NLL Preview: Breaking Down the East Division for 2021-22

PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL LACROSSE LEAGUE

Lyle Thompson had 27 goals and 33 assists before the premature conclusion of last season.


The National Lacrosse League is back … almost.

We’re closing in on the return of the NLL, with raucous crowds and North America’s best players chomping at the bit to return to the floor.

Due in large part to the COVID-19 hiatus, the league has an abundance of storylines to follow over the course of the coming months — maybe more so than ever before.

Familiar faces in new places. A big rookie class. New teams joining the fray. It’s sure to be a season to remember.

In the second part of USA Lacrosse Magazine’s ramp up to the 2021-22 season, NLL contributor Jack Goods breaks down every team in the East.

NLL 2021-22 SEASON PREVIEW

Predicting Every Major Award Winner
East Division Preview
West Division Preview
Coming Soon: Building Panther City Lacrosse Club
Schedule

ALBANY FIREWOLVES

The NLL is back in Albany for the first time since 2003, with reigning Goalie of the Year Doug Jamieson and franchise building block Andrew Kew along for the move. Not all the former Black Wolves stuck around though, with leading scorer Callum Crawford heading to New York in free agency.

Last Season: 8-3 (as New England Black Wolves)

Key Additions: Jean-Luc Chetner, Jacob Ruest, Adrian Sorichetti

Key Losses: Callum Crawford, Stephan Leblanc

Prediction: There are 112 points to replace between just Crawford and Leblanc. The rest of the offense, led by Kew, needs to take a big step forward to keep this franchise in the conference title race.

BUFFALO BANDITS

Much of the Bandits’ core is looking to carry over PLL championship success from Chaos LC —Dhane Smith, Josh Byrne, Chase Fraser, Ian MacKay and Chris Cloutier chief among them. Add goalie Matt Vinc and defenseman Steve Priolo to that group, and Buffalo remains one of the favorites in the East.

Last Season: 7-4

Key Additions: Kyle Buchanan, Connor Fields, Tehoka Nanticoke, Justin Robinson

Key Losses: Corey Small, Mitch de Snoo, Matt Gilray, Dan Lintner

Prediction: It’s hard to count out the Bandits, who have been in the conversation for the past few years. They’ve got plenty of proven veterans who have built tremendous chemistry both indoors and out.

GEORGIA SWARM

The Swarm have lost some major pieces, trading Zed Williams to Colorado for Dan Coates (who then left in free agency), Jason Noble to Toronto and Randy Staats to Panther City. But Lyle Thompson is still here, and so is reigning MVP Shayne Jackson. And thus, the Swarm remain a threat.

Last Season: 7-5

Key Additions: Robert Hudson, Ryan Lanchbury, Ethan Walker

Key Losses: Randy Staats, Jason Noble, Alex Crepinsek, Leo Stouros, Zed Williams

Prediction: Thompson and Jackson alone make the Swarm must-watch television and East contenders, but the fate of the season comes down to a new youthful secondary group. Unfortunately, that doesn’t include 2021 pick Ryan Lanchbury just yet.

HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS

The Thunderbirds have added some incredible veteran talent to a team already with championship aspirations. With arguably the league’s top defender in Graeme Hossack and an offense headlined by Cody Jamieson, Halifax is scary.

Last Season: 8-4

Key Additions: Tyson Bell, Rhys Duch, David Brock, Stephan Leblanc

Key Losses: Ryan Benesch

Prediction: Coolbet, the NLL’s betting partner, has Halifax as the favorite in the East and tied for the title favorite for good reason. The T-Birds have the depth and top-end talent to make a deep run.







NEW YORK RIPTIDE

The Riptide had a forgettable first season in the league, but fortunes should change with reinforcements. 2020 first-overall pick Jeff Teat and 2019-20 league scoring leader Callum Crawford revolutionize the offense for a team that by far scored the fewest goals in last season’s East Division.

Last Season: 1-12

Key Additions: Callum Crawford, Damon Edwards, Connor Kearnan, Leo Stouros, Jeff Teat, Steven Orleman

Key Losses: Tyson Bomberry, John Ranagan, Andrew Suitor, John Wagner, Alex Woodall

Prediction: Crawford was playing at an MVP level before the NLL hiatus and Teat has succeeded quickly against pros in both the PLL and international games. Those two, combined with 2020 Rookie of the Year Tyson Gibson, should be enough to at least battle for middle of the pack in a competitive East.

PHILADELPHIA WINGS

The Wings found their footing in Year 2, helping Paul Day sweep coach and executive of the year honors. Kevin Crowley and Matt Rambo form a stellar one-two punch offensively, and goalie Zach Higgins creates a strong foundation on the back end. Day brought in more reinforcements to take the next step.

Last Season: 8-6

Key Additions: Ben McIntosh, Alex Crepinsek, Brock Sorensen, John Ranagan

Key Losses: Josh Currier

Prediction: We were robbed of a true conclusion to the Wings’ second chapter, making this season once again a prove-it moment. They’ve already shown they aren’t the same Philly squad that struggled mightily in the franchise’s inaugural season.

ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS

The new-look Knighthawks brought in two major pieces in free agency in defenseman Dan Coates and goalie Evan Kirk. They create a new backbone for a defense that suffered four losses of eight or more goals in a difficult first season.

Last Season: 2-10

Key Additions: Dan Coates, Matt Gilray, Evan Kirk, Mike Manley, John Wagner

Key Losses: Phil Caputo, Darryl Robertson, Jay Thorimbert, Craig Wende

Prediction: Coates and Kirk should certainly help the Knighthawks be more competitive, and offensive threats like Holden Cattoni, Curtis Knight and Shawn Evans are bright spots, too. That still may not be enough to hang with the top of the East just yet.

TORONTO ROCK

The Rock are making a short move from downtown Toronto to Hamilton but still retain a majority of the players that have made them successful in recent years. The top eight scorers from last season are back, among them American star Tom Schreiber, and the defense has been bolstered with the likes of Jason Noble and Mitch de Snoo.

Last Season: 7-4

Key Additions: Jason Noble, Mitch de Snoo, TD Ierlan

Key Losses: David Brock, Scott Dominey, Damon Edwards, Taylor Stuart

Prediction: Toronto appears poised for a third straight winning season and should be considered among the East championship contenders.

Most Recent

Best of Lax: Vote for Best in Fashion

For the drippiest in lacrosse. The ones who always look good.

Hard Work Paid Off to Build Panther City LC During a Pandemic

The NLL's 14th franchise takes to the box for the first time this weekend.

ESPN NLL Schedule: League Announces 10-Game Slate on ESPN Linear Networks

Ten games will be spread across ESPNEWS, ESPN2 and ESPNU.

NLL Preview: Breaking Down the West Division for 2021-22

Six teams are readying to compete for the West Division's crown this season.







Twitter Posts