The Eastern Conference is almost always close, and this year is no exception. It’s hard to predict how things will go down, as each team has a very strong roster. Many of the teams are also boasting very different rosters from last year, making it even harder to decipher which will have success on the floor this season.
The favorite has to be the defending champions, the Rochester Knighthawks. Rochester goes into the season with almost the same roster as last year plus two huge additions, Dan Dawson and Casey Powell. With an offensive unit including Jamieson, Keogh, Accursi, and Powless this team should be hard to defend. That being said, when Powell and Dawson were together in Boston the team didn’t play nearly as well as they were predicted on paper. Between the pipes for another season in Rochester is Matt Vinc, who always puts Rochester in a position to win.
Buffalo has an incredibly different roster than last season, thanks largely to new general manager Steve Dietrich. Joining John Tavares and Luke Wiles on the offensive unit is veteran Shawn Williams, who had a solid season last year for Edmonton. Nick Cotter, Aaron Wilson, and Mike Hominuck were also picked up this summer through free agency and trades. Dhane Smith, the team’s first round pick, looks to make an impression as well. The biggest issue for the Bandits is their defense, which will need to be carried by Billy Dee Smith, Derek Suddons, and Scott Self.
Toronto won the division last year with a 9-7 record and returns almost the same team as well. Garrett Billings, Stephan Leblanc, John Sanderson, and Colin Doyle are all returning for another season with the Rock. There are only two noticeable absences from last season, neither being incredible road blocks to success. The team lost Dan Carey to retirement and traded Jamie Rooney to Buffalo. The team should still be close to the top of the division for yet another year, especially with a full season from goaltender Nick Rose.
Last, but not least, is the Philadelphia Wings. This is the team that has the most question marks. The Wings have made a real push for Americans as of late, which means many of their players aren’t incredibly experienced in box lacrosse. They traded away their leading scorer in Dan Dawson, but there are still solid parts on the team. Second year man Kevin Crowley looks to build on a very successful season of 71 points. Drew Westervelt, Brendan Mundorf, Kevin Ross, and Jordan Hall round out their offensive unit. The Wings have one of the strongest transition groups in the league, led by recently acquired Paul Rabil and Brodie Merrill. Although many are projecting the Wings to have a down season, they do still have the talent to compete.
The East is still very up in the air as we wait for the season to finally kick off. A nine team NLL makes something very apparent; there will always be parity between the teams. The season kicks off in just over one week when Rochester heads out west to face Washington.