ALL ROADS LEAD HOSSACK TO ROCHESTEROct 5, 2015
By Craig Rybczynski -- Graeme Hossack sat in front of a large screen TV on the campus of Lindenwood University Monday night. Surrounded by friends, teammates and alumni, Hossack patiently waited for his name to be called at the 2015 National Lacrosse League Entry Draft.
The standout defenseman, who was rated by many as the top player in the draft, knew his anxiety would last just a couple of minutes. He was right. Shortly after the draft began around 7:00 p.m., the Rochester Knighthawks selected Hossack with the second overall pick.
“I was pretty excited,” he said. “I was nervous just waiting there, but pretty excited to hear that. I am really looking forward to it. It’s something I have always wanted to do and watched growing up. I am very excited to get a chance to play.”
Among his dozens of supporters at the draft party, which was held in the Student Athletic Center’s Champions Room, was Lindenwood head coach Jimmy Lange. Lange was excited for his star pupil and gave Knighthawks’ fans a preview of what to expect from Hossack.
“You should expect somebody who will quietly go about his business. He works hard and loves playing lacrosse. He’s happiest when he is playing lacrosse,” he said. “I know it’ll be different, because he will be the young guy out there (in Rochester), but I think guys will learn really quickly that he’s the real deal.”
The 23-year-old Hossack leaves Division II Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri as the most decorated player in school history. During his senior season, he became the program’s first All-American, earning First Team honors after helping the Lions reach their first NCAA tournament. In 2015, he received First Team All-ECAC (2013-15) accolades for the third time in his career as well. Hossack was also a two-time recipient of the ECAC Specialist of the Year (2014-15) and Team MVP awards (2013-14).
He was a player, Lange said, who struck fear into every opponent at the Division II level. In fact, every time Hossack stepped onto the field, his teammates and local lacrosse fans were amazed at what they were witnessing.
“Everybody in the St. Louis area said he was the best pole they’ve ever seen in person,” said Lange. “Everybody looked up to him and everybody on the sideline could not wait to see what he was going to do next.”
Hossack concluded his four-year college career with 33 goals, 18 assists, 51 points, 452 ground balls and 145 caused turnovers. Coach Lange said Hossack possesses all the tools to succeed at the next level.
“He’s good in transition, he can play offense, and he’s so strong and tough on defense,” said Lange. “He reads angles well and focuses on the task at hand, which is what makes him such a good defensive player.”
Being the No. 2 pick overall was not a surprise to anyone, especially Graeme or his younger brother, Matt. The 21-year-old Hossack has been playing lacrosse with his brother ever since their parents signed them up at ages three and five. The Guelph, Ontario natives are not only close in age, but are best friends. So when Matt heard NLL Commissioner George Daniel call Graeme’s name, he was the first person to call and congratulate him.
“I was pretty excited because I always like seeing him do well,” said Matt. “Growing up with him, I knew this was coming. But I am really excited for him to come to Rochester.”
Graeme arrives in the Flower City with a reputation as a hard-nosed, tenacious defender in the indoor game. Heading into the draft, many experts compared him to four-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kyle Rubisch. Hossack honed his craft and built up his lacrosse resume while playing for the Junior “A” Whitby Warriors for four seasons. In Whitby, he won a pair of Minto Cups and was selected an All-Star in 2012 and 2013. He was taught the art of playing defense by Toronto Rock Hall of Famer Dan Ladouceur and current Saskatchewan Rush head coach Derek Keenan.
“I like playing higher pressure (defense) and like getting in on hands,” said Hossack. “I play a physical style of defense. Derek Keenan helped shape my defensive style in applying pressure and playing fast-paced defense.”
The past two summers, Hossack has been one of the toughest defensemen for the Major Series Lacrosse Brooklin Redmen. In 36 games, he posted 11 goals, 10 assists and 21 points. Knighthawks forward Derek Hopcroft, who played with Hossack in 2014 and 2015, has seen firsthand the maturity and athleticism of Rochester’s second overall pick.
“Having played in Brooklin with him the past two years, he is a very strong, aggressive defender who can shut down the best players in the league,” said Hopcroft. “He is very smart and understands the game on defense.”
Hossack admitted that playing two years in the MSL, against elite players each week, will allow him to better adjust to the pro-style game in the National Lacrosse League.
“I learned about stepping up and being able to make the decisions faster playing against the better guys. They pass faster and shoot harder,” he said. “I had to adjust to getting out a little bit further because they can score from anywhere.”
By getting drafted by the Knighthawks, Graeme and his brother will be reunited in Rochester. Matt, who was a 2015 All-American, plays at nearby RIT, which is a short 15-minute drive to Connors & Ferris Field at The Blue Cross Arena.
“Since he started university, we don’t see each other as much until the summer,” said Matt. “We have been pretty close, so it will be good to have him around a little more. I usually get to a couple of games anyway, but I think I will be out a lot more this year.”
Graeme also expects to take in some Tigers’ games this spring to watch his brother play his senior season. Last year, Matt had a career year as he was named the Liberty League Defensive Player of the Year, Division III's Most Outstanding Player and won the Long-Pole Midfielder Award.
“It’s going to be nice to see some of his games this spring,” said Graeme. “I am assuming he is going to come and see a couple of Rochester games because he is right there. I know my parents are excited because they can sort out the schedules to come and see both of us play.”
Graeme Hossack, who will finish up his degree in biology in December, will join the Knighthawks for Training Camp in late November. That first weekend in Rochester will be his first step in making the jump to the NLL for the highly-touted defenseman.
Just after the draft, the youngster received encouragement from Hall of Fame defenseman and Knighthawks head coach Mike Hasen. Hasen, whose team allowed a league-low 173 goals against in 2015, is eager to add Hossack to his veteran defensive unit.
“First and foremost, he is going to fit in really well with these guys,” said Hasen. “He is a great player already. He is tough and plays his position well.”
The Knighthawks will open their 22nd season on Saturday, January 9th when they host the Colorado Mammoth. Having the opportunity to charge out onto the turf this season would fulfill Hossack’s childhood dream.
“I will have a lot of pride going into that game because of what people have said about me,” said Hossack. “They have really hyped me up. I will be a little bit nervous, but I am just going to play my game and have fun with it.”