In the 2016 NLL Entry Draft, the Georgia Swarm made eight selections, and only one of those picks was not a defensive player.
In the 2017 NLL Entry Draft, Georgia made seven selections after trading five of its picks for future considerations. Once again, only one of those picks was not a defensive player.
Fast forward to the 2018 NLL Entry Draft, and it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what Georgia planned to do with its 12 selections.
After six rounds, a blockbuster trade, and 74 selections across 11 teams, Georgia left Philadelphia on Sept. 25 with 10 new rookies. Only one, LeRoy Halftown out of NYIT, could be considered a full-time offensive player.
Georgia’s offense is incredibly deep, so deep that even losing forwards Kiel Matisz and Jordan Hall in the 2018 Expansion Draft – while painful – isn’t the end of the world for the organization. With three Thompson Brothers, 2016 NLL ROY Randy Staats, and the ever-consistent Shayne Jackson on the roster, the Swarm has a strong mix of talented and dangerous lefties and righties.
Before the first round of the 2018 Draft, the Swarm had Jesse King on that list. But to strengthen up the backend, Georgia had to make a difficult decision.
“We wanted to replace some people on the defensive side of the ball and had this opportunity,” Swarm Owner and General Manager John Arlotta said after the draft. “It’s a difficult decision, because we love Jesse. He’s been with us and an integral part of the team. But we felt like we had to make the move to restock the defense and also were able to get a really good lefty that scored 36 goals at the same time. Difficult decision, but it’s one we had to make given the roster, where it stands.”
That 36-goal scorer is Holden Cattoni, until recently a part of the Calgary Roughnecks. Georgia swapped King and the No. 23 overall selection in the 2018 Entry Draft for Cattoni and the No. 7 overall selection. A lefty listed at 5-foot-11 and 216 pounds, Cattoni made a huge stride from his rookie to sophomore year, increasing his points total from 26 (7G, 19A) in ’17 to 76 (36G, 40A) in ’18, an astounding 50-point jump.
Add in that Georgia drafted Halftown in the second round – a lefty that scores and scores and scores – and the Swarm has seven strong O candidates going into Training Camp. Georgia could then focus on shoring up its defense.
Immediately following the trade on Sept. 25, Georgia selected Brendan Bomberry (Syracuse University) No. 7 overall and Adam Wiedemann (Belmont Abbey College) No. 8 overall. The two were successful offensive threats collegiately but play primarily defense in indoor lacrosse.
Bomberry played out the front door in Jr. A but was switched to the back end when he graduated to Sr. A. With his offensive prowess holstered, Bomberry focused on defense – knowing what O guys hate to have done with them – and would draw out his offensive weapons running up the floor and scoring.
Wiedemann was named the Major Series Lacrosse Rookie of the Year in 2018, and his style of play has been likened to Swarm defenseman Connor Sellars. He models his game after his uncle, Jim Veltman, one of the lacrosse greats. Wiedemann also has a slick scoring touch as he led the Belmont Abbey College Chargers in points his senior season.
The Swarm selected Joel Tinney next, an athletic midfielder out of Johns Hopkins University. Tinney played as a forward with the Orangeville Northmen in the Ontario Jr. A Lacrosse League (OJALL) in 2016 and helped the team advance to the Minto Cup finals. Since he hasn’t played box since then, seeing how quickly he gets those instincts back while moving to D/T is an interesting wildcard.
Georgia grabbed goaltender Steven Orleman, brother of Georgia’s Kevin Orleman, next. Playing with the Brampton Excelsiors (OJALL), Orleman helped his team get to the Minto Cup finals this past summer. Evaluators are excited for Steven’s future, seeing a goaltender making a significant impact long-term as he ages.
Skipping Halftown being picked after Orleman, we jump to defenseman Justin Lemcke in the fourth round. Lemcke is committed to playing in the ECHL with the Wichita Thunder, and the Swarm is aware of this fact. The Whitby, Ontario native is known for his punishing hits and strong defense.
Then there’s Tanner Poole, picked immediately after Lemcke. Poole is playing in the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association (CUFLA) for Nipissing University this fall. In indoor, the Barrie, Ontario native plays transition for the Barrie Lakeshores (OJALL). The kid plays some pesky defense and can bury the ball into the net when needed.
Finally, Georgia selected Sawyer Howell with its final pick in the draft. With the Mimico Mountaineers (OJALL), the righty played defense in 2018, helping the Mountaineers finish with an 11-9 record.
So, with seven new names out the back door, what do we know?
First, most of these rookies are lefties and are known for being key defensive players on their teams.
Second, the Swarm likes character individuals, and the new Swarm selections have all been captains in their lacrosse careers.
“They all fit the mold of the Georgia Swarm,” Arlotta said. “That’s fast, athletic guys that are good both on and off the field.”
Third, Arlotta and the Swarm coaches love – absolutely love – having competitive training camps.
Let’s start with goaltenders first. Georgia now has Mike Poulin, the two Orlemans, and Craig Wende going into camp. Everyone is competing for a spot, but go ahead and figure Poulin is the starter for 2018-19. Steven said after the draft how competitive he and Kevin are naturally, and Wende will be looking to make the most out of this opportunity to crack the roster.
For your defense/transition players, there are the returning Swarm players, the seven drafted rookies, and newcomers Tyler Ferreira and Matt Dunn. A quick count puts that number at 21 defense/transition players. Figure Georgia rolls with two goalies and seven forwards and 11 D/T guys on its Active Roster, that means a good handful of players unfortunately won’t make the Swarm roster.
It’s hard to have to tell a large group of players, including goaltenders and O guys, that there isn’t a spot on the roster for them. But you want the best of the best. Having a tangible number of spots creates excellent competition and gives players and coaches more confidence going into the 2018-19 season.
“Our goal is always to try to make ourselves better,” Swarm head coach Ed Comeau said after the draft. “We believe we’ve made ourselves better right now and into the future. Some of the other picks we took are going to be guys that come to camp and compete for jobs, and that’s really what we want to do. It’s all about getting better and getting ready for Dec. 1.”
Georgia opens the 2018-19 NLL season on Saturday, Dec. 1 with a Meeting of the Champions against the Saskatchewan Rush at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Field at Infinite Energy Arena. Faceoff is set for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Fans can get two (2) Lower Level End Zone tickets to the Swarm’s Home Opener and a 2017 NLL World Championship hat for only $60 by visiting GeorgiaSwarm.com/Opener and entering the promo code OPENER.
Season Tickets for the Swarm’s 2018-19 season are On Sale Now! Season Ticket packages include 10 games (nine regular season games and one postseason game) and a handful of VIP benefits. Join Sting City by reserving your membership today by calling 844-4-GASWARM.