Yesterday I started with the East division, today we’ll cover the West. Where I think each team will end up in the standings and who might have a breakout year.
Obviously Curtis Dickson is the biggest loss for the Roughnecks. They have brought in Brett Hickey who’s had a couple of 40+ goal seasons, but both of them were 5+ years ago. He didn’t have great success in Philadelphia and wasn’t a great fit in San Diego, but with the right chemistry he could rebound and be a solid #2 for the Roughnecks behind Jesse King. The addition of Jeff Cornwall solidifies the Calgary defense, which struggled in the first half of last season but had a much better second half.
Look out for
I’ve heard a number of people talking about Haiden Dickson as a breakout player for the Roughnecks this year and I can’t disagree. He had moments last season where I wondered if this might be the year we started referring to Curtis as “the other Dickson” on the Roughnecks instead of Haiden. Obviously with Curtis gone that won’t matter, but Haiden is a very exciting young player.
Fifth in the west.
A few offensive guys are out to start the season: Ryan Lee and Chris Wardle are both injured and Tyson Gibson is on the holdout list. But the Mammoth won the Championship last year with Lee missing most of the playoffs and Eli McLaughlin out for games 2 and 3 of the finals, so being down a couple of offensive guys is NBD, right? Yet another loss to retirement (see Georgia for the rest) is 13-year veteran defender Scott Carnegie. But assuming the injured players return soon, this is basically the same Mammoth team from last year, which is good news for Colorado fans.
Look out for
Rookie Brett McIntyre had no points in two games in the 2022 regular season but had 7 goals and 9 assists in 6 playoff games. Clearly his scoreless streak in the regular season will end but will he continue his almost-3-points-per-game pace?
Second in the west.
Las Vegas Desert Dogs
It’s hard to look at just a roster and get a good feel for how good an expansion team is going to be. Will they be the next San Diego Seals (10-8, made the playoffs) or the next Ottawa Rebel (1-13, didn’t)? It’s hard to tell, but that said, look at the players on this team: Rob Hellyer, Reid Reinholdt, Jacob Ruest, Charlie Bertrand, Zack Greer, Marshal King up front. John Wagner, Tyson Roe, Garrett McIntosh, Travis Cornwall, Brandon Clelland on the D. Their biggest question is goaltending. Joel Watson split time with Rylan Hartley in Rochester last year and had a respectable 11.61 GAA and a 77.5% save percentage for a 4-14 team. Is he ready to be the sole starting goalie on an NLL team? His backup, Landon Kells, has ten minutes of playing time in his NLL career, but that’s to be expected when you’re backing up a horse like Christian del Bianco.
I don’t see 12+ wins in their inaugural season but this team will be much closer to the Seals than the Rebel.
Look out for
Marshall King didn’t get a lot of playing time in Calgary, only seeing action in seven games over two seasons. If he can be an everyday player, he could do some damage.
Seventh in the west.
Panther City LC
It’s not often a team can lose Randy Staats and have it make no difference to their team. Of course, that’s because he was injured all of last season and never played a game for Panther City. But they did lose Travis Cornwall, Connor Sellars, and Jeremy Thompson, all of whom did play for PCLC last year, so their defense is down a few men. But they brought in defenders Tyler Burton, Brooker Muir, and Nate Wade, all of whom have some NLL experience (in Burton’s case, 11 years worth). Also joining Panther City are forwards Tony Malcom and Evan Messenger along with Jonathan Donville, 2021’s first-overall draft pick, who is already being talked about as a Rookie of the Year candidate. Just like so many other teams, goaltending may be a concern. Nick Damude had a very good year in his first season as a full-time starter, but his backup is Cam Wengreniuk who has no NLL experience. If Damude falters, the improved offense may not be enough.
Look out for
It’s hard to predict a breakout year for Patrick Dodds since he’s already had one, with 84 points in 17 games last year. But adding Donville and Malcom to the offense, Dodds could see his assist total jump even more.
Sixth in the west.
San Diego Seals
No changes for San Diego. Nothing to see here.
Well, OK, there were a few. Adding Kevin Crowley and Curtis Dickson to the highest-scoring team in the West is obviously huge. They did lose Jeremy Noble and Zack Greer as well as Brett Hickey, and while Noble was their 4th highest scorer with 70 points, Greer and Hickey combined for about 50 points. So their offense is clearly improved, but what about everything else? Brandon Clelland and Tor Reinholdt are both in Vegas, so they lost two defenders and their chief face-off guy. But returning to the NLL after a five-year absence is Jesse Gamble, who was one of the fastest transition guys in the league in the mid-teens. Like, Joey Cupido fast. Gamble is 34 now, so is he still that fast? No idea, but just like I said about Callum Crawford, even if he’s lost half a step, that’s still pretty good.
Look out for
It would be great for the Seals to get a full season out of Casey Jackson, which hasn’t happened since 2019 due to injuries. But with Dickson, Dobbie, Crowley, Austin Staats, Wes Berg, and Tre Leclaire, how often Jackson going to get the ball?
First in the west.
The Rush missed the playoffs for the first time since they moved to Saskatchewan, so there were some significant changes made. Adam Shute had pretty decent numbers last season but still went 4-6 and was replaced by Eric Penney, who had slightly better numbers and went 4-3. Shute was let go and the Rush picked up Alex Buque, who had an up-and-down year in Vancouver. Former Rush Marty Dinsdale was brought back from the Warriors, and everyone seems very excited about rookie Austin Madronic. But for years, the Rush’s strength has been defense and this season, they’ve lost Chris Corbeil, Jeff Cornwall, and Jordi Jones-Smith. The loss of Corbeil is obviously huge, but Cornwall and Jones-Smith were also significant pieces of the Rush D over the last couple of years. They still have Kyle Rubisch, Ryan Dilks, and Mike Messenger, three of the best in the game, but they’ll have to break in a few rookies and get them used to their system.
Look out for
Austin Madronic, whose name I heard a number of times in the Rush’s pre-season game against Toronto a couple of weeks ago. Plus I just like saying “Madronic”. It’s a cool name.
Third in the west.
The Warriors made probably the biggest changes in the offseason. First off, they brought in new head coach Troy Cordingley, who has done nothing but win in the NLL. Two Championships with the Bandits as a player, one with the Roughnecks as a coach, and one with the Rock as a coach. He’s demanding and will get the best out of his players or die trying. Second, they brought in Shawn Evans, who had a sub-par year with the Knighthawks and Thunderbirds last year, but played very well during the Mann Cup in September and brings with him a work ethic like nobody else. And third, Mitch Jones is returning from the injury that kept him out of the lineup most of last season. Those three things mean the Warriors will be better this year than last.
On the down side, they lost a number of defenders: Derek Lloyd, Ryan Martel, Garrett McIntosh, and Taylor Stuart. They brought in Anthony Kalinich from Calgary but the rest of the additions are rookies. Tyrell Hamer-Jackson was lost to injury partway through last season and is still on the IR. If they can get him back, that will be a big boost.
Look out for
Adam Charalambides had a very good rookie season (47 points), but I think with the improvements in the Warriors offense, he could take a step up into the 60’s or even 70’s.
Fourth in the west.