NLL Preview: Motivated Georgia Swarm Look Like a Playoff Lock

PHOTO BY MICHELINE V/ROCHESTER KNIGHTHAWKS

Shayne Jackson opened his season with three goals and four assists in a 14-4 win over Rochester.


The NLL season is finally here, and as the season gets into full swing, be sure to check back to uslaxmagazine.com as we roll out our season preview — including Jack Goods’ predictions, team-by-team capsules and additional features. Next is a look at the Georgia Swarm, who opened their season with a 14-4 win over the Rochester Knighthawks. Read more about the game in Goods' NLL Week 1 Notebook.

Georgia Swarm

Head coach: Ed Comeau (fifth season)
2018-19 record: 12-6 (second in East Division)
Playoff finish: Lost in East semifinals

Outlook

Considering the Swarm's enviable talent, any year they aren't making a play for the NLL Cup is a bit of a disappointment.

So, walking away from their quest for a title by losing in the East semifinals was a tough pill to swallow. The Toronto Rock were able to pull off a victory on the Swarm’s home turf, pushing Georgia’s surprising season-ending losing streak to three games.

Now, the Swarm return an established, veteran roster looking to get back atop the mountain and post a fourth consecutive season of at least 11 wins.

What’s new

A couple of familiar faces are back in Swarm stripes after stints away, including transition player Joel White. The talented American missed last season due to work commitments and had been limited to 16 total games over the prior two seasons. He snagged 143 loose balls and caused 32 turnovers in 2016, his last full season.

Forward Jordan Hall is also returning to Georgia after a year with the Wings. He had 67 points with Philadelphia, a 34-point increase from his last year with the Swarm in 2018. Zach Miller, acquired in a trade with the Seals this offseason, begins this year on injured reserve.

Two Swarm draft picks from this year are featured on the transition unit: Kason Tarbell and Ryan MacSpadyen. The duo were taken with the 11th and 13th picks, respectively.

What’s gone

Holden Cattoni, who notched a career-high 80 points in his first year with the Swarm, was taken in the expansion draft by Rochester. Transition player John Ranagan also departed for New York via the expansion draft. He had spent the last three seasons in Georgia.

The squad traded Joel Tinney, a second-round pick in last year’s draft, to the Black Wolves for a 2021 draft pick.







What’s the same

The Swarm offense is still led by the powerful duo of Lyle Thompson and Randy Staats, who combined for 201 points last season. Thompson had four goals and three assists in the season-opener, and Staats tallied three assists.

All of the team’s top ten scorers from last season are back besides Cattoni, including the reliable Shayne Jackson, who had three goals and four assists in the opener. He tied with Cattoni last year for third on the team in points.

The defense is all familiar faces, including Alex Crepinsek, Connor Sellars, Leo Stouros, Chad Tutton, Adam Weidemann and Matt Dunn. Transition player Jordan McIntosh remains captain, and Mike Poulin returns to man the Swarm pipes for a fourth season.

What could they use

Georgia would benefit from more consistency away from Xcel Energy Center, since the Swarm went 5-4 on the road last season. Opponents scored at least 13 goals in three of those losses, while Georgia failed to reach 10 in two others.

Biggest question

Which of the secondary scorers fills in for Cattoni’s production? Two likely candidates: Zed Williams, who had a strong training camp and should finally get a good look out the front door, and Bryan Cole, who is coming off a breakout season in Major League Lacrosse.

MVP Watch

Lyle Thompson

The NLL MVP in 2017, Thompson remains one of the toughest covers and most creative players in the entire league. He got back to 100-plus points last season after taking a bit of a step back offensively the year prior. His 105 was good for third in the league.

Verdict

The Swarm may have the easiest path to a playoff spot, playing in a division with an expansion team, a second-year squad and a Black Wolves group that may need some time to click. Expect the postseason, and likely more, from a motivated Georgia Swarm.

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