I’ve been looking forward to the upcoming Expansion Draft for months. We get to see two teams get created from scratch, which is every armchair GM’s dream. Trades and free agent signings and such are always exciting, so imagine eighteen of them all on the same day! As I’m sure many others have done, I’ve made my list of which players I would protect if I were an NLL GM. Some are obvious, some might be controversial, and there are probably a few “What are you thinking?” picks in there too. Let me know watcha think!
Recently, a Rush fan named Rob King tweeted an article suggestion:
An article I would love to see this summer is how/why each NLL franchise has the team name it does. What say you @NLL @StampLax @IL_Indoor @GraemePerrow @EvanSchemenauer @SmrtAsh @OffTheCrosseBar @sbdshanny @miawgordon @TysonLW ?????
— Rob King (@RKing85) April 23, 2018
Challenge accepted. There isn’t much of a story behind a few of them, but others are very interesting. I had a lot of fun researching this one, and I hope you enjoy these stories. I threw in a couple of “Did you knows” as I came across them.
It’s that time of year again! When some NLL players gear up for the playoffs while others dust off the golf clubs or join their MLL teams. It’s also time for the annual NLL award voting. I don’t have a vote in the NLL awards but I’ve submitted my picks for the real awards, which are of course those published on IL Indoor. In that series of articles, probably published next week sometime, I will have comments about who I picked to win so I won’t repeat them here. I will also mention my pre-season picks for these awards so we can either stare in amazement at my insight or laugh at my “insight”.
In my season preview articles (West and East), I picked a player for each team who I thought might have a breakout year, so I’ll also go over my “Look out for…” choices. Some panned out, while others were not as prescient as I might have hoped.
The Rock just keep rolling. I really tried not to use that old cliché but it’s just so appropriate right now. The team had averaged more than 20 goals per game over their last three and still managed to increase that average. Meanwhile the defense managed to prevent Shawn Evans from scoring and kept their opponents to under 10 goals for the third straight game.
The Rock offense took a while to get going. After Rob Hellyer’s goal 36 seconds in, it was almost nine minutes before their next goal, and then another 5½ before their third. I guess that’s their 2018 season in a nutshell: took a while to get the offense going but once they did… look out. Adam Jones continues to look much more like the Colorado Adam Jones than the Saskatchewan one; he, Hellyer, and Tom Schreiber seem to really love playing together. Craig, McArdle, and Reinholdt continue to produce as one of the better secondary scoring teams around. On the other hand, Brett Hickey only had one goal and that was in garbage time. He has less than half the points of Hellyer, Schreiber, and Jones, so I’m not sure what’s going on with him. Maybe he’s struggling with the new system, or perhaps he’s playing the Kasey Beirnes role – more of a grinder, allowing the other guys to get open rather than scoring the goals himself. But his ten shots on goal tell a different story. I’ll have to pay some more attention to him and see.
Tom Schreiber continues to work his butt off on every shift. It’s not just his goals which range from long-distance bullets to acrobatic crease dives, but he sets hard picks, digs in corners, holds onto the ball despite being double-teamed, and makes pinpoint passes through traffic when a teammate is open. He is quickly becoming my early pick for MVP. We’re only a third of the way through the season so obviously a lot can change but the man does everything, and does it very well.
The Rock as a whole were battling hard all night. Everyone was working for loose balls and intercepting passes (that happened a lot on both sides, actually). Even once they were up by seven or eight, they kept working hard – until they stopped. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Offense tends to get the glory, but Toronto’s defense had another strong game as well. In particular, I thought Brad Kri had an excellent game. Shawn Evans was frustrated all night that he couldn’t get clean shots and when he did all he could see was Rosey. He ended up with no goals, which is rare for Evans. The two Kevins, Buchanan and Crowley, managed to get open once or twice each and shot lasers past Rose, and former Rock forward Stephan Leblanc scored a couple as well.
Rose was strong most of the night, making a couple of highlight reel saves, though a couple of the goals he did allow were kind of soft and he probably wants them b… I mean they’re shots he probably should have stopped.
Aaron Bold didn’t have a great game at all, which should be obvious given the score. Glenn Clark left him in for quite a while – it was into the fourth quarter before Bold got the hook, and he’d already given up 16 goals. Doug Jamieson gave up five in 14 minutes so both goaltenders ended up with almost identical GAAs: 20.98 for Bold and 21.05 for Jamieson. Some of the goals weren’t the fault of the goaltenders though. When Adam Jones has the ball alone on the edge of the crease and has a couple of seconds to decide where to put it, that’s a defensive breakdown, not a failing of the goaltender. If you’re a baseball fan, that’s the “unearned run” of lacrosse.
One interesting thing I noticed about Bold: immediately after he allows a goal, sometimes before the ball is even retrieved from the net, he gets himself set up again and practices the moves that would have stopped that shot, like “here’s what I should have done”. He does that once or twice, then gets on with the game. Matt Vinc does this as well. Maybe that’s their way of not allowing a goal to get to them and affect their confidence – this is the mistake I made, here’s how I’ll stop it the next time, now we can move on. Nick Rose doesn’t do the “practice” thing but he’s also really good at not letting goals rattle him.
The game was quite entertaining for the most part, but it seemed that “garbage time” lasted quite a while. The Rock kept pushing the ball and playing hard until they got to 20 goals, and then they flipped the switch to keep-away mode. The Rock scored six goals in about four minutes at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and then only one more over the next 10+ minutes. As soon as they hit 20, each Rock possession took 29 seconds and they passed up a few obvious scoring opportunities in order to kill clock. I certainly don’t blame them for this, running up the score any further was unnecessary, I just thought it was interesting how different the game looked the second they they hit the 20-goal plateau.
Other game notes:
- Dan Lintner was scratched again. He played in the two Rock losses and watched all four wins. That’s gotta suck when you’re 25 and not injured. Seriously, I like his game and what he brings to the floor but if someone will give you a second-round pick for him, send him. Keeping him on the bench is unfair to him.
- The announcer tried a couple of new things: when Rob Hellyer scored, he says “Robbie who?” and we’re all supposed to yell either “Hell yeah!” or “Hellyer”, it wasn’t entirely clear which. But “Johnny who?” “TAVARES!” was a call in Buffalo for many many years, and for anyone who’s seen a game in Banditland, this was a little familiar. Too soon, man.
- The other thing the announcer did was after some goals he said something to the effect of “Rock fans: holler if you hear me!” which I didn’t understand. Perhaps he was just testing the microphone (“Is this thing on? Holler if you hear me”), or maybe it’s a reference to a song or movie or something that I’m too old to get.
- Props to DJ Sweet Lou for playing The Tea Party and Metallica among the electronic dancy stuff. I’m not a big fan of the dancy stuff, though as I’ve said before, I’m not the target demographic either. But the world needs more Tea Party. Even better: add in a little Muse and Porcupine Tree.
- Very clean game, which is unusual for a blowout like this. Only two penalties in the entire game, one to each team.
- Dear Rock players: when there’s a group of kids standing on the restraining line as you are introduced, you need to give them a glove tap before you acknowledge your teammates. The first four or five players do this, and then the rest of the team doesn’t. It’s kind of sad to see these kids standing out there watching the Rock players run past them as if they weren’t there.
- The Rock had the “Rock cheerleader alumni” perform at halftime. Some of those dancers were part of the Rock cheerleading squad 20 years ago – which means they’re in their 40’s now – and they did a great job.
- Classy move by the Rock to acknowledge the contributions of Stephen Leblanc during the game. I saw a few Black Wolves players banging their sticks on the boards as well and one or two gave Leblanc a literal pat on the back.
I’ve left out the summary of offseason roster moves since that’s in my Who’s In, Who’s Out article. Here, we’ll cover where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and as always, a haiku for each team. We’ll start with the East, then cover the West tomorrow.
Look out for
Obviously first-overall draft pick Josh Byrne will get a lot of floor time but if I had to pick someone else, I might go with Alex Buque. There is some debate over whether he’s ready to be an everyday starter but I think so.
Their big problem last year was defense. Improving the goaltending is a start but the Bandits didn’t actually improve the defense – in fact it doesn’t look like they even tried. With the losses of Billy Dee Smith, Andrew Watt, David Brock, and Alex Kedoh Hill, who’s going to prevent Buque from seeing 65 shots a game? Priolo and de Snoo are great but they can only do so much.
Fifth in the east.
Cosmo has retired
Crawford replaces Benesch
It’s Showtime, baby!
Look out for
Johnny Powless. Only 50 points for Powless last season, but he only played in 10 games. That would give him 90 points over 18 games. Lefty Jordan Hall will be replaced by lefty Jesse King but Jerome Thompson will be playing more transition and defense this season, which will probably result in more touches for Powless.
The offense is still top notch, but with all the top-name T/D players who are out, their defense could be shaky. They might win a number of 17-16 nailbiters.
Second in the east.
Lots of defenders are out
Jesse King is back
Look out for
Reilly O’Connor. Of the lefties on last year’s Black Wolves squad, Culp, Saunders, and Veltman are gone, leaving O’Connor, Kevin Buchanan, and rookie JP Kealey. O’Connor looked strong in the preseason game against the Rock.
Those who aren’t fans of Aaron Bold say that the reason for his success in Edmonton / Saskatchewan was the great defense in front of him. Well, now we’ll see if they’re right. That’s not to say that New England’s defense is lousy, but it’s not at the same level as Bold has been used to.
Third in the east.
Aaron Bold in net
Evans, Crowley score up front
No Bill O’Brien
Look out for
It might seem weird but I’m going to say Dan Dawson. Dawson had his worst season in ages in 2017 but looked great at the Heritage Cup. I think he’ll rebound this year. We may not see 100+ points but he’ll look more like the old Dan Dawson than the 2017 model.
After one of the lowest-scoring seasons in NLL history (9.72 goals per game, the 11th lowest average ever), the Knighthawks used their second-overall draft pick to grab… a defenseman who specializes in face-offs. I mean no disrespect to Jake Withers but I don’t think that’s what the Knighthawks needed. They did also draft Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell, both forwards, and it’s possible that Cody Jamieson will return sometime this season, but there’s been no word on that.
Fourth in the east.
Billy Dee comes in
But he will not help them score
And still no Jammer
Look out for
I’m really tempted to put Rob Hellyer here but that’s too obvious. I’m going to go with Drew Belgrave. I don’t know if he’ll be a Rookie of the Year candidate but I liked how he looked in the pre-season.
Hellyer, Hickey, Jones, Schreiber, Leblanc. Out of curiosity, what’s the record for most 100-point players on the same team in one year? I’m glad you asked! It’s the 2005 Toronto Rock, who had three (Doyle, Manning, Sanderson). How coincidental. If this year’s Rock can stay healthy, this could be one of the most potent offenses ever. I’m looking forward to the first Rock/Swarm game, which could end up 38-37 in OT.
First in the east.
The front line is strong
Hellyer, Jones will score a bunch
Good team gets better
Saturday night featured the final game of the pre-season, the New England Black Wolves visiting the Toronto Rock. After a strong first quarter, the Rock gave up the lead in the second and were down 7-5 at the half. New England continued their strong play in the low-scoring third, taking a 9-6 lead, but Toronto’s offense suddenly came to life in the fourth. They scored four goals in about a minute and a half to take the lead. New England tied it up at 10 but two more goals by the Rock plus an empty-netter gave the Rock a 13-10 victory.
Aaron Bold started in net for the Black Wolves, and I was interested to see how he’d perform for his new team. The answer: pretty well. He only allowed five goals, and made all the stops he was expected to make. He wasn’t super-energetic but wasn’t really tested much so he didn’t have to be. Doug Jamieson played the second half and despite giving up more goals, I thought he was better than Bold. He faced an Adam Jones penalty shot, where he waited Jones out and then prevented the last-second dunk attempt, and stopped a Latrell Harris breakaway as well. He did allow the four goals in 90 seconds but besides that short blip, Jamieson was great.
Nick Rose played the entire game for the Rock and was solid. One move he seems to be making more this year is when a shot comes in low, he stops it and flips the ball high in the air, then either catches it or reaches up and scoops it. Seems like a dangerous move to me; I’d rather have him just catch it, but it’s better than giving up a rebound.
Both teams were without one or two of their top scorers: neither Shawn Evans nor Kevin Crowley played for New England and Tom Schreiber was missing for the Rock. Evans was there and participated in the warmups but didn’t play in the game. I thought Kyle Buchanan and Reilly O’Connor played really well on the offense and David Brock on the D. I was sitting near friends and/or family of Wolves transition player Colton Wilkinson, and he also played well, even scoring a pretty transition goal.
For the Rock, I saw Dan Lintner a lot, and Hellyer / Hickey / Jones looked pretty good though there were some sloppy plays here and there – someone passing to where someone else was a few seconds ago, or where they thought they should be rather than where they are. I also noticed Drew Belgrave and Brock Sorensen on the defensive side. Belgrave’s got some speed and made a few nifty moves on some Wolves defenders while waiting for the offense to get onto the floor. If the Rock are going to be without Jesse Gamble this season, Belgrave looks like he might be a pretty decent replacement.
Scorers: for New England, Kyle Buchanan (3), O’Connor (2), and singles by Oakes, Chaykowsky, Bomberry, Coyle, and Watkinson. For Toronto: Hellyer (3), Hickey (3), Jones (2), Lintner (2), Reinholdt (2), and Caputo (who still doesn’t have his name on his jersey) had one.
Other game notes:
- The Rock’s game summary featured this description of Reid Reinholdt’s goal in the fourth: “Reinholdt scored on a backhand shovel shot that would have made Rock legend Colin Doyle proud.” I didn’t think about it at the time but they’re right – I can totally see Colin Doyle taking that shot.
- Props to Black Wolves rookie Nick Chaykowsky, who stood his ground as the 6’4″ Brodie Merrill was coming up the floor in transition. Merrill hit Chaykowsky square in the chest but it was Merrill that bounced back – Chaykowsky didn’t move.
- Dan Lintner scored a goal in the fourth quarter that looked like what I’ll call a “crease-diving alley oop”, which may or may not be a thing. It was on the net furthest from me so I didn’t have a great view, but someone passed him the ball and he dove across the crease and scored. But the timing was such that it looked like he received the pass while already in the air sideways. This would have to be a set play and the odds of it working are almost zero so I’m sure I just got the timing wrong or something. Nice goal though.
- The Black Wolves were wearing orange jerseys (without names, grrrrrr) with black numbers on the back (see above). Had to remind myself that they weren’t the Bandits.
- No diet pop at the TRAC! Not all of us are athletes who need Gatorade ya know! Though the bottle of water I ended up having was healthier than the Coke Zero I wanted, so thanks, I guess.
Here it is: a complete summary of all the roster changes for each team, all in one place.
Note that these are the changes as of the final roster from last season, so a player might be listed as “In” even if he played for that team during 2017. And a player who’s injured but still part of that team will be listed as “out”.
Last updated: December 7, 2017
In: Reid Acton, Alex Buque, Josh Byrne, Callum Crawford, Jordan Durston, Chase Fraser, Ethan Schott, Ryan Wagner
Out: Ryan Benesch, Anthony Cosmo, Tim Edwards, Alex Kedoh Hill, Anthony Malcom, Blaze Riorden, Billy Dee Smith, Andrew Watt, Adam Will
PUP: Dallas Bridle
Practice Roster: Gowah Abrams, Vaughan Harris, Liam Patten, Zac Reid
Tons of new faces for the Bandits including three rookies. Callum Crawford strengthens the Bandits’ right side while his former Swarm teammate Ryan Benesch is replaced on the left side by Jordan Durston. Alex Buque replaces newly retired Anthony Cosmo and will probably get the nod as the everyday starter.
According to Steve Bermel just moments ago (I was literally seconds away from clicking the “publish” button on this article when I saw his tweet), Alex Kedoh Hill is an RFA because the Bandits offered him a contract but he didn’t sign it. “If any team makes him an offer, the Bandits have 72 hours to match it.”
In: Frank Brown, Warren Hill, Jesse King, Kevin Orleman, Zed Williams
Out: Mitch Belisle, Liam Byrnes, Jordan Hall, Brodie MacDonald, Ethan O’Connor, Chad Tutton, Joel White
PUP: Chad Tutton
Holdout: Jordan Hall, Mason Jones, Ethan O’Connor, Joel White
Practice Roster: Liam Byrnes, Isaiah Davis-Allen, Lauchlin Elder, Brayden Hill
More changes to the Swarm roster than they might have liked. Hall and White are out for non-lacrosse-job-related reasons, Belisle retired, MacDonald was traded, and Tutton is injured. Jordan Hall was acquired last year when the Swarm found out that Jesse King would miss the season, but this year the Swarm were going to have a “problem” fitting King into the lineup. Problem solved – King ironically replaces Hall who’s going to miss the season. The Swarm have made the odd move of keeping three goaltenders on the roster.
In: Aaron Bold, Adam Bomberry, David Brock, Mark Cockerton, JP Kealey, John Lafontaine, Colton Watkinson
Out: Brett Bucktooth, Chad Culp, Ryan Hotaling, Evan Kirk, Brooker Muir, Bill O’Brien, Zac Reid
IR: Ryan Hotaling
Practice Roster: Nick Chaykowsky, Anthony Joaquim, Nick Mariano, Rance Vigneux
The biggest move is obviously at goaltender, where Aaron Bold replaces Evan Kirk. David Brock becomes the latest ex-Bandit to join the Black Wolves. Bucktooth and Culp retired, and the release of Bill O’Brien was a bit of a surprise, seeing as he was one of the faces of the franchise in recent years. All four guys on the practice roster will be featured in the NLL Pronunciation Guide when they make the NLL.
In: Eric Fannell, Austin Shanks, Eric Shewel, Billy Dee Smith, Jake Withers
Out: Jordan Dance, Jarrett Davis, Dylan Evans, Marty Hill, Luke Laskiewicz, Quinn Powless, Andrew Suitor, Sean Young
IR: Cody Jamieson
PUP: Dylan Evans
Practice Roster: Greg Longboat, Adam Perroni, Quinn Powless, Mike Triolo
A bunch of rookies and a 35-year-old vet join the Knighthawks, while most of the “Out” list are guys who only played one year with Rochester. Jarrett Davis is both in that club (played 2017 in Roch and Saskatchewan the year before that) and not in that club (played two years in Roch in 2011-2012).
Notably absent is Cody Jamieson, who will start the year on the IR. All the team has said is that Jamieson has “been making great strides to get back in the lineup”. But given what happened last year (he came back from being injured in the playoffs the year before, played five minutes, tweaked his knee again, and missed the rest of the season), I imagine they’ll play it pretty safe this time around.
In: Phil Caputo, Rob Hellyer, Adam Jones, Brandon Slade, Brock Sorensen
Out: Kasey Beirnes, Turner Evans, Jesse Gamble, Jeff Gilbert, Challen Rogers
IR: Turner Evans, Challen Rogers
PUP: Dan Craig
Practice Roster: Drew Belgrave, Riley Hutchcraft, Adam Jay, Darryl Robertson
Protected: Paul Rabil
Caputo was on the team for parts of last season but as an offensive player. With the return of Hellyer and the addition of Jones, his skills aren’t really needed up front so he’s now a defender and will probably play some transition as well. Gamble will miss the year for work and Beirnes and Gilbert retired. Rob Marshall retired as well but he missed almost all of last year. As a Rock fan, I’m looking forward to the potentially devastating front line of Hellyer / Hickey / Jones / Leblanc / Schreiber / Lintner.
In: Zach Currier, Anthony Kalinich, Tyler Pace
Out: Mike Carnegie, Scott Carnegie, Jeff Shattler, Bob Snider
IR: Kellen LeClair
PUP: Mike Carnegie
Practice Roster: Steph Charbonneau, Ryan Martel, Bob Snider
The “In” list is all rookies, but there are some big names on that “Out” list.
Wes Berg hasn’t signed a contract yet, so you’d hope he won’t be out for long. Shattler was signed by the rival Rush, Mike Carnegie is injured, Scott Carnegie was cut (!!) and Bob Snider is on the practice roster.
Update: Wes Berg was signed.
In: Ryan Benesch, Scott Carnegie, Brody Eastwood, Steve Fryer,
Rowan Kelly, Ryan Lee, Quinn MacKay, Nick Ossello
Out: Brent Adams, Alex Buque, Dan Coates, Callum Crawford, Ilija Gajic, Cam Holding,
IR: Brent Adams
PUP: Dan Coates, Zack Greer, Cam Holding, Bryce Sweeting
Practice Roster: Tim Edwards, Rowan Kelly, Jarrod Neumann, Nick Ossello
2018 will be the first season without Ilija Gajic in the league since 2009. Benny takes over for Crawford while Fryer assumes the backup goalie role left by Buque. The losses of Holding and Coates will not help the defense but they still have Hope. (See what I did there?)
In: Evan Kirk, Jeff Shattler
Out: Aaron Bold, Adam Jones, John Lafontaine
PUP: Nic Bilic
Practice Roster: Nick Finlay, Johnny Pearson, Tor Reinholdt, Adam Shute
As usual, not many changes for the Rush but the changes they did make are pretty significant. Bold is out, Kirk is in, while Adam Jones is in Toronto, replaced by Jeff Shattler. John Lafontaine is in New England and will likely be replaced by Nic Bilic when he returns from injury.
In: Ryan Fournier, Brandon Goodwin, Brodie MacDonald, Tony Malcom, Andrew Suitor
Out: Cory Conway, Jordan Durston, Jon Harnett, Curtis Hodgson, Thomas Hoggarth, Tyler Richards, Ryan Wagner
IR: Jon Harnett, Thomas Hoggarth, Casey Jackson
Holdout: Tyler Garrison, Jarrett Toll
Practice Roster: Patrick O’Meara, Eric Penney, Tyson Roe, Cody Teichroeb
The Cory Conway experiment lasted about half a year. No mention was made of Garrett Billings at all this pre-season so that experiment is also over (but we knew that at the end of last season). Hodgson retired, Richards was released, and Durston and Wagner are now Bandits. Brodie MacDonald beat out Eric Penney and Zach Higgins for the backup goalie job, but that was not a surprise either. The Stealth traded for MacDonald a month ago, and you don’t trade for someone to let them compete for a job. Andrew Suitor was likely a nice surprise for the Stealth – they picked him up two days before rosters were due to be submitted to the league. A nice surprise, that is, for everyone except the defenseman who was cut to make room for Suitor.