Two long-time members of the Saskatchewan Rush were selected in the 2019 NLL Expansion Draft held on Tuesday afternoon.
The new Rochester Knighthawks chose forward Curtis Knight to open Round 5 of the Expansion Draft, and the New York Riptide followed one pick later by taking transition Jeff Cornwall.
“It is really tough losing Curtis in the Expansion Draft,” said Rush GM/head coach Derek Keenan. “He’s been such a good player for us for many years. But that’s the nature of the expansion in this era.
“The new clubs get a tremendous opportunity to build strength right out of the gate and that’s good for them and the league overall. If you look at the players chosen today, there’s a good foundation for both clubs.”
In the 2018 NLL Expansion Draft, the Rush lost transition Adrian Sorichetti and defenceman Brett Mydske both to the San Diego Seals. The Rush re-acquired Mydske later for a package of draft picks and a similar situation may play out with Cornwall.
“We’ve already had discussions with New York on getting Jeff back through trade,” noted Keenan. “We hope to get something done that will benefit both teams really soon.”
Knight was drafted eighth overall by the Rush in 2012 and was quickly an offensive force as he netted 46 points and earned a spot on the NLL All-Rookie Team in 2013. The Oshawa, Ontario, product set career-highs in goals (35), assists (37) and points (72) the following season and was named Team MVP. Knight missed the entire 2015 season due to injury, but helped the Rush win the first of two NLL titles in Saskatchewan in 2016 and 2018.
Knight spent part of last season in the transition position, but still managed to post 48 points along with career-highs in loose ball scoops (76) and caused turnovers (6).
In 99 career regular-season games with the Rush, Knight totaled 122 goals and 185 assists for 307 points. He added 14 goals and 25 assists for 39 points in 16 playoff games.
“Certainly a lot of mixed emotions,” offered Knight. “I’ve spent my entire career with the Rush organization up to this point. I’ve made many great friends and played with some incredible players on the Rush. Not to mention all Derek has done for me since my days in junior with the (Whitby) Warriors. It certainly isn’t easy leaving the Rush, but with all that said, I’m very excited for a new opportunity in Rochester.
“I love what (Rochester GM) Dan Carey has done with the team already and I’m happy to be apart of a new team working towards a championship. I can’t wait to get started.”
Cornwall did not play last season due to work commitments but remains one of the NLL’s fastest players and a clutch playoff performer. The Coquitlam, B.C., native was originally selected 15th overall by Buffalo in the 2011 NLL Entry Draft and was traded to the Rush the following year.
Cornwall set defensive career-bests in 2014 with 86 loose ball scoops and 29 caused turnovers, and then posted career-highs on offence in 2017 with 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound transition has racked up 28 goals and 47 assists for 75 points in 116 career regular-season games.
In the playoffs, Cornwall notched two of the Rush’s most-memorable goals. He scored an unassisted goal in Game 3 of the 2015 West Final against Calgary that helped the Rush advance to the championship series where they went on to win the Cup against Toronto. A year later, Cornwall brought a sold-out crowd at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon to its feet when he scored on a breakaway with 12 seconds to go in regulation time, giving the Rush a series-clinching goal in Game 2 of the Cup final against Buffalo and their second league title in a row.
Through 24 playoff games, Cornwall has nine goals and seven assists for 16 points.
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