Buffalo Bandits General Manager Steve Dietrich drastically reconfigured Buffalo's roster in the offseason, swapping out nearly half the 2017 team for fresh blood. His final adjustment, trading for Calgary's Vaughn Harris the day before the season opener, is proving to be one of his best.
Harris, who joined the team with only two games of National Lacrosse League experience, has shown this year he's more than capable of being a full-time player. He's totaled 15 goals and 12 assists, snagged 90 loose balls and has gone 130 for 263 in faceoffs in his 11 games with Buffalo. He'll get a chance to show his old team what they missed out on when the Bandits play at Calgary Saturday night at 9 p.m. (AM 1520).
"I've got a chip on my shoulder because they didn't really give me a chance to show what I can do," Harris said. "Buffalo gave me the chance and I proved I could play in this league and I could do more than what I was expected to do."
What has made Harris such a valuable piece for the Bandits is his versatility. He's listed as a forward but has played everywhere, earning shifts on defense and serving as the team's primary faceoff specialist.
When the Bandits cut the squad's 2017 faceoff leader, Tim Edwards, at the end of training camp Dietrich cited a need to get the most out of the team's 19 roster spots. He was willing to surrender some faceoff wins for a player who could contribute more in other areas. Thanks to landing Harris, the faceoff sacrifice has been minimal – only a four percent decrease.
"Vaughn's a guy that fits the role perfectly," Dietrich said. "He's like a swiss-army knife for us. ... We're extremely happy and lucky we were able to get him."
Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour knew Harris was up to the task since he'd seen it firsthand. In the summer, Harris plays for the Kilgour-coached Six Nations Arrows of Major Series Lacrosse.
"We like his talent, so we want to keep him on the floor," Kilgour said in February, when Harris started getting run as a defender. "We talk about that all the time, getting lacrosse players. When these guys are kids they've got to play both ways. It's in them, just a lot of guys like playing O a lot more."
Harris' malleable nature has helped him stay in the lineup even when there's been a surplus of forwards. He hasn't sat since being activated from the practice roster on Jan. 13, locking up a spot on the team he grew up watching his brother, Roger Vyse, play for.
"I just try and do whatever my coach tells me to do," Harris said.
Harris has had a handful of notable performances but was at the height of his powers in Buffalo's 20-7 blowout victory against the New England Black Wolves on March 23. He scored a team-leading eight points (four goals and four assists) while going toe-to-toe at the faceoff-X with former Bandit and one of the best in the business, Jay Thorimbert. Harris won 20 of his 29 draws that night.
The Bandits, who are in the thick of a nerve-wracking fight for playoff position, need Harris' success to continue. At 8-7, Buffalo is tied with the Georgia Swarm for second place in the East Division. The New England Black Wolves, the first team on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture, are only a game behind Buffalo. The first-place Rochester Knighthawks (9-7) and last place Toronto Rock (7-9) are separated by just two games with three weeks remaining on the regular season schedule.
"Everyone is playing for a spot," Harris said. "It just makes the game more fun."