The 2016 season brought plenty of agony for the Buffalo Bandits, as the historically successful franchise tied a team record for lowest winning percentage in a season.
Luckily for GM Steve Dietrich and his staff, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Bandits have the first overall pick in Monday’s National Lacrosse League Draft for the first time since 2004 and only the second time in the franchise’s 26-year history. There isn’t much debate as to how Buffalo will use it. Experts agree the Bandits will bolster their offense with left-handed forward Josh Byrne.
Byrne impressed in the junior circuit as a teenager but solidified his top position by showing he can succeed against men over the past two years. His time this summer in the Western Lacrosse Association, one of the two top-tier summer indoor leagues, was short but impactful. He notched 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in four regular-season games and 19 points (four goals and 15 assists) in six playoff games with the Burnaby Lakers.
The Hofstra University graduate also had a record-setting season playing outdoors this summer, scoring a Major League Lacrosse rookie record 39 goals for the Chesapeake Bayhawks.
The 6-foot-3 British Columbia native fits well into the Bandits' depth chart, especially after the team traded left-handed forward Ryan Benesch to the Colorado Mammoth for right-handed forward Callum Crawford in August. He’ll slide into Benesch’s former position, joining a group that features Dhane Smith, Crawford and Pat Saunders.
This year’s draft is the first time Buffalo has possessed its own first-round pick since 2014. The Bandits have seven picks total, including the 11th and 12th at the start of the second round.
The draft begins at 7 p.m. at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre in Oakville, Ontario, and can be streamed through the NLL’s online service, NLL.TV.