We are midway through the 2018 NLL season, and several rookies are making a name for themselves. The Rookie of the Year award race is going to come down to the wire, in my opinion, between the first overall pick, Josh Byrne, and third overall pick, Zach Currier. Both are having terrific first years in very different ways.
Josh Byrne leads all rookies, by a wide margin, in points this season (36) with 17 goals and 19 assists. He has twice as many points as Dan Craig (17) who is second among rookies. Byrne has showcased his skills and athleticism this season. We can expect plenty of highlight-reel goals like this one over the course of his career.
Speed and athleticism can get you shot opportunities but so can off-ball play. The clip below shows Byrne taking advantage of defenders ball watching for just a second. He starts off with a sharp hitch to get the topside position, carries high to pull his defender to the restraining line then passes down to Jordan Durston in the low wing. Byrne’s defender sneaks a peek at the ball. Byrne notices the open lane and cuts through the teeth of the defense, Durston hits him in stride, and Byrne dunks it over Aaron Bold.
In the next clip, Byrne shows how picking then rolling can get you an easy goal. Mitch Jones receives the pass at the top of the restraining box; Jones passes to Dhane Smith on the far wing, Byrne shoves Zed Williams out of the play and rolls to the cage. Smith zips a pass cross floor back to Jones, Byrne continues to roll and faces the ball. Jones puts it in Byrne’s window, and he does the rest.
Byrne is quickly becoming one of the most dominate dodgers in the league. He is tied for third in dodging goals this season (10), but what is even more impressive is how accurate he is. Twenty-three players have over 40 dodging shots this season. The average shooting percentage amongst those players is 15%. Byrne has netted 23.26% of his dodging shots, second behind Adam Jones (31.82%). For perspective, his running mate and prolific dodger, Dhane Smith (17.46%), reigning MVP, Lyle Thompson (18.75%).
This clip shows Byrne operating the pick and roll. Jordan Durston sets the down pick, once Byrne notices Zed Williams playing flat footed and out of position he attacks the cage. The ref initially calls a no goal; but after further review, they reverse the call. Byrne hangs in the air just long enough for the ball to cross the goal line.
Josh Byrne’s greatest strength is in isolation. Byrne is second in isolation goals (7) and is first in isolation shooting percentage (36.84%) amongst players with 10 or more isolation shots; the NLL average is 13.55%. Bryne’s ability to get to the cage improves his chances to score. The clip below illustrates why he is shooting at such a high rate. Byrne easily beats the first man then jump cuts like Le’Veon Bell to the inside to evade the slide.
He can beat defenders in a variety of ways and has every dodge in the book. Check out this face dodge coming out of the box for a dunk.
At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds it’s amazing how quick Byrne is off the dodge. Watch this Allen Iverson split crossover from goal-line extended to a dive across the crease.
Byrne waste no time once he gets the ball in his stick. He beats Brad Gillies with this smooth toe drag and dives to the far post to beat Matt Vinc.
Josh Byrne’s ability to dodge will force defenses to send early slides, thus opening up shooting opportunities for his teammates. I expect Byrne’s assist numbers to rise in the future. NLL fans and MLL fans are in for a treat for the next decade because this guy is going to be a star in both leagues. Sit back and enjoy.