A brief look at each Western Division team, how they’ve changed from last year, and how I think they’ll do this year. For each team, I’ve picked one player that will have a breakout year and as I always do, I’ve included a haiku.
Nobody has fewer roster changes than the Roughnecks. Scott Ranger has retired and Tor Reinholdt is now on the practice roster. Back are former Roughnecks Scott Carnegie and Jeff Moleski. Former MVP Shawn Evans is currently on the injured list but will apparently be ready when the season begins.
Look out for
It’s likely that Matthew Dinsdale will get a lot more playing time this season, effectively replacing Ranger on the right side. We can probably expect more than the 17 points that he picked up last year. But I think my pick for breakout season would be Karsen Leung. Leung was not one of the final three Rookie of the Year nominees, but a lot of people thought he should at least have been mentioned. Leung is an effective offensive transition player who always looks comfortable on the floor.
First in west.
But can Dinsdale replace him?
Hey, Moleski’s back!
Gone are Joel Dalgarno, Tye Belanger, and Mike McNamara (and Casey Powell, though he only played 5 games anyway). In are Tyler Codron, Ian Hawksbee, Alex Turner, and rookies Robert Hope and Eli McLaughlin. If Dillon Ward falters, the Mammoth backup is Alex Buque, another rookie, so that might be a bit of a concern.
Look out for
Dillon Ward will be the best Mammoth goalie since Gee Nash. Can he lead the Mammoth back to the Championship like Nash did? Not sure I’d go that far, but I predict that if they don’t make it there, it won’t be because of Ward.
Third in west.
Grant leads the offense
They still have three coaches, and
Hope for the future
Not many. Ben McIntosh and Corey Small replace Alex Turner and Curtis Knight on offense, and Tyler Carlson replaces Brodie MacDonald as Aaron Bold’s backup. Knight is injured but I don’t know for how long. As I said in my listing of roster changes, the hard part will be deciding what to do when Knight is ready to return.
Derek Keenan will also be missing the season but the Rush have not announced who will be acting head coach this year. Maybe they’ll pull a Mammoth and go with a committee of coaches.
Look out for
Corey Small was injured all of last season, so he’ll be itching to get back onto an NLL floor. And we thought the Rush were good last year.
Second in west.
Corey Small returns
Last year: tough act to follow
Carlson backs up Bold
Chris Hall retired in June before passing away just before Christmas so this will be a difficult and emotional season for the Stealth. Dan Perreault takes over the coaching duties with a significantly modified roster. Johnny Powless is a big addition to the offense, but they’re down Alex Gajic and Bretts Bucktooth and Hickey. The transition and defense are very different from last season, missing Grimes, Beers, Moleski, and Sorensen. This might sound like a disaster but new faces Tylers Burton and Hass, Joel McCready, and Rory Smith will help. That said, it does seem that they have lots of transition and less pure D.
Look out for
Joel McCready. “The other guy” in the Powless trade will step up for the Stealth and become a solid if unspectacular part of the offense. He won’t replace Rhys Duch as the offensive leader or anything, but he’ll be more of a reliable Kasey Beirnes kind of guy who’ll have 3 or 4 points in each game and 7 or 8 every now and again.
I’ll be the one to say it. I’m not sure Johnny Powless will be the superstar the Stealth are banking on. He’s an exciting player to watch and certainly has skill, and yes he’s won three championships, but he’s been fourth in team scoring in each of his three seasons, scoring 50, 41, and 53 points. That’s while playing with Dan Dawson and Cody Jamieson (total: 199 points last year). Vancouver’s top two scorers last year were Rhys Duch and Tyler Digby (total: 138 points). Does this change give him the freedom to become one of those top two players, or will he end up in the 50-60 point range again and remain in the second tier? My gut (which has certainly been known to be wrong) tells me it’s the latter.
Fourth in west.
Powless has arrived
Defense is decimated
But lots of Tylers