NLL Draft Eligible Players at 2021 WJLC

by Stephen Stamp

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For players like Brad Lyons, Ethan Riggs, Marshall Powless, and Haiden Dickson participating in previous IIJL World Junior Lacrosse Championships (WJLC) helped pave the way to being selected in the National Lacrosse League (NLL) entry draft and earning a chance to further their careers in the sport.

Seven players at the 2021 edition of the WJLC are hoping they can show well at the tournament and boost their ranking among the prospects vying to be selected by NLL teams on August 28, when the pro league gathers in Buffalo for its annual draft. The tournament may just be more important than ever in that regard, given how limited opportunities to play and be seen by scouts have been for everyone over the last year and a half. 

The 2021 WJLC features a three-game, total-goal series in Winnipeg August 12-14 between Canada East and Canada West (eight other nations were scheduled to take part in the tournament, but ongoing pandemic challenges and protocols necessitated a pivot). 

Canada West boasts four players who are eligible to be drafted in August. A pair of them have declared early for draft, forfeiting any remaining NCAA eligibility so they can be considered to be selected. Aidan Danby and Bryce Schmermund are both big defenders, both born in 2001, and both played at the 20219 WJLC winning gold medals with Canada in Mississauga. 

Danby has been named an alternate captain for Canada West this year and has quickly taken on a leadership role with the team during training camp at the Canada Life Centre. The Penticton native trying to forge the unusual path to professional lacrosse from the interior of British Columbia. Danby did make his may to the coast to play for the Junior A Delta Islanders (BCJALL), and now he's looking to continue climbing in the sport. 

Schmermund is from St Albert, Alberta. With his work schedule being impacted by the pandemic, he didn't have as much opportunity to play with the Junior A St. Albert Miners (RMJALL) this summer, so he suited up with the Junior B Crude in neighbouring Edmonton. With the Crude, Schmermund was pressed into playing a more offensive role and he responded with higher scoring stats than he's posted in years while focusing on defence. 

Troy Gutowski is of Metis heritage and hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The tournament is a lacrosse homecoming for him because Gutowski has been following his dream of playing at the highest level possible from Junior B with the Manitoba Blizzard to Junior A stints with the Port Coquitlam Saints (BCJALL) and the Saskatchewan SWAT (RMLL) in Saskatoon. Gutowski, who is studying nursing at Red River College, hopes that his slick hands will garner him some attention ahead of the NLL Draft. 

Hunter Aggus is hoping his third time's the charm. He declared for the 2019 draft as a young 19-year-old but went un-drafted both then and again in 2020. Maturing on and off the floor, Aggus has caught the eyes of prospect evaluators after a successful season in the Arena Lacrosse League (ALL). The defensive-transition player is projected to be a possible second-round selection this year. 

The East's 2021 NLL draft prospects are led by one of the team's alternate captains, who also is one of the few players in history who have made three appearances at the World Juniors. Jordan Ackie is a defensive standout who also excels at the faceoff dot. He is projected as a solid second-round prospect with potential to climb into the first round if a NLL team is looking to select an impactful player in multiple areas. 

Will Cecile played four years with his hometown Junior B Windsor Clippers (OJBLL) before deciding to make the move up to Junior A with the Burlington Chiefs (OJLL). He does have previous World Juniors experience, having suited up for Canada U17 back in 2016. The speedy transition player is studying nursing at the University of Windsor and hopes to combine a career serving in the health care field with a shot a playing professional lacrosse. 

Hayden Coulter is a big righty forward (6'4”, 200 pounds) for Canada East. The road to the NLL from Junior B lacrosse is not an easy one, but many players have managed to succeed at it and Coulter hopes to follow in their footsteps. He starred for three seasons for his home town Junior B Owen Sound North Stars (OJBLL). Now he's studying at Laurier University, where he'll get a chance to participate in high-level field lacrosse as part of the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association (CUFLA). 

The NLL draft is just a couple of weeks away, and all seven draft-eligible players at the 2021 IIJL World Junior Lacrosse Championship are hoping this weekend in Winnipeg is a stepping stone for them en route to hearing their names called in Buffalo.