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

PHOTO BY MIKE McGINNIS / NLL

Casey Jackson had 19 goals and 13 assists in seven games 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 third part of USA Lacrosse Magazine’s ramp up to the 2021-22 season, NLL contributor Jack Goods breaks down every team in the West.

NLL 2021-22 SEASON PREVIEW

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

CALGARY ROUGHNECKS

It will be a new look Roughnecks team this winter, both in terms of uniform colors and roster construction. Dane Dobbie departs two years removed from an MVP season, as does impressive defender Tyson Bell. Calgary re-signed Curtis Dickson to create some continuity but will be relying on more younger talent going forward.

Last Season: 5-5

Key Additions: Tanner Cook, Harrison Matsuoka

Key Losses: Dane Dobbie, Tyson Bell

Prediction: There will always be hope when you have Dickson and potentially the best young goalie in the league in Christian del Bianco and transition player in Zach Currier, but Calgary will be relying on a lot of youth. A 5-5 finish last year while dealing with a suspension to Dobbie could be a sign of things to come.

COLORADO MAMMOTH

The Mammoth found a rhythm toward the end of last season, winning three straight before the pandemic unexpectedly ended their run. Zed Williams has become a star in the PLL since the NLL last played, but it took defensive stalwart and captain Dan Coates to get him.

Last Season: 7-6

Key Additions: Zed Williams, Connor Robinson

Key Losses: Dan Coates, Jacob Ruest

Prediction: Colorado is full of young pieces that could easily help the Mammoth take a jump. The group should at least be competing for playoff position in the West.







PANTHER CITY LACROSSE CLUB

Pro box lacrosse has arrived in Texas for the first time, with some established offensive talents like Ryan Benesch and Randy Staats along for the ride. But with Staats recovering from injury, inexperience at goalie and 2021 first overall pick Jonathan Donville returning to college to play at Maryland, there could be some growing pains in Fort Worth.

Last Season: N/A

Key Additions: Ryan Benesch, Travis Cornwall, Jonathan Donville, Matt Hossack, Randy Staats, Jeremy Thompson

Key Losses: N/A

Prediction: Expansion teams have largely struggled out of the gate in this recent wave of expansion, San Diego the lone exception. Panther City’s focus should be on building, trying to emulate the path Philadelphia followed from 4-14 in its first year to 8-6 last season.

SAN DIEGO SEALS

The Seals sent shockwaves through the West when they signed Dane Dobbie away from Calgary. Lofty expectations took a bit of a hit though in October when the team announced star Austin Staats is undergoing knee surgery. His timetable for a return is unknown.

Last Season: 6-6

Key Additions: Tyson Bomberry, Joel Tinney, Alex Woodall

Key Losses: Adrian Sorichetti, Kyle Buchanan, Johnny Pearson

Prediction: San Diego would have been a flashy title pick with a healthy Staats, but Patrick Merrill has still built a solid group that can work around Dobbie while the Seals wait for the return of their young star.

SASKATCHEWAN RUSH

A new era has begun for the Rush. Derek Keenan stepped down as head coach after three championships, having won more games than any other coach in league history. Former assistant Jeff McComb inherits a group that still includes players who helped Keenan be so successful.

Last Season: 7-3

Key Additions: Matt Beers, Josh Currier, Dan Lintner

Key Losses: Ben McIntosh, Connor Robinson, Justin Robinson, Evan Kirk

Prediction: With two Defensive Player of the Year caliber players in Kyle Rubisch and Chris Corbeil and an MVP-level forward in Mark Matthews, Saskatchewan retains key pieces. With the departure of Evan Kirk, the goalie position could determine if the Rush remain kings in the West.

VANCOUVER WARRIORS

The Warriors’ key reinforcements come from the draft, landing Reid Bowering second overall in 2020 and picking one of the few players sure to come out immediately in Adam Charalambides in 2021. They’ll look to help the franchise finish above .500 for the first time since 2012-13, back when they were the Washington Stealth.

Last Season: 4-9

Key Additions: Reid Bowering, Adam Charalambides, Anthony Kalinich, Kyle Killen

Key Losses: Matt Beers, Ian Hawksbee, Joel McCready, Chris O’Dougherty, James Rahe

Prediction: The Warriors finally have top draft picks after years without them, kickstarting a rebuild that’s been years in the making. Expectations should be tempered while the youth finds its way.

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