Going into this past Saturday’s late-season Western Conference clash against the Saskatchewan Rush, the Colorado Mammoth’s breakout star, Eli McLaughlin, was battling a cold and sounding noticeably under the weather.
24 hours before game time, McLaughlin was definitely not in his attacking form that he’s been in all season long, but by the time the ball was spotted on the X, it was clear that his drive to take down his team’s conference rivals had cured him, at least long enough to make it to the final horn.
Speaking with the 23-year-old Surrey-native, two things stand out above the rest: his confidence in his game and his drive to win.
But, before he came out and said, “I came into this season wanting to be an elite player in this league” he was quick to attribute many of his adjustments to the work he’s put in with his veteran teammates, Callum Crawford and John Grant Jr. Adam Jones also helped him out before he was shipped to the Rush in the fall before this season.
Crawford and Grant Jr. in particular who are nine and 19 year his senior have been working with the third-year Mammoth attackmen as they look to pass the offensive torch to McLaughlin.
He has shown his leadership on the turf as the standout youngster on the squad in 2017 with other skillful young scorers, Chris Wardle, Jacob Ruest, and Jeremy Noble trailing just behind in points
With four games remaining in the season, McLaughlin stands second-best on the extraordinarily talent-filled Mammoth for goals (23), assists (31), and points (54). He has also capitalized often on the power play scoring a third of his tallies (8) on the man-up, tying him for the team lead.
His scoring ability has been added by Grant Jr. who, “has taught me how I can beat certain goalies.” he elaborated by saying “with his scoring prowess over the years, he’s learned [the goalies] tendencies.”
As for the assist game, he gives the nod to Crawford. “On the quick sticks, he always tells me where to be, he’ll let me know to move over”
All this instruction from some of the greatest scorers in the National Lacrosse League hypes McLaughlin up to want to be the best, especially against the Rush. “I really like to school anyone that Sasketchen Rush defense. They’re always saying how they’re the best, so you want to go out there and give it to them”.
That night at the Pepsi Center, McLaughlin gave everything he could. He took six shots (three on goal), dishing out a hat tricks worth of assists and scoring a spectacular Gary Gait-style goal coming over the back of the goal and sneaking the ball in behind the Rush’s, Aaron Bold’s, back.
It was his ninth game with at least four points which put him in second place on the team for that mark behind Crawford’s 12 games reaching that magic number.
McLaughlin’s obvious growing talent is still in its infancy. When I asked him if he sees himself becoming one of the league’s few 100+ point-getters in the NLL, he simply said, “That’s the goal.”
If he reaches that goal and plays as long and as well as his mentors Crawford and Grant Jr., McLaughlin would go down as one of the greatest indoor lacrosse players coming out of Surrey.
So far, so good, even when he’s not physically 100%.