2020 NLL West preview

I’ve done the North and East, so today we’ll preview the West division.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Considering they’re the reigning NLL champs, it’s not surprising that the Roughnecks didn’t make many roster changes. Captain Dan MacRae was taken in the expansion draft by New York, Riley Loewen signed with the Warriors, and Reece Callies and Rhys Duch are both injured. That’s it. In their place are Marshal King (Jesse’s brother), Haiden Dickson (no relation to Curtis), Liam LeClair (brother of former Roughneck Kellen LeClair), and Ryan Martel (not related to anyone in the NLL so far as I know). Martel played 15 games over the last two seasons for Calgary but is still only 21, and the other three are rookies.

When you win it all one year and change very little, you’re generally among the favourites the next year. To be the best, you have to beat the best, right? No reason to believe the Roughnecks won’t be in the hunt again this season.

Look out for

It would surprise precisely nobody if Jesse King had a monster year so I’ll go out on a limb and say… Jesse King.

Prediction

First in the west.


MammothColorado Mammoth

Colorado lost a few big names in the offseason – Cory Vitarelli, Jeremy Noble, Brad Self, and Ian Llord are all gone. Noble had a terrible season, and the other three played six games each with the Mammoth, so the losses aren’t really that devastating. But other than Tyler Carlson, brought in to replace backup goalie Steve Fryer, all the new guys are really new guys – NLL newbs.

The defense and transition is much the same, which is good news since only the Bandits gave up fewer goals than the Mammoth last year. Dillon Ward is back though as I said, Tyler Carlson will be backing him up instead of Steve Fryer. Ward will still take the majority of starts but Carlson is a veteran backup so the Mammoth aren’t in trouble if Ward falters. Offense was the Mammoth’s weak point last year – only one team gave up fewer goals, but only one team (the Warriors) scored fewer as well. With all the turnover in the offense, I hope the rookies play well or this could be a long season.

Look out for

That Killen kid impressed a lot of people last year, with 49 points in 15 games. With Noble, Keogh, and Adams all gone, Killen will be asked to take on a bigger role on the right side this season. He could be really good.

Prediction

Fourth in the west.


SealsLogoSan Diego Seals

Lots of turnover in the Seals camp as well. Gone are Dan Dawson, Turner Evans, Garrett Billings, Joe Walters, Paul Dawson, Kyle Hartzell, Tyler Carlson, and Adrian Sorichetti. Austin Staats and Casey Jackson begin the season on the IR. Sounds terrible, right? It may not be so bad. Joining the Seals are Wes Berg, Jeremy Noble, Zack Greer, Mike Carnegie, and Evan Messenger, so all is not lost in SoCal. They still have Kyle Buchanan, Connor Kearnan, and Connor Fields and while Fields only played in two games last year due to injuries, he finished fourth in points and second in goals in the PLL over the summer. Could he be the next field-star-becomes-box-star à la Tom Schreiber? That may be optimistic but I think we can count on him for a lot more than the five points he contributed last year. Assuming Greer can shake off the rust after his year of retirement and Noble turns back into the real Jeremy Noble and not the guy who couldn’t score last year, the Seals may still have a pretty good offense, made even better when Jackson and Staats return.

Frank Scigliano holds down the fort in net again, though his backup is Nick Damude, who has no NLL experience. The defense and transition corps consists of a pretty good mix of vets and rookies but one of the vets is lacrosse legend Brodie Merrill, and if you’re a rookie defender, there aren’t many guys you want to learn from more than Brodie.

Last year, I said that if everything works out for the Seals, they could be a very good team. Well, everything worked out and they were a very good team. I’m not sure this year’s Seals are better than last year’s but if everything works out, they won’t be far off.

Look out for

Wes Berg will be itching to prove that he is worth the money Calgary didn’t want to pay him, so I see a big year for him.

Prediction

Third in the west.


RushSaskatchewan Rush

Good news for the Rush: Ryan Dilks and Jeff Cornwall are back! (Well, Cornwall isn’t quite but will be soon.) Bad news: they lost Nik Bilic, Brett Mydske, and Curtis Knight. Good news: they’re such a deep team that they’ll still be great. Bad news: So will Calgary.

Losing Curtis Knight will hurt the Rush, both more than you might think – because he was an important piece of their offense – and less then you might think – because they’re so deep. 2018 5th overall draft pick Connor Robinson will see more playing time, and guys like Ryan Keenan and Marty Dinsdale will get some more minutes to make up for the loss of Knight.

The Rush defense has been their strong point for years and while losing Mydske will hurt, getting Dilks back will make up for that. Jeff Cornwall will likely score more than Bilic would have but Bilic was a fan favourite known for his grit and toughness (and, yes, fights) more than his goal-scoring.

Look out for

Marty Dinsdale has been one of those “under the radar” sort of guys for years, but the weird thing is how everyone talks about the fact that nobody talks about him. Dinsdale will take over some of Curtis Knight’s role and we might see his point totals increase.

Prediction

Second in the west.


PrintVancouver Warriors

No blockbuster trades for the Warriors this off-season, but they did make a couple of significant moves. Signing Nik Bilic is huge. He brings “sandpaper” (as Teddy Jenner put it) to the team, and he’s a veteran who’s won Championships, and you can never have too many of those. And the Warriors don’t have many of those. Another vet defender who wasn’t there last year is Chris O’Dougherty, another guy who brings grit and toughness to the Vancouver back end.

The front end isn’t hugely different, with Riley Loewen taking over for Tony Malcom. Keegan Bal stepped up his game big-time last season, so he’ll be expected to continue his strong play, and Mitch Jones is also coming off of his best season. Other than those two and Malcom, only Logan Schuss and Jordan McBride had more than twenty points last year. The Warriors scored the fewest goals of any team in 2019, so some more scoring up front and in transition wouldn’t be unwelcome.

Eric Penney and Aaron Bold split time between the pipes last year, and both are back again this year. Will Penney finally take his spot as the #1 starter, a position the Warriors (and Stealth before them) seem to have been saving for him for years, or will he continue to fight Bold for that spot? The team is probably fine either way – competition between the two isn’t a bad thing, but if Penney plays well enough to grab that spot for himself, so much the better.

Look out for

Similar to Curtis Knight stepping out from behind the Rush’s top three, Riley Loewen is expected to be one of the top scorers instead of playing behind them.

Prediction

Fifth in the west.

2020 NLL East preview

Yesterday I started with the North division, today we’ll cover the East. Where I think they will end up in the standings and who might have a breakout year.

SwarmGeorgia Swarm

Take a team that finished second in the division last year, add Joel White and Jordan Hall, and give their goalie a ton of confidence with a Mann Cup, Mann Cup MVP award, and a WILC Championship over the summer and what do you get? The top team in the east, that’s what. Lyle and Miles, Randy, and Shayne already made an impressive top-four, possibly the best in the league, and adding Hall and two former transition guys in Zed Williams and Bryan Cole rounds out an amazing offense. Their D is mostly the same as last year and transition has been improved as well with the addition of White and Kason Tarbell, who impressed at the WILC’s.

Look out for

Zed Williams has flown under the radar for a while as a scoring threat but no longer.

Prediction

First in the east.


Black WolvesNew England Black Wolves

New England has added a few players to their offense that could make a significant difference. Andrew Kew was expected to be the #1 draft choice and while New York seems quite happy with Tyson Gibson, I think the Wolves are equally happy that Kew fell to third. Losing Tyler Digby’s size and strength will hurt but the additions of Jordan Durston and Tony Malcom will offset that. Durston, in particular, is good at digging out loose balls and creating space up the middle, and giving guys like Stephan Leblanc and Callum Crawford extra chances or more space is not good for opposing goalies. After an excellent 2018, Joe Resetarits picked up 34 extra points in 2018 over 2017, but dropped 33 in 2019. One of those two years was probably an anomaly, so perhaps a full season with the Black Wolves will tell us which.

Defense consists of three seasoned veterans in Manney, LaFontaine, and newcomer Creighton Reid along with a bunch of guys under 25. The goalies are young too – Doug Jamieson will be in his second season as a starter, but he’s only 24 and backup Ethan Woods is a rookie.

Look out for

Jordan Durston won’t score 100 points, but he could climb back to the 60-70 point range that he hit in 2018 with the Bandits.

Prediction

Second in the east.


Riptide-smallNew York Riptide

Last season we talked about the Seals as “not looking like an expansion team”, and they finished above .500 and hosted a playoff game. The Rochester Knighthawks, in my opinion, may not have quite that level of success but they look pretty good too. The Riptide look a little more like your typical expansion team – some vets here and there but lots of unproven players with a year or two of experience and a bunch of rookies. That’s not to say they’re definitely going to suck. Guys like McArdle and Digby know how to find the back of the net, and Tyson Gibson was selected first overall for a reason.

Ranagan, MacRae, Suitor and Manley are all solid veteran D guys, but I have concerns about Alex Buque as the starting goalie. He had that job in both Buffalo and New England and lost it in both cases. He’s obviously a year older and more experienced now so maybe this is his shot – and maybe on a team with no expectations, he’ll get consistent starts and minutes which can only help.

Like I said, I’m not saying they will definitely be bad, but there are too many question marks for me.

Look out for

Tyler Digby had a resurgence in New England last year. He has the most NLL experience of any forward and so is likely to become the de facto leader of the offense.

Prediction

Fourth in the east.


WingsPhiladelphia Wings

The Wings have made a lot of changes this year. Both goalies are out, and guys like Dylan Evans, Jordan Hall, and Vaughn Harris are also gone. But the Wings will get Brett Hickey back after missing most of last year, and have also added Cory Vitarelli and Kevin Buchanan to their offense. Along with Kevin Crowley, Blaze Riorden, and Josh Currier, that’s a pretty decent offense. Matt Rambo was a Rookie of the Year candidate last year and then was the scoring leader, league MVP, and Championship game MVP over the summer in the PLL – if he can inject some of the intensity and raw skill he showed in the PLL into the Wings, look out.

The new faces on offense will allow Kiel Matisz to stick with transition, not that having him play offense was a problem.

All three goalies from last season are gone, replaced by Zach Higgins and the un-retired Brandon Miller. I expect Higgins to get most of the minutes with Miller as backup and part-time unofficial goalie coach. Higgins was a starter for the 2015 Swarm but has been a backup ever since. The defense in front of Higgins or Miller is quite young and inexperienced with the exception of Matisz and 13-year veteran Ian Llord. When Llord played his first NLL game, Wings rookie Alex Pace was eight years old.

Look out for

Brett Hickey, I’m sure, has been itching to get back on the floor since he was injured in the third game last year. I expect him to put up some serious numbers this year.

Prediction

Third in the east.

2020 NLL North preview

This is my first-ever NLL North division preview! Here’s where I think each team will end up in the standings and who might have a breakout year.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

The Bandits went to the finals last year, but have since lost Shawn Evans, Jordan Durston, and Thomas Hoggarth and replaced them all with Quinn Powless. That’s not to say that Dhane Smith, Corey Small, Chase Fraser, Josh Byrne, and Chris Cloutier aren’t a formidable offense, but that’s a lot of firepower to lose in one year. Defense looks pretty good and transition could be excellent. Back in the net, Matt Vinc is still Matt Vinc.

Look out for

Josh Byrne was headed for an excellent season in 2019 but missed half the season with an injury. Assuming he’s fully healthy, he could blow the doors off the East North division.

Prediction

Second in the north.


Thunderbirds-smallHalifax Thunderbirds

Last year’s Knighthawks had a lousy season up until April, when they won four of their last five. Halifax has made a few changes throughout their roster, but if you take Jamieson, Shanks, Boushy, and Jackson and add a full season of Ryan Benesch and Stephen Keogh as well as the highly touted Clarke Petterson, that’s a pretty solid group of forwards. Defense has lots of young guys and a few vets to show the way, but they also have Graeme Hossack, probably the best defender in the league right now. Warren Hill started last season as the backup but finished strong, playing every minute of those late-season wins with a save percentage above 80% in all of them (and almost 90% in one). Playing at that level for the entire season is a tall order but he’ll need to be in that ballpark for the Thunderbirds to compete with the Bandits and Rock.

Look out for

Warren Hill. In his first year as a bona fide starter, he’ll keep the Thunderbirds competitive and might even steal a game or two.

Prediction

Third in the north.


Knighthawks-smallRochester Knighthawks

Is Steve Fryer ready to be a #1 goalie in the NLL? Signs say yes and I hope they’re right, because his two backups have a total of 17 minutes of NLL experience between them. Dan Carey has put together quite a nice little team here, so we might see something similar to last year’s Seals – an expansion team that doesn’t really look like an expansion team. Lots of strength up front with Shawn Evans, Turner Evans, Cattoni, Knight, Lintner, and Caputo, and some vets on D as well. They have eight players listed as transition, but other than Frank Brown (starting the season on IR) and Zac Reid, only one has any NLL experience – Adam Perroni played in three games over two seasons.

Look out for

Curtis Knight has been an important role player for the Rush for years, but now out of the shadow of Matthews, Church, and McIntosh, he has the ability to be one of the top point producers on the Knighthawks.

Prediction

Fourth in the north.


RockToronto Rock

The Rock lost Dan Lintner in the expansion draft and Brock Sorensen got injured, so they went out and got a different Dan and a different Brock.

I’ve been able to see the Rock play three times already this season, though of course you can’t take much away from pre-season exhibition games. Nick Rose didn’t play in one of them, Tom Schreiber didn’t play in any of them, and while the Rock kept their roster size down, other teams were fielding what seemed like dozens of players. But that said, I really liked watching Dan Dawson on the Rock offense. After about 68 seasons in the NLL, he’s still a force to be reckoned with, his passing ability is amazing, and his floor vision is off the charts. The loss of Creighton Reid and Brock Sorensen will hurt the D, but the big veteran David Brock will make up for some of that. Like I said, Tom Schreiber didn’t play in any of the Rock’s pre-season games, so hopefully his addition on the same side as Dawson won’t mess things up. However, it’s hard to imagine two unselfish players with their skill levels wouldn’t mesh reasonably well.

Look out for

Damon Edwards only missed one game last year but his points dropped by half and his penalty minutes almost doubled. I’d love to see a resurgence from Edwards, if he can stay out of the box (though he couldn’t at last weekend’s game against the Rush).

Prediction

First in the north.

2019-2020 NLL Predictions

Here are my predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards. The “Dark Horse” predictions are my “not as likely but could happen” picks.

Final Standings

I’ve also included my picks for overall standings in parens after the team name.

North

  1. Toronto Rock (4)
  2. Buffalo Bandits (7)
  3. Halifax Thunderbirds (9)
  4. Rochester Knighthawks (10)

East

  1. Georgia Swarm (1)
  2. New England Black Wolves (6)
  3. Philadelphia Wings (11)
  4. New York Riptide (13)

West

  1. Calgary Roughnecks (2)
  2. Saskatchewan Rush (3)
  3. San Diego Seals (5)
  4. Colorado Mammoth (8)
  5. Vancouver Warriors (12)

Individual Awards

MVP

The picture came from a Google link to an article from the Saskatoon StarPhoenix but the actual article doesn't have the picture, so I have no way to give photo credit.Winner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Callum Crawford, Cody Jamieson
Dark horse: Zach Currier

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Christian Del Bianco
Short list: Dillon Ward, Mike Poulin, Matt Vinc
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Kyle Rubisch
Short list: Graeme Hossack, Steve Priolo
Dark horse: Brad Kri

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Zach Currier
Short list: Challen Rogers, Joey Cupido
Dark horse: Kiel Matisz

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Andrew Kew
Short list: Ryland Rees

Same disclaimer as previous years: I don’t follow MSL or WLA in enough detail to really have a good idea. Just going by what I’ve heard on podcasts and read on IL Indoor and Twitter and such.

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Ed Comeau
Short list: Derek Keenan, Pat Coyle
Dark horse: Mike Hasen

GM of the Year

Winner: Patrick Merrill
Short list: Rich Lisk, Dan Richardson if the Warriors finish above .500
Dark horse: Dan Carey

Various musings lacking statistical correlation

I guess it’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I’ve been writing weekly for IL Indoor and one article for Lacrosse Flash, podcasting every week, and active on twitter, so I guess my thoughts have been dispersed enough in other venues that I didn’t think to write about them here. That ends now.

Congrats

First off, congratulations to the 2019 NLL Champion Calgary Roughnecks. Their season didn’t start they way they wanted it to, with Curtis Dickson and Wes Berg holding out and Jesse King injuring his knee during the preseason. But Dane Dobbie grabbed the team by the lapels and said “Let’s go out and win this f**king thing”, or words to that effect. A month later they had Dickson back and while Berg never returned at all (and likely never will; any bargaining power he might have had vanished as soon as Duch’s shot hit the back of the net), King was able to return for the last two games of the regular season, just as the team was peaking.

Getting hot heading into the playoffs is never a bad thing, and that momentum led the Roughnecks all the way to the title. They weren’t most people’s favourites to win the west, and in fact they finished third. But at the same time, given the strength of the team and particularly Dobbie and Christian Del Bianco, nobody’s really surprised.

Curtis Dickson

I’m sure it doesn’t mean much but I offer my congratulations to the Bandits as well on their amazing season. After missing the playoffs two straight years, the Bandits were many people’s favourites to win the East, myself included. Obviously the biggest addition was Matt Vinc, who had an outstanding season and will probably win his eleventy millionth Goalie of the Year award, but the additions of Corey Small, the emergence of Thomas Hoggarth as a serious scoring threat, and a crop of amazing rookies in Ian MacKay, Chris Cloutier, and Matt Gilray were also instrumental in the Bandits’ success.

MVP

Until a couple of years ago, I wasn’t a big fan of Dane Dobbie. There was no question that he was a great lacrosse player, but I thought he was a bit of a hothead and a little too arrogant for my taste. Not really a team guy.

DEAD. WRONG.

After paying a little more attention, I started to see some of the unselfish plays he would make and it became obvious that his main goal was not to pad his numbers but to help his team win. I had always appreciated the heart and effort he gave game in and game out. The celebrations that I interpreted as “I scored another goal, I’m so awesome” started to look more like “we scored another goal”. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was a Dobbie fan.

Then came the 2019 season. As good as Dobbie was before, he got better. He managed to tack on an extra 25 points to his best season total. He played with more heart and intensity and carried the Roughnecks through their challenges in the early part of the season. And it wasn’t just until Curtis Dickson returned; Dobbie kept up that intensity the rest of the season and throughout the playoffs. And if that wasn’t enough, in a post-Championship interview, the Finals MVP basically deflected all the credit to his teammates and coaches. Yes, he plays with passion but he’s clearly not a hothead, not arrogant in the least, and there’s no bigger team guy in the NLL. Congratulations to Dane Dobbie on an MVP-worthy season and post-season, and a Championship.

Awards

This afternoon, the NLL announced the nominees for the annual awards. Not a lot of surprises but I found it interesting that some categories are near or perfect clones of last year while others are entirely different. None of the players nominated for MVP in 2018 (Matthews, Church, Crowley) were nominated in 2019. Similarly, none of last year’s Les Bartley award nominees were nominated this year. On the other hand, the Transition Player of the Year list contains two players (Zach Currier and Challen Rogers) who were nominated last year, which means that at least one of the two will lose it two years in a row. Defender of the Year also has two (Graeme Hossack and Kyle Rubisch – Hossack won last year), and the third is Steve Priolo who’s been nominated in five of the last six years. The 2019 Goaltender of the Year nominees are Vinc, Del Bianco, and Ward: exactly the same as last year.

I’ve worked with two of the three nominees for the Tom Borrelli award: Bob Chavez is my editor at IL Indoor and has been amazingly supportive of my lacrosse writing for eight years. I wrote an article for Tyson Geick’s Lacrosse Flash website this past season, and may be doing more there in the future. They are both deserving but since Chavez has won it before, my vote (though I don’t have one) would go to Tyson. I know very little about Barstool Jordie but I find it difficult to believe that his impact as a member of the NLL media was as big as Teddy Jenner, Jake Elliott, Evan Schemenauer, Stephen Stamp, Pat Gregoire, and others. I’m not a fan of Barstool Sports in general, so I’m pretty sure I saw “Barstool” in his name and thought “Oh, those guys” and ignored him throughout the season. Maybe he’s done an excellent job and I’ve just missed it all.

Expansion

The second expansion draft in as many years is a little over a month away, and I’m excited about it. I’m hoping that they do it in one of two ways: either say in advance “Here are the players that the two GMs decided to choose” or conduct an actual live draft. Last year it seemed that they actually did the former but announced it as if it were the latter. It was obvious that the picks had been made in advance, and the whole thing was over in about ten minutes. It doesn’t need to be a whole three-hour event with Stephen Stamp and Andy McNamara doing analysis after each and every pick, though I’m sure those guys would be happy to do it, but don’t just zip through the picks like a new episode of Game of Thrones is about to start.

Last year, I posted an article where I predicted who would be chosen from each team. However I did that before the teams announced who they were protecting, so my guesses were mainly wrong. This year, I’ll wait until the protected lists are out.

2019 NLL Awards

This is the time when we look back over the season and pick the players who were the best of 2019. It’s also fun to see how close my random guesses predictions from the beginning of the season were. Every year, I pick a player for each team who I think will have an exceptional year, so let’s take a look at my “Look out for…” picks from the East and West previews as well.

MVP

Dane Dobbie (Photo credit: Greg Southam)Original pick: Tom Schreiber

  1. Dane Dobbie
  2. Matt Vinc
  3. Callum Crawford
  4. Mark Matthews
  5. Dan Dawson

I don’t always like picking the guy with the highest point total as the MVP. It seems too easy and since I’m known to be a stats guy, it looks like I just went with the big numbers and ignored everything else. But this year, Dane Dobbie epitomized “most valuable” in every way. Not only did he lead the league in points (and finished second in goals, assists, and power-play goals), but he blew away his previous career high by 25 points. Most importantly, he carried the Roughnecks at the beginning of the season when Curtis Dickson, Wes Berg, and Jesse King were all out.

Goaltender of the Year

Original pick: Dillon Ward

  1. Matt Vinc
  2. Mike Poulin
  3. Frank Scigliano
  4. Christian Del Bianco
  5. Dillon Ward

Vinc led the league in GAA and save percentage among starters. He kept his opponents to single-digits seven times – and three of those were five or fewer. But most importantly he turned the Bandits struggling defense from last year into the stingiest in the league. Of course, he didn’t do it by himself but his play and the confidence he inspires in the rest of the defenders was obviously a huge part of that transformation.

Transition Player of the Year

Original pick: Challen Rogers

  1. Challen Rogers
  2. Steve Priolo
  3. Kiel Matisz
  4. Zach Currier
  5. Tyler Pace

Rogers plays excellent defense, is almost always the first guy up the floor in transition, and took many shifts on offense. He played on the man-up and man-down, and when watching the Rock play, it seems that he’s just always on the floor. He does it all, does it all well, and always looks like he’s having fun while doing it.

Defensive Player of the Year

Original pick: Graeme Hossack

  1. Graeme Hossack
  2. Kyle Rubisch
  3. Brad Kri
  4. David Brock
  5. Mike Messenger

Hossack and Rubisch are both masters of the stick check. They don’t just make it difficult for offensive players to get to or even see the net, leaving them with a bad shot or no shot at all, though they’re great at that too. These guys prefer to simply strip them of the ball and toss it to one of their teammates in transition. It’s clean, it’s quick, it gives your team a chance to score, and if you watch these guys do it, you might think it’s easy. It’s not.

Rookie of the Year

Austin StaatsOriginal pick: Austin Staats

  1. Austin Staats
  2. Steph Charbonneau
  3. Kyle Killen
  4. Trevor Baptiste
  5. Ian MacKay

Before he got injured, Staats was on pace for 78 points which was 17 short of the rookie record (held by his big brother). Other rookies have scored more goals and picked up more loosies, but few have had the overall impact that Austin Staats had this season. His goal-scoring, energy, and obvious love for the game was the talk of the league all season. In a non-traditional lacrosse market, having a young, exciting, dynamic player like Staats had to be a huge help in trying to build their brand and fanbase. Hopefully he is fully recovered from his ACL surgery by next season because his career will be an amazing one to watch.

Unsung Hero

  1. Casey Jackson
  2. Matt Hossack
  3. Bryan Cole
  4. Greg Downing
  5. Keegan Bal

When you think of the Seals offense, you think Staats, Dawson, Billings, Buchanan, but Casey Jackson doesn’t jump to mind. But Jackson led the Seals in goals and after playing all of four games in his career before this season, fit in very nicely among the rookie phenom and veteran scorers.

Comeback Player of the Year

  1. Garrett Billings
  2. Jordan McBride
  3. Tyler Digby
  4. Dan Coates
  5. Cam Holding

Billings missed all of 2018 and only played four games in 2017. Between work commitments and injuries, it seemed that his NLL career might be over. But Billings matched the points total from his 2010 rookie season and looked a lot like the old Billings, which was likely a little scary for Seals opponents. He certainly scored some beautiful goals but as we’ve come to expect, in every game he played he had more assists than goals, sometimes many more.

Les Bartley Award

Original pick: Pat Coyle

  1. Patrick Merrill
  2. Matt Sawyer
  3. John Tavares/Rich Kilgour

As a GM, Merrill put together a great bunch of players. As a coach, he turned them into a great team. Of course having vets like Dawson, Billings, and Buchanan on his team really helped too, but clearly the Seals players bought (and dove) in early in the season and that teamwork was obvious all year.

GM of the Year

Original pick: Steve Dietrich

  1. Patrick Merrill
  2. Steve Dietrich
  3. John Arlotta

When you look at an expansion team’s roster, you usually hope that the team might be pretty good in a couple of years. The Seals looked very good from the beginning and didn’t disappoint. Even after the season started, Merrill wasn’t done. He brought in Paul Dawson to give the defense even more toughness and leadership. He took chances on Garrett Billings and Kyle Hartzell and they paid off. When he lost Austin Staats, he brought in Joe Walters. He put together a great mix of leaders who could still produce on the floor and a solid young group that can be the core of this team for years.

Final standings

East: My picks were Buffalo, Georgia, Toronto, New England, Rochester, Philadelphia. In that order. Nailed it.

West: My picks were Saskatchewan, Calgary, Colorado, San Diego, Vancouver. Move San Diego to second and I nailed the west too, but I really only got two right: first and last.

Look out for…

I got some of the above picks right, and missed on others. But of the eleven below, I’d say I nailed five (Duch, Buchanan, Staats, Digby, Lintner) and got four more pretty close. Only two were really wrong.

Calgary: Rhys Duch. Calling that a win. He didn’t get back into the 90’s in points, but then he wasn’t expected to be the guy on the Roughnecks like he was on the Stealth. He helped set up the guy (Dobbie) and the other guy (Dickson) and had a great year.

Colorado: Tim Edwards. 53.5% at the dot this year, fourth among face-off guys. Not a bad season at all.

San Diego: Kyle Buchanan. 67 points, 28 goals, a veteran presence and lots of hustle – exactly as expected from Buchanan.

Saskatchewan: Travis Cornwall. We all thought he was brought in to basically replace his brother Jeff on the transition but he played more of a defensive role for the Rush. As such, the numbers don’t tell us much but the fact that Cornwall played all 18 games for the first time in his career tells you what the Rush coaching staff thought of his play.

Vancouver: Colton and Zack Porter. More defenders so the numbers don’t tell you much but these guys were tough on opposing forwards. Not big guys (each is 5’8″) but tenacious. The Warriors players voted Zack as their rookie of the year.

Buffalo: Shawn Evans. 94 points, which is excellent for most but only very good for Evans. Like Duch, he had to get used to not being the guy on the Bandits offense but his presence helped make them one of the strongest in the league.

Georgia: Randy Staats. 96 points makes this the best year of his career, narrowly eclipsing his 95 in his rookie year.

New England: Tyler Digby. 72 points in 17 games, almost back to his 74 in 18 back in 2015. In fact, he had a higher points-per-game average so I’d call that a career year.

Philadelphia: Brett Hickey. Would have been a career year for Hickey, I’m sure, if he didn’t get injured after only three games.

Rochester: Pat Saunders. Only played four games.

Toronto: Dan Lintner. Played in all eighteen games and set career highs in goals, assists, points, loose balls, and CTOs.

2019 NLL Predictions

Here are my predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards. The “Dark Horse” predictions are my “not as likely but could happen” picks.

Final Standings

East

  1. Buffalo Bandits
  2. Georgia Swarm
  3. Toronto Rock
  4. New England Black Wolves
  5. Rochester Knighthawks
  6. Philadelphia Wings

West

  1. Saskatchewan Rush
  2. Calgary Roughnecks
  3. Colorado Mammoth
  4. San Diego Seals
  5. Vancouver Warriors

Individual Awards

MVP

Winner: Tom Schreiber
Short list: Shawn Evans, Mark Matthews
Dark horse: Ryan Benesch

Tom Schreiber

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Dillon Ward
Short list: Christian Del Bianco, Evan Kirk
Dark horse: Frank Scigliano

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Graeme Hossack
Short list: Robert Hope, Kyle Rubisch
Dark horse: Brett Mydske

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Challen Rogers
Short list: Zach Currier, Joey Cupido
Dark horse: Jordan MacIntosh

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Austin Staats
Short list:
Dark horse:

Full disclosure: I don’t follow MSL or WLA in enough detail to know any of them. In previous years I’d seen a few players here and there but not this year. I have seen Staats play in Six Nations and was impressed so I have some basis on which to list him, but anything else I put here is pure guesswork.

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Pat Coyle
Short list: Glenn Clark, Derek Keenan
Dark horse: Matt Sawyer

GM of the Year

Winner: Steve Dietrich
Short list: Derek Keenan, Mike Board
Dark horse: Patrick Merrill