

And think about this: In 2015 alone, Malawsky and Board drafted the likes of Wes Berg, Reilly O’Connor, Mitch de Snoo, Tyson Bell, Jacob Ruest and Del Bianco. Of course, most of those players are no longer with the Roughnecks or weren’t even with the team during the 2019 NLL Cup run, but it speaks to how good Malawsky is at spotting young talent.

Now, as the head coach and GM of the Warriors, Malawsky is ready to build for the future, and that starts with this draft. This trade gave the Warriors two additional first round picks, and they now have the fourth, seventh, and ninth overall picks in this year’s draft.

When Malawsky heard that Desert Dogs coach Shawn Williams wanted to move up in the draft because he is targeting a specific player, Malawsky was eager to snag more Top-10 draft picks to build for the future quicker than is possible in most years.

“It takes a long time to build through the draft; you usually get one pick, maybe two, to really build through the draft,” Malawsky said. “We’ve brought in a couple of free agents, but we had an opportunity to expedite the process and get younger as we’re doing it as we’re trying to build a core of guys we can build around. That’s something that was important to us.”

But it wasn’t just about acquiring the draft picks for Malawsky. It was important that he also add another young piece, one that already has NLL experience, to the deal.

Suboch is a big guy who is not afraid to get in the middle of things when things get chippy. At 6’5”, he’s one of the tallest players in the NLL, and he can use his body to make things difficult for the opposing offenses. At 26 years old, Suboch is entering the prime years of his playing career, so the best is still ahead of him.

“He was a huge part of the trade for us,” Malawsky said. “First and foremost, he’s a great teammate. He’s a guy who’s going to stand up for his teammates and hold other teams accountable. Also, he’s a great young player. He’s big, and he takes up a lot of space. He’s got a young element, so he has many years to play in the National Lacrosse League.”

For the Desert Dogs, securing the second overall pick will go a long way to helping their team in the future. The big question is: who will the Desert Dogs choose with that pick?

It would be one of the stories of the year if Dyson Williams, coach Williams’ son, would play for his dad, but Dyson is the consensus top pick in this year’s draft, and it would be hard to imagine Albany FireWolves head coach and GM Glenn Clark passing on a kid who has the potential to be an excellent player in this league for many, many years.

So, do the Desert Dogs go with Adam Poitras? Poitras was a dominant Jr. A player with the Whitby Warriors during their Minto Cup championship run in 2022. As Stephen Stamp noted in his Top-50 prospects piece, Poitras accumulated 110 assists and 77 goals between the OJLL regular season, playoffs, and the Minto Cup.

The fact that he’s a young lefty is intriguing, too. Last season, 37-year-old Zack Greer led Desert Dogs left-handers with 33 goals. But how many more years does he have that level of production in him?

Some younger pieces on that left side already include 25-year-old Charlie Bertrand, who tallied 16 goals last season, 28-year-old rookie Jon Phillips, who scored 21 goals last season, and a handful of other bright stars to keep an eye on. Adding a very capable, youthful scorer like Poitras will add more depth to a left side that can grow together.

Coach Williams was understandably quite cryptic when discussing draft plans, but he did insinuate that they have someone in mind and someone who will not be joining the NLL this season as they have one more year of college eligibility.

“Most of these top draft picks aren’t coming this year, so it’s hard to gauge if we’re helping our team this year, but everyone is in that situation,” Williams said. “You just try and move the chess pieces around and see what you can do. We’re hoping to do as much as we did last year based on the guys we brought in to make a playoff push.

“Any time you’re approaching a draft, you’re looking to see if you can move up. We moved up a couple picks there. There are some special guys up above, and I wanted to ensure we are part of the process.”

This trade will definitely shift the future landscape of the NLL. We just don’t know who will do the shaking and how hard they will shake it. That’s the beauty and the suspense of the days in the run-up to the draft.

Make sure to follow this story as it develops on Saturday night, September 16th, when the Warriors and Desert Dogs will make all of their draft picks, including the Top-10 picks (and more) that were exchanged in this deal.