Sep 20, 2011

Matt Vinc 2011.jpgBy Craig Rybczynski – Rochester Knighthawks Owner/General Manager Curt Styres and his staff have reconvened this week to discuss the players available in Wednesday’s National Lacrosse League Entry Draft. Even though the two days of meetings will forecast what players they will select with their eight picks, the preparation and player identification has been in motion for years.

“We have been analyzing players for three years,” said Styres. “We are going by what we need the most. We have a plan in place and we will have to make some choices.”

The Knighthawks will usher in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft when they make the second overall selection at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel. The draft, which will air live at 7:00 p.m. on The NLL Network at, will consist of six rounds. The draft features top prospects Kevin Crowley, Dan Coates, Travis Cornwall, Stephen Keogh, Adam Jones, Evan Kirk, Jamie Lincoln, Jordan McBride, Johnny Powless and Jeremy Thompson. Styres is excited about holding two picks in the Top 10 by also owning the 10th overall selection in the draft.

“The first 18 guys are going to be dressing this season and are good choices,” said Styres. “It is so much tougher for older guys. A lot of younger players are taking ownership of their positions and are not taking things for granted.”

His strategy has proven successful over the past three seasons with the selection of Sid Smith, Cody Jamieson, Jarrett Davis, Josh Ruys and Joel McCready. Free agent signings also brought youngsters Tyler Burton and Dylan Evans to the team last season. His association of the Six Nations Arrows Junior “A” program has allowed Styres to stay in-tune with the best young players in the game.

“I have been watching players very closely with the Arrows in my own backyard. It is good to see all the players play before they started shaving,” said Styres. “I have been watching some of them for the last 10 years. We were following them before they knew it.”

In 2011, the Knighthawks used the draft and some major trades to help the Knighthawks go from 7-9 and missing the playoffs to 10-6 and a return to the postseason. Styres was rewarded with two league awards for his efforts, becoming the first person to ever win the General Manager and NLL Executive of the Year awards in the same season.

“We tied for first place last season and made the playoffs. Two years ago, we lost to New York in overtime and I think if we could have gotten by them we could have won the championship,” he said. “We had a lot of talented guys on that team and lacrosse figures, but when you lose you have to take a different direction to get to the championship.”

That philosophy landed goalie Matt Vinc, who won his second straight goalie of the year award in 2011, along with defenseman/transition man Brad Self, forwards Mike Accursi and Jamieson, and defensemen Rory Glaves, Scott Campbell, Troy Bonterre and Pat McCready. The entry draft brought forwards Jamieson and Davis into the offense. Jamieson was second in NLL Rookie of the Year voting, as he led all NLL rookies with 53 points and finished first on the Knighthawks with 28 goals. Davis ended his first season third in rookie points with 24.

The Dispersal Draft further brought talent into the mix with defensemen Brad Self and Jack Reid, and forward Casey Powell. The Knighthawks have stressed their motto, “bigger, faster, stronger,” to move back into the NLL elite. He used second-year pro Jarrett Davis as an example of the modern lacrosse player.

“A lot of people go to teams to win a championship, but he went where he was going to get the most floor time. He just loves to play lacrosse,” said Styres of Davis, who just won a Mann Cup with the Brampton Excelsiors. “He is the one getting up at 7:00 a.m. to run five miles to get his conditioning up, eating right and making healthy lifestyle choices. That level of player gives older players nightmares.”

After the draft, Styres will continue to access talent prior to training camp by holding an Open Tryout Friday, October 21st to Saturday, October 22nd. With only nine teams in the NLL this season, there will be more talented players available after Wednesday’s draft.

“There is enough talent out there for five more teams,” said Styres. “There are some guys that don’t get their names splashed around out there, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a diamond in the rough. There are 100 players out there that can play.”

The Knighthawks will open their 18th season on Saturday, January 14th in Philadelphia against the East Division Wings. The Knighthawks will open the home portion of their schedule on Saturday, January 21st against the Buffalo Bandits at 7:30 p.m. at The Blue Cross Arena. This season, the BCA will welcome its millionth fan to watch the Knighthawks continue their legacy as one of Rochester’s foremost professional sports franchises.

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