2017 NLL Regular Season Primer


New England Black Wolves

Top Returner: Shawn Evans, forward

Newcomers: Chad Culp, Jay Thorimbert, Doug Jamieson, Reilly O’Connor, Seth Oakes, Matt Spanger

Breakout Potential: Sheldon Burns, defense

X Factor: Goaltending

This is a team looking to contend for a championship in its third season in New England, and their timing could not be better. With teams like Rochester and Toronto in a rebuild mode and likely to have down years, New England can build on the foundation it started last season. An addition like Thorimbert at the faceoff X could give the Wolves more possessions in an already solid looking offense that added a veteran in Culp and O’Connor, looking for a fresh chance out of Calgary. Meanwhile, Evan Kirk stood on his head between the pipes last season, and if the Black Wolves can rely on him again, there’s a better defense in front of him than they had last season.

Buffalo Bandits

Top Returner: Dhane Smith, forward

Newcomers: Brad Self, Craig Point

Breakout Potential: Mitch Jones, forward

X Factor: Goalie duo

Buffalo was good last season, and they have mostly the same roster returning again. Dhane Smith became one of the best players in the league with a league leader shattering 137 points last season, and Craig Point is a welcome addition to the veteran group that lost Chad Culp. Anthony Cosmo got to his first ever Champions Cup in net, and with him and David DiRuscio as the tandem, Buffalo is the main power for New England to compete with in the east.

Rochester Knighthawks

Top Returner: Graeme Hossack, defense

Newcomers: Josh Currier, Luke Laszkiewicz, Kyle Jackson, Dan Lomas, Tyler Ferreira, Luc Magnon, Wayne Van Every, Jarrett Davis, Andrew Suitor

Breakout Potential: Joel Matthews, forward

X Factor: Mix of old and new

This is a team that is either on the way down or is going to rebound in tremendous fashion. It’s not too long ago the Knighthawks were threepeat champions, but when with Cody Jamieson out for at least most of the season, there’s a lot of new talent for Rochester to rely on. A lot of this season will be determined by the likes of rookies Josh Currier, Kyle Jackson, and Dan Lomas, along with newly signed Tyler Ferreira and relying on recent breakouts like Joel Matthews. Matt Vinc is still the best ‘keeper in the league, and that might separate the KHawks enough to find themselves back in the post season.

Georgia Swarm

Top Returner: Randy Staats, forward

Newcomers: Connor Sellars, Jordan Hall, Jerome Thompson, Leo Stouros, John Ranagan, Mike Poulin, Bryan Cole, Sean Young, Liam Byrnes

Breakout Potential: Shayne Jackson, forward

X Factor: Offensive firepower

Last season the Swarm showed they have some serious offensive abilities, and they added Jordan Hall to the equation. With the signing of Mike Poulin to play between the pipes, the Swarm made a flashy free agent signing for the first time in recent memory. Randy Staats could be a top five scorer in the league, and with the Thompson trio, there’s no doubt that at the least the Swarm will be an exciting team to watch; the only question is if it translates into post season success.

Toronto Rock

Top Returner: Brett Hickey, forward

Newcomers: Kieran McArdle, Tom Schrieber, Connor Buczek, Latrell Harris, Challen Rogers

Breakout Potential: Challen Rogers, transition

X Factor: Dynamic field players

The big story out of Toronto camp is the additions of the three MLL players; Kieran McArdle, MLL MVP Tom Schrieber, and Connor Buczek. A lot of this is because Rob Hellyer is out for the season, and former captain Colin Doyle retired. Not to be overlooked are the two rookies, Latrell Harris and second overall pick Challen Rogers, as the Rock have a different looking roster than any time in their history. It might be a rebuild mode, but if the five newcomers reach their potential, the Rock will be a thorn in the side of the other NLL clubs.

Colorado Mammoth

Top Returner: Callum Crawford, forward

Newcomers: Taylor Stuart, Zack Greer, Jacob Ruest

Breakout Potential: Eli McLaughlin, forward

X Factor: Defense

Colorado is high powered with the likes of John Grant Jr and Callum Crawford, but now Zack Greer is added to the equation. Adam Jones is out after missing games due to his other work, but a breakout season from Eli McLaughlin could keep the Mammoth on pace to have another league leading offense. With Dillon Ward back in net as well as one of the league’s most promising young goalies, Colorado should be playoff bound once more.

Saskatchewan Rush

Top Returner: Mark Matthews, forward

Newcomers: Mike Messenger, Ryan Keenan, Adam Jones

Breakout Potential: Mike Messenger, defense

X Factor: Depth

One would be hard pressed to find any flaws with the championship Rush. There’s a reason they repeated, and that’s having the deepest roster in the league, and it only got better with Jones and the additions of two rookie studs in Mike Messenger and Ryan Keenan. Curtis Knight is another year removed from the ACL injury, and the additions of Jones and Keenan forced out a solid talent in Riley Loewen with just how deep the team is. On paper, the Rush look like the favorites to repeat again in the NLL.

Vancouver Stealth

Top Returner: Rhys Duch, forward

Newcomers: John Lintz, Peter McFetridge, Brendan Fowler, Tye Belanger, Tommy McKee, Cory Conway

Breakout Potential: Tommy McKee, forward

X Factor: Injured players returning

The Stealth are banged up for now, but Garrett Billings and Cory Conway will rejoin the team by mid January or early February for a shot in the arm. Conway hasn’t had the NLL success he has had in the WLA, but he’s another productive veteran for a team looking for their first post season appearance since moving to Vancouver. The Rock aren’t the only Canadian team adding Americans, either, as Brendan Fowler and Tommy McKee should make an impact. The Stealth also got deeper on the backend, historically an area of weakness, with free agent signings John Lintz and Peter McFetridge.

Calgary Roughnecks

Top Returner: Dane Dobbie, forward

Newcomers: Holden Cattoni, Riley Loewen

Breakout Potential: Wes Berg, forward

X Factor: Christian Del Bianco is ready

The Roughnecks are in a tough spot as a team with plenty of talent but also with some defensive holes. With Mike Poulin now gone, the crease belongs to Frankie Scigliano, but if Christian Del Bianco plays like he did in the pre season, he’ll earn some reps. If Wes Berg breaks out as an NLL star alongside Dane Dobbie, Curtis Dickson, and Jeff Shattler, the Riggers could find themselves back in the championship conversation.