The Buffalo Bandits hold the third, 13th, and 14th overall picks in the 2021 NLL Draft, which will be held virtually on Saturday, August 28 at 7 p.m. Fans can tune into the first two rounds on the NLL’s Facebook and YouTube channel.
Bandits.com caught up with Dhane Smith, Josh Byrne, and Ian MacKay to reflect on their own draft memories ahead of the event.
Dhane Smith – 5th overall, 2012
I look back at pictures from my draft and laugh at how young I look. I was 19 years old and super nervous about where I might end up, but Buffalo was always where I wanted to be.
Edmonton had the first overall pick that year. I kind of knew Mark Matthews was going there. Minnesota had the second, third, and fourth pick, and they had a reputation for liking to take younger players. I would have been happy to play for any team that would take me, but the fifth spot – the Bandits – was where I had my sights.
The first NLL game I ever went to was in Buffalo. I was 16 years old and had gone to watch my cousin, Billy Dee Smith, play for the Bandits. I remember taking in the atmosphere and seeing how the fans reacted when Billy fought that night and thinking, ‘Wow. I want to play here.’ Billy brought me to the dressing room after that game and introduced me to John Tavares.
I met J.T. for the second time three years later, at the NLL Draft. I ended up slipping to Buffalo at No. 5. I remember hearing my name and almost puking, I was so nervous. I still have the video saved from my interview that day. I was stumbling over my words and barely looking at the camera. It’s hilarious to go back and watch.
When I heard my name, I hugged my mom and my brother and went on stage. Darris and Rich Kilgour were both there, along with Steve Dietrich. J.T. handed me my jersey. I’m still wearing it 10 years later.
Josh Byrne – 1st overall, 2017
I knew I would be a Bandit about a week early. Buffalo said they were going to fly me out here for the Draft, which was about an hour and a half north in Oakville, Ontario. I roomed with Dhane Smith during that time, and we haven’t gotten rid of each other since.
Hearing my name was a dream come true. I grew up in British Columbia watching NLL games on TSN. I remember seeing J.T. and Mark Steenhuis and those teams light it up. When I heard my name, I thought about what kind of impact I could make wearing that uniform.
My advice to draft picks: If you are given the hat, adjust it. Don’t be like me, with the biggest hat in the world on your head. Learn from my mistake.
Ian MacKay – 4th overall, 2018
I flew into Philadelphia the morning of the Draft and met up with some friends who were also being selected that year. I remember having to sweat out traffic on the way from the hotel and worrying we might be late, but we thankfully we ended up not cutting it as close as we thought.
I was probably 98-percent sure I was going to the Bandits. They had the third and fourth picks that year. I had a very brief conversation with San Diego about the No. 1 pick, but once Austin Staats officially declared it was kind of his draft for the taking. Philadelphia was second and never reached out to me, plus I was good friends with Chris Cloutier and knew the Wings had interest in him.
I went to the Combine a few weeks prior to the Draft and met with four or five teams. All of them told me they had interest and would try to move up, but they were confident that Buffalo wouldn’t budge. That sort of reaffirmed what I thought.
Still, once it’s Draft night, you never know what’s going to happen. That’s why I say 98 percent. When I heard my name called to Buffalo, it was a dream come true. My uncle, Jim Moss, spent his NLL career mostly on the west coast with San Jose and Colorado. I would either go to Toronto or Buffalo to watch his games, and the memories from Banditland always stuck with me. I remember seeing all the orange afros for Mark Steenhuis and hearing Swennie lead different chants.
I also remember going around back to the security entrance after the game and meeting my uncle there. It’s the same entrance I use now on game days. It all came full circle.