The Hamilton Spectator
Burlington’s Smith goes third overall in NLL draft
Take a bow Hamilton Bengals.
The Jr. B team played a significant role in the nurturing and development of two firstround draft choices in Thursday night’s National Lacrosse League entry draft.
With the third overall pick in the pro box lacrosse league’s draft, Rochester Knighthawks chose Burlington native and prolific shooter Ryan Smith. The Halifax Thunderbirds used the 11th pick to select defender Ethan Riggs, the St. Mary’s grad who chose lacrosse over a football career at McMaster.
“Honestly, words can’t even describe it,” Smith said of his selection.
“It’s a dream come true.” Because he’s returning to his final year of field lacrosse eligibility at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania, Smith likely won’t be available to the Knighthawks until sometime in the early spring.
That is assuming the NLL is able to resume play, as hoped, early in the new year. It’s 2020 season was cut short by the pandemic.
The 22-year-old Smith can score. Big-time. But he really blossomed when he came to Hamilton at 18 in a trade with Oakville. He had 54 goals in just 26 games with the Bengals over the remainder of 2016 and the early part of ’17, before being summoned to the Jr. A Burlington Chiefs, for whom he registered 97 goals and 181 points in 39 games through the next two seasons.
“I grew quite a bit in those years,” says the six-foot-one, 200-pounder. “But I was really fortunate to play for the Bengals. I got a lot more floor time than I did with Oakville Jr. C and Hamilton’s coaching staff really helped me develop.”
Riggs, who grew up in Dundas, is a rugged defender who played for the Chiefs after two seasons with the Bengals. He was projected to go about 20th in the draft.
“I was taken aback when it was 11th,” the 20-year-old told The Spectator. “When you’re young you dream about going to the NLL and when it happens, especially in the first round, it’s hard to describe.”
He attends Niagara College after, originally leaning toward playing football for the Marauders, “but I didn’t have the true passion for it like I did for lacrosse.”
He could have some local company in Halifax. In the third round, the Thunderbirds chose Hamilton’s Matt Gaudet, the Yale star who went fifth in the Premier Lacrosse League’s college draft and played in the pro field league’s bubble tourney this summer.
Hamilton’s Tye Argent, who played three seasons with the Bengals, went to the Buffalo Bandits in the fifth round.
From Six Nations, Marshall Powless went seventh overall to Saskatchewan, Ron John 18th (Colorado), Kevin Owen Hill 38th (Rochester) and Jeremy Bomberry 93rd (New England). Steve Milton is a Hamilton-based sports columnist at The Spectator.