2016 NLL Predictions

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. Rochester
  2. Toronto
  3. Buffalo
  4. Georgia
  5. New England

West

  1. Saskatchewan
  2. Vancouver
  3. Colorado
  4. Calgary

Individual Awards

MVP

Mark MatthewsWinner: Mark Matthews
Short list: Garrett Billings, Ryan Benesch
Dark horse:  Brett Hickey

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Aaron Bold
Short list: Matt Vinc, Dillon Ward
Dark horse:  Nick Rose

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Sid Smith
Short list: Kyle Rubisch, Robert Hope
Dark horse:  Ryan Dilks

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Karsen Leung
Short list: Joey Cupido, Jordan MacIntosh
Dark horse:  Alex Kedoh Hill

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Wes Berg
Short list: Randy Staats, Lyle Thompson, Jesse King
Dark horse:  Reilly O’Connor

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Dan Perreault
Short list: Mike Hasen
Dark horse:  Glenn Clark

GM of the Year

Winner: Doug Locker
Short list: I’m not sure whether I’d nominate the Swarm GM (whoever that is) if they do well, since I think I could have drafted just as well with that many first round picks in a draft that deep.
Dark horse:  Jamie Dawick

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2016 Preview: West division

A short summary of each team’s offseason moves, where I think they will end up in the standings, who might have a breakout year, and as always, a haiku for each team. I covered the East yesterday, today it’s the West.

RoughnecksCalgary Roughnecks

Roster Changes

Lost Evans, McBride, Pollock, Snider, Moleski, and Veltman and replaced them with Tyler Digby, a bunch of rookies, and a third goaltender. And they only have one person on their practice roster. If the rooks step up big, they could be OK but given their struggles last season with those big-name guys, this could be a scary season for the Roughnecks.

Then again, a few years ago the Roughnecks lost both Tracey Kelusky and Josh Sanderson in the off season and replaced them with Daryl Veltman and a rookie named Curtis Dickson. Everyone thought it would be a disaster but they went on to win the West with the best record in the league.

Look out for

Wes Berg. My pick for ROY. You can’t replace Shawn Evans, but Berg will certainly give it a shot.

Prediction

Fourth in the west.

Haiku

Tyler Digby’s here
Two Carnegies, two Harnetts
Only one de Snoo


MammothColorado Mammoth

Roster Changes

The Mammoth are down Drew Westervelt and Alex Turner (91 points) but Callum Crawford (on pace for 80 last year) should make up for most of that. They also have Ilija Gajic returning; ironically they signed him as a free agent right after cutting Bob Snider, the guy they traded Gajic for. They also released Dan Ball and Ian Hawksbee and lost Cam Flint and Tyler Codron to injury. John Gallant, the only remaining original Mammoth, didn’t play much last season so his retirement won’t have a huge impact. They did sign Greg Downing from the Swarm and added a group of rookies.

Look out for

Ilija Gajic. He and Joey Cupido will make a pretty awesome transition team.

Prediction

Third in the west

Haiku

No more Westervelt
But added Callum Crawford
And Ilija is back


RushSaskatchewan Rush

Roster Changes

Same team as last year, plus Curtis Knight. The west is theirs to lose. Not much more to say than that.

Look out for

Ben McIntosh was third on the team in scoring last year but I can see him leaping over Robert Church into second. Not sure he’ll surpass Mark Matthews though.

Prediction

First in the west

Haiku

Curtis Knight is back
Great O, great D, best goalie
Can the Rush repeat?


StealthVancouver Stealth

Roster Changes

Lost Digby but added Billings. Added Beers, Moleski, Cornwall, and Hawksbee. Lost Hass and Rory Smith but only temporarily. So far, the most improved team in the league. But they also lost Tyler Richards. Eric Penney has played 346 minutes in his career with a GAA of almost 15. Chris Levis hasn’t played an NLL game since January 25, 2013 – almost three years. If the goaltending doesn’t pan out, they may need to score 16 goals a game to have any chance of success.

The Stealth had 5 guys named Tyler on their team last season, but they’re starting 2016 with only one. Can they survive?

Look out for

Garrett Billings. Hardly an out-on-a-limb prediction, but 2015 was very un-Billings-like. With extra recovery and practice time plus playing in his home town with Duch, Schuss, Small, and McCready I think Billings will be back to his Toronto Rock level of dominance.

Prediction

Second in the west.

Haiku

Billings has come home
Stealth have rebuilt the defense
But Richards is gone

2016 Preview: East division

A short summary of each team’s offseason moves, 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.

BanditsBuffalo Bandits

Roster Changes

Obviously the biggest news for the Bandits is the retirement of John Tavares. But with only 32 points in 10 games last year, he wasn’t having nearly the impact on the offense that he used to. Dhane Smith and Ryan Benesch are the anchors of that offense now. They did add Daryl Veltman, who averaged 53 points a year over his five years in Calgary.

Andrew Watt is injured, Derek Suddons is in New England, David Brock is on the practice roster, and Chad Culp is suspended for one game. The Bandits have four rookies on their roster.

Look out for

Smith and Benesch already make a formidable scoring combo, but adding Daryl Veltman will give them another weapon. He had somewhat limited playing time being behind Evans, Shattler, Dickson, and Dobbie but in Buffalo, Veltman could see a jump in both his playing time and numbers.

Prediction

Third in the east.

Haiku

Veltman on the O
Is great, but no JT means
Confused Bandits fans


SwarmGeorgia Swarm

Roster Changes

Josh Gillam returns after missing last season, Drew Petkoff signed as a free agent, and the Swarm have a bunch of big-name rookies joining their ranks including first rounders Randy Staats, Jesse King, and Chad Tutton as well as first overall pick Lyle Thompson. None of these four have a single NLL game to their credit but given their pedigrees, I imagine opposing teams are still concerned about facing them. Adding Staats, King, Gillam, and Thompson to an offense that already includes the likes of Johnny Powless, Kiel Matisz, Shayne Jackson, and Lyle’s brother Miles could make for a pretty potent offense.

Only one goalie on the roster for now, but Brodie MacDonald will likely be moved from the PUP list by the time opening day rolls around.

Look out for

Lyle Thompson is the obvious choice, and I’m sure he’ll have a great season. But at the Rock / Swarm preseason game in December, I heard the name Randy Staats an awful lot as well. Either one of these guys is my choice for the Swarm. Or Jesse King.

Prediction

Fourth in east but if I had to pick one NLL team to be the dark horse, it’d be the Swarm.

Haiku

Swarm moved to Georgia
Much warmer in winter, but
Will fans show up?


BlackWolvesNew England Black Wolves

Roster Changes

The Black Wolves pulled off a pretty big trade in getting Kevin Crowley back from Toronto, and then a huge trade in grabbing reigning MVP Shawn Evans. Adding these two guys, even at the expense of losing Garrett Billings, should make your team better, and I think it has. And don’t underestimate the value of a vet defender like Derek Suddons.

But half of the announced Black Wolves roster wasn’t on the team at the end of 2015. Add to that a new coaching staff and a last place finish last year and my expectations aren’t all that high for the Black Wolves. Shawn Evans is one of the game’s best players and has an outstanding work ethic, and so maybe some of that will spur the team on to great things. But someone has to finish last and for me, there’s too much uncertainty here to rank them any higher than that.

The Black Wolves have a new head coach in Glenn Clark, and Hall of Famer Jim Veltman joins Clark and Tracey Kelusky as an assistant coach. Blane Harrison resigned as head coach after last season, saying that his family moved to Michigan and the travel would be too difficult. Makes sense, except for the fact that he’s now an assistant coach with the Georgia Swarm.

Look out for

Quinn Powless only played 3 games last season before an injury ended his season, but he’s back and healthy and could have a big impact this year.

Prediction

Fifth in the east.

Haiku

Glenn Clark is the coach
Crowley’s returned but mostly
Shawn Freaking Evans


KnighthawksRochester Knighthawks

Roster Changes

Not many, but one could be pretty substantial. Brad Self is on the shelf (see what I did there?) as is Angus Goodleaf, Zac Reid is in New England, and Colin Boucher is out. But I’ve heard great things about #2 overall pick Graeme Hossack. Not that the Knighthawks had serious defensive problems, but can you ever have too much defense?

Brandon Styres (the son of owner & GM Curt Styres) is the new backup goaltender but when you’re backing up a workhorse like Matt Vinc, don’t expect to see a lot of floor time.

Look out for

As a defender, Hossack won’t make the score sheet often but he was chosen ahead of guys like Wes Berg and Randy Staats for a reason.

Prediction

First in the east.

Haiku

Not enough Graemes
In this league so thanks to the
Rochester Knighthawks


RockToronto Rock

Roster Changes

Not a lot of changes for the Rock, but one could be either a temporary setback or a significant blow to the offense. Josh Sanderson, coming off a 102-point season (his best in 5 years), has announced that he will not begin the season on the active roster since he’s not physically ready to play. If this lasts just a few weeks before he’s back, I’m sure the Rock offense can step up in his absence. But he’s also hinted that this could mean retirement, in which case the Rock are down 102 points from last season, the vast majority of which were assists.

Kevin Crowley was also returned to New England after effectively being borrowed for the last 1/4 of the season and the playoffs. In return, the Rock got forward Dan Lintner, who I was pretty impressed with in the exhibition game against Colorado in mid-December. At 5’9″, he’s not a big guy but was a dynamic player and when you’re replacing Josh Sanderson (as much as a future hall-of-famer like Sanderson can be “replaced”), you don’t need to be big.

Also joining the offense is Turner Evans, a cousin of Shawn and Scott. Evans is also not a big guy (also 5’9″) but he picked up a couple of goals and a bunch of assists in the pre-season.

Look out for

It wouldn’t be considered a “breakout season”, but Brett Hickey has looked outstanding in the pre-season, scoring 14 goals in the Rock’s three games, putting him on pace for 84 goals in 18 games. This is supremely unlikely, but I think he could certainly break 50 again in the regular season.

Prediction

Second in the east.

Haiku

No Sanderson, but
Hellyer and Hickey ready
to run the offense

2015 Predictions revisited

As many sports bloggers do, I made predictions at the beginning of the season. But as many sports bloggers don’t do, I’m going to go back and see what they were and how I did. I covered some of these on last week’s Addicted to Lacrosse show. I recently had to submit my votes for the IL Indoor annual awards, so for each of the awards below, I’ve listed my pre-season prediction as well as my post-season votes.

Standings:

East

  1. Rochester
  2. Buffalo
  3. Toronto
  4. Minnesota
  5. New England

West

  1. Calgary
  2. Edmonton
  3. Colorado
  4. Vancouver

Three correct out of nine. I wasn’t nearly as optimistic with the Rock as I should have been. I was also far too optimistic with the Roughnecks, but so was everybody else.

Annual Awards

MVP

Prediction: Dan Dawson, Cody Jamieson, Ryan Benesch
Vote: Shawn Evans, Mark Matthews, Ryan Benesch

Jamieson and Dawson had very good years, but not MVP-worthy. Benesch was great, especially down the stretch. But Evans was outstanding.

Goaltender of the Year

Prediction: Aaron Bold, Matt Vinc, Mike Poulin
Vote: Matt Vinc, Aaron Bold, Frankie Scigliano

No surprises from the first two, and I really struggled to decide who got the top vote. And I got the wrong Calgary goalie.

Defensive Player of the Year

Prediction: Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbeil, Brock Sorensen
Vote: Kyle Rubisch, Chris Corbeil, Sid Smith

I did vote Sorensen fourth.

Transition Player of the Year

Prediction: Jeremy Thompson, Geoff Snider, Karsen Leung, Jordan Hall
Vote: Joey Cupido, Karsen Leung, Jay Thorimbert

Hall didn’t play transition this year, and Thompson had another very good season but Cupido stole the show.

Ben McIntoshRookie of the Year

Prediction: Miles Thompson, Ben McIntosh, Chris Attwood
Vote: Ben McIntosh, Jeremy Noble, Miles Thompson

Attwood didn’t even make the Knighthawks, so that was totally wrong. Miles Thompson had a good rookie season but McIntosh was better. Didn’t have Noble on the list at the beginning since it seemed unlikely he’d play at all.

Les Bartley Award

Prediction: Curt Malawsky, Mike Hasen, Troy Cordingley, John Lovell
Vote: Derek Keenan, Mike Hasen, Curt Malawsky, John Lovell, Troy Cordingley

No idea how I missed Keenan at the beginning of the year.

GM of the Year

Prediction: Terry Sanderson, Curt Styres, Steve Govett, Chris Seinko
Vote: Terry Sanderson, Curt Styres, Steve Govett, Derek Keenan.

Nailed the top three on this one. I even voted Seinko fifth since I thought he did pretty well at the trade deadline. Getting Billings, one of the top two players in the league over the last few seasons, for Crowley was a good deal and grabbing Suitor from the Swarm was good too. It was just too late in the season to turn things around, and the fact that Suitor got hurt again didn’t help.

Team predictions – East

For each team, I made a “Look out for” prediction – a player who I thought would have a great season. Some of them I nailed, others I didn’t quite get right, and in one case, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Dhane Smith (Photo: Larry Palumbo)Buffalo: Dhane Smith. Nailed this one. Smith went from 59 points in 18 games last year to 107 this year.

Minnesota: Miles Thompson. Not a bad choice, though Shayne Jackson might have been a better one.

New England: Kevin Buchanan. Again, not a bad season. Pat Saunders would have been the breakout player for the Black Wolves.

Rochester: Chris Attwood. Didn’t even make the team. We’ll call that a “miss”. I don’t know who I’d pick from the Knighthawks as having had a breakout season since everyone on the team played at or near what I expected. Maybe Craig Point, since he hadn’t played 15 games in a season since 2011.

Toronto: Brock Sorensen. I thought Sorensen had a very solid year with the Rock and even put him on my list for Defender of the Year. But you might be able to make an argument for Brett Hickey here.

Team predictions – West

Calgary: Karsen Leung. I thought Leung had another solid season and I voted for him as Transition player of the year. But for a breakout season, I’d have to go with Frankie Scigliano, who grabbed the starting goalie job from the struggling Mike Poulin a few weeks into the season and never gave it back.

Colorado: Dillon Ward. Ward didn’t have a great season, but good enough to grab second in the west. Breakout player on the Mammoth would be Jeremy Noble, Eli McLaughlin, or Alex Buque.

Edmonton: Corey Small. Mostly right, except for the team. Small only lasted 2 games with the Rush before being traded to the Stealth, where he had his best season ever. For the Rush, a better choice would have been Zack Greer, who beat his career best points/game average by almost a full point.

Vancouver: Joel McCready. Nailed it. I even said the Powless experiment wouldn’t be the huge success the Stealth were hoping for. We’ll call that a 2-for-1, which offsets the Rochester failure.

Week 1 picks

Here we go again! Just like I’ve done over the past couple of years, I’m posting my picks for each and every game this season. Last season I did great with my picks, ending up with a 58-23 record, or 71.6%. The previous years weren’t nearly as good. I finished the 2013 season at 33-39, or 45.8%, and the 2012 season at 31-41, or 43.1%. My percentages are getting better though, and if I jump 25.8 percentage points like I did last year, I’ll be at 97.4% which means I’ll get 2 picks wrong all season. I’m all for optimism and everything, but I’m going say that’s unlikely. Honestly, I’ll be happy if I’m over .500.

Record: 0-0 (.000)

Game
Comments
Pick
BUF @ NE I picked the Black Wolves to finish last in the East, but I kind of hope I’m wrong and they have a great season. It would be better for new fans to have a successful team – I mean, look at how the Washington Stealth’s attendance increased when they were successful! OK, bad example.

New England has a bunch of good players but no great players. With the right team chemistry, this can still bring success but it’s too much of a crapshoot so I have to pick against them at least until we get more familiar with the team.

Bandits
EDM @ BUF After the season Edmonton had in 2014, how can you pick against them? Rush
TOR @ ROC The Rock are my team and I hate picking against them, but I have to go with the three-time champs here. Once I see how the Rock offense is handling the loss of Doyle and Billings I may change my mind but for now, their offense is a bit of a question mark. Knighthawks
COL @ MIN The Mammoth have been a mystery for years. Grant, Iannucci, Jones, and Westervelt could all end up in the top 10 scoring-wise, or the team could finish 6-12. That said, I think they’re a better team than last year which is something I can’t honestly say about the Swarm. Mammoth
VAN @ CAL Vancouver got better on the offense and transition but not on defense. Calgary changed very little from the 12-6 team they had last year, so I have to go with the Roughnecks. Roughnecks

2015 NLL Predictions

My predictions for the final regular season standings as well as the major annual awards.

Final Standings

East

  1. Rochester
  2. Buffalo
  3. Toronto
  4. Minnesota
  5. New England

West

  1. Calgary
  2. Edmonton
  3. Colorado
  4. Vancouver

Individual Awards

MVP

Dan Dawson

Winner: Dan Dawson
Short list: Cody Jamieson, Ryan Benesch

Goaltender of the Year

Winner: Aaron Bold
Short list: Matt Vinc, Mike Poulin

Defensive Player of the Year

Winner: Kyle Rubisch
Short list: Chris Corbeil, Brock Sorensen

Transition Player of the Year

Winner: Jeremy Thompson
Short list: Geoff Snider, Karsen Leung, Jordan Hall

Rookie of the Year

Winner: Miles Thompson
Short list: Ben McIntosh, Chris Attwood

Les Bartley Award

Winner: Curt Malawsky
Short list: Mike Hasen, Troy Cordingley if Buffalo’s longest losing streak is 4 games or less. If the Rock can lose Doyle and Billings and still finish second or higher in the east, John Lovell should be considered as well.

GM of the Year

Winner: Terry Sanderson. This would obviously be posthumous but if the Rock does well this year, I can see it happening.
Short list: Curt Styres, Steve Govett if the Mammoth don’t tank, Chris Seinko if the Black Wolves are third or better and above .500 in the East.

2015 preview: East division

As I did with the West, a brief look at each Eastern Division team, how they’ve changed from last year, how I think they’ll do this year, one player that will have a breakout year and a haiku.


Bandits  Buffalo Bandits

 

Roster Changes

Veterans Shawn Williams, Glen Bryan, Rory Smith and Aaron Wilson are out, while Alex Kedoh Hill returns to the NLL, Nick Weiss comes east from the Stealth, and Jerome Thompson makes his NLL debut.

Look out for

Dhane Smith. After playing mostly defense and transition last season, The Great Dhane still put up 59 points. This year, he’s listed as a forward so we might see some big numbers from this big guy in 2015.

Prediction

Second in east.

Haiku

Another Thompson
joins Benny, Steenhuis, JT
Defense looks solid


Swarm  Minnesota Swarm

 

Roster Changes

Lots. Scott Jones, Mike Hobbins, and Cam Flint were released, Josh Gillam is injured, Jeff Gilbert was signed by the Rock, Tyler Carlson, Tyler Hass, and Brock Sorensen were traded, and the most painful for Swarm fans is that Rookie of the Year Logan Schuss will not be playing in 2015 due to work commitments. Veteran defender Mike Grimes was also acquired in the off-season but will also be missing the season because of work. But in their place are some familiar names and one exceptional rookie. Dean Hill returns to where he started his NLL career back in 2006, NLL vets Nick Cotter and Mitch Belisle also return to the league, Brodie MacDonald will fight Zach Higgins for the starting goalie role, Ethan O’Connor will bring his transition talents to South Beach Minnesota, and Miles Thompson rounds out the trio of Thompson brothers in the NLL this year (and look for that to expand again next season).

Look out for

I’m really looking forward to watching Miles Thompson light up the NLL.

Prediction

Fourth in east.

Haiku

Miles Thompson is here!
Hill, Cotter, Belisle too, but
Logan Schuss can’t play


BlackWolves  New England Black Wolves

 

Roster Changes

Way lots. I have twelve people who weren’t on the 2014 Wings roster that are on this one. There are some familiar names there, like Brett Bucktooth, Kevin Buchanan, Jesse Fehr, Ryan Hotaling, and Jamie Lincoln, but also some newcomers like Bill O’Brien and Quinn Powless (Johnny’s cousin). Ryan Ward and Tracey Kelusky retired, Brodie Merrill and Jordan Hall were traded, and Garrett Thul will be spending the season as a member of the US Army.

Look out for

I’ve always liked Kevin Buchanan, back when he was with the Blazers and then the Bandits. He has a laser of a shot and doesn’t need to be in close to be dangerous.

Prediction

Fifth in east.

Haiku

Not the Philly Wings
Playing in a casino
Lots of new faces


Knighthawks  Rochester Knighthawks

 

 

Roster Changes

Johnny Powless is out but Jordan Hall and Aaron Wilson are in, as is Chris Attwood. Attwood is making his NLL debut but was the CLax scoring leader and Most Outstanding Player in 2012. Stephen Keogh is also out to start the season but I don’t know how long he will be unavailable.

Look out for

Chris Attwood. His strong play in CLax earned him the spot on the Knighthawks roster, but now he needs to show that he belongs in the NLL. I think he’ll make up most of the 50-odd points that Johnny Powless would have contributed.

Prediction

First in east.

Haiku

The champs yet again
No Powless but Hall is back
First is theirs to lose


Rock  Toronto Rock

 

Roster Changes

Obviously the loss of both Colin Doyle and Garrett Billings is devastating, but at least they’ll get Billings back in February or March. Kevin Ross should see more playing time, and the Rock have also picked up Brett Hickey from Vancouver and rookie Brandon Benn also made the team. The defense is much bigger, with Brodie Merrill, Brock Sorensen, and Jeff Gilbert replacing Bill Greer, Ethan O’Connor, and Jimmy Purves. Defense was a problem for the Rock last year so this should be a big improvement.

Just like Vancouver with Chris Hall, Edmonton with Derek Keenan, and most of the league (particularly the Bandits) with Tucker Williams, the Rock will be playing for Terry Sanderson.

Look out for

Brock Sorensen. He’s already a big tough defender but now rather than being on a young team with only a couple of veterans (Jeff Gilbert, now a Rock teammate,  was the only Swarm player over 30 last year and didn’t turn 31 until the end of the season), he gets to learn from some of the best of the vets in Sandy Chapman, Brodie Merrill, and Patrick Merrill.

Prediction

Third in east.

Haiku

Much bigger defense
Brodie plays with his brother
Captain Doyle is out