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Halifax Thunderbirds preparing for National Lacrosse League entry draft

Halifax Thunderbirds coach Mike Accursi is looking forward to Thursday’s 2020 National Lacrosse League entry draft that will be held virtually.  Contributed
Halifax Thunderbirds coach Mike Accursi is looking forward to Thursday’s 2020 National Lacrosse League entry draft that will be held virtually. - Contributed

Halifax Thunderbirds head coach Mike Accursi is prepared for Thursday night’s National Lacrosse League virtual 2020 entry draft.

Though he will miss many of the personal touches that go along with a live draft when the selections begin at 8 p.m., the objective doesn’t change. Find the best players.

“It’s a virtual draft this year and it will be a lot different than the big production down in Philly (Philadelphia) last year,” said Accursi, who was involved in the team’s inaugural draft in 2019. “Being there, I kind of like seeing the kids, talking to the kids and their families.

“We have to do what COVID rules say, but (the draft) it will still be good and lot of good kids will get drafted this year.”

Thunderbirds fans will have several ways to view the virtual entry draft online and in person.

The Halifax team has partnered with Alexander Keith's to host a watch party at Niche, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The draft will be played on the big screen in the beer yard and on the indoor lounge as a secondary viewing space.

Thunderbirds fans can also watch online with live streaming on the Halifax Thunderbirds Facebook page and YouTube.

The New York Riptides own the first pick of the draft. The Thunderbirds hold the 11th and 14th overall picks in the opening round.

The Thunderbirds scored big in their inaugural draft with Clarke Pettersen at No.5, Trevor Smyth at No.11, Clay Scanlon at No. 30, Nonkon Thompson at No. 38, Matt Dziama at No. 68 and Brad Fannell at No. 81.

Pettersen scored 16 goals in his rookie season while both Smyth and Thompson were regulars on defence.

“We had a great draft year. Thompson and obviously Clarke being our No. 1 guy, we added two real good lacrosse players,” said Accursi. “And we got Clay Scanlon, he is a young gun that didn’t get in the lineup last year, but again one more year of age and experience is going to pay dividends for him.”


The Halifax Thunderbirds made Clarke Pettersen their first-ever draft pick at No.5 last year at the 2019 NLL entry draft in Philadelphia. - Contributed
The Halifax Thunderbirds made Clarke Pettersen their first-ever draft pick at No.5 last year at the 2019 NLL entry draft in Philadelphia. - Contributed


Draft change

A change to NCAA player eligibility will add a wrinkle to the entry draft. With the COVID-19 cancellation of the 2020 NCAA lacrosse season, players who had exhausted their four seasons of eligibility may return to their school for a fifth season.

Accursi expects many of the players selected will return to their schools next year.

The Thunderbirds coach said that isn’t an issue for his team. With a veteran team in place they can select players for the future.

“It’s good because we have a team roster right now where we can look at expansion next year in Fort Worth and know we will be losing a few guys in the dispersal draft. So we’re going to use this draft to fill the void of what we think we will probably lose.

“And for us, it’s really nice pieces in the cupboard. When they are available we are going to be able to bring them in and have them ready to go.”

Accursi said it’s anyone's guess who will be left on the board when they pick at No. 11 and 14 but knows he has to prepare for the future with an older roster.

“Depending on what happens above us and it definitely could change several times, whether we will get the guys we want or we won’t. I think we obviously have some age on our roster that we have to be sure we are prepared for when their time comes to an end.

“We will be looking for a D guy, lefty or righty. We would take either. And again really just try to add depth to our team.

Accursi will be making the Thunderbirds’ selections with team owner Curt Styres from Six Nations in Ontario.

The Thunderbirds also own picks at 20, 27, 47, 48, 78 and 91.

Waiting for return to Halifax

Accursi, who doubles as a school teacher in St. Catharines, Ont., is looking forward to a return to Halifax and pick up where the team left off when the season was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Thunderbirds led the North Division with an 8-4 record.

“Everyone is excited to get back to this and get back to Halifax and get on the path we were on last year.”

When that will be is still in the works said Accursi.

“They (NLL) have done a few different schedules depending on what COVID does and the (Canadian-U.S.) border. It depends on what the next few months brings us.”

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