The perfect NLL forward

If you could have the perfect box lacrosse forward, what would he be like? Would you want the small wiry guy with ankle-breaking speed and agility to get around defenders? Would you want the guy with the accurate 110 mph shot who fires the ball between defenders? Or would you want the big strong bull-in-a-china-shop type who plows through defenders? Ideally, you’d want someone who could do all of those things. Obviously a player that’s the best at all of those things doesn’t exist. So let’s create him.

I asked a panel of knowledgeable lacrosse people to give me their votes on the best player (current or historical) in each of a number of categories. The panel consisted of Steve Bermel, Brad Challoner, Bob Chavez, Jake Elliott, Tyler Fitch, Stephen Stamp, and me. Thanks to these fellas for their responses.

One thing I thought was interesting: despite including a number of “old-school” lacrosse people on the panel (i.e. people who have been watching the NLL for many years), the name Gait was included only once: “maybe Gary Gait but I’ll go with John Grant” in the strength category.


John Grant Jr. was listed on three ballots. The others were John Tavares, Derek Malawsky, Dane Dobbie, and Josh Sanderson.

John Grant

Shot speed

The winner here was Paul Rabil with three votes. Craig Point received two  and the other two votes went to Cam Bomberry and John Grant, Jr.


The closest thing to a clean sweep in any category, Dhane Smith was listed on four ballots. A fifth voter listed Lyle Thompson under agility but Smith under “feet”. The other two votes went to Curtis Dickson.


Another win for John Grant Jr. with three votes. Other votes went to Brett Hickey, Dan Dawson, and Brandon Francis.

Off-ball ability

I’ve heard Kasey Beirnes‘s name many times as the best ever in this category and he was so named on two ballots. Others mentioned were Lyle Thompson, Mike Accursi, Dan Teat, Aaron Wilson, and Dane Dobbie.


Another win for John Grant Jr. with three votes. Colin Doyle picked up two and Curtis Dickson and Dan Dawson each got one.

Defensive ability

Lyle Thompson (Photo credit: Paul Sasso)Two people didn’t vote in this category so we only had five votes. But three of them went to Lyle Thompson, while Kevin Crowley and Shawn Evans got the other two.


One voter suggested we add “Intangibles” as a category, comprising things like leadership, grit, and lacrosse IQ. He combined all three into one vote for Tracey Kelusky, while another voter added a few separate ones: Dan Dawson got his vote for leadership, Colin Doyle for clutch, Kelusky for grit, and Garrett Billings for passing ability. Other votes in these categories were Colin Doyle for intangibles and Josh Sanderson for passing.

So the end result: we want someone with the strength and creativity of John Grant and the agility of Dhane Smith. He should shoot as hard as Paul Rabil with Grant’s accuracy, play off-ball like Kasey Beirnes, defensively like Lyle Thompson, and pass like Garrett Billings or Josh Sanderson. Combine all of that with the leadership and smarts of Tracey Kelusky, Dan Dawson, or Colin Doyle, and you’ve got yourself one fine lacrosse player.

Of course, once you’ve got this guy on your team, you’d have to take out a big-ass insurance policy, cover him in bubble wrap whenever he’s not on the floor, and make sure he never does dangerous things like bungee jumping, hang-gliding, or shoveling snow.


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