NLL Preview: Predicting Every Major Award Winner for 2021-22

PHOTO BY TREVOR MACMILLAN / HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS

Graeme Hossack won the Defensive Player of the Year Award for a third straight year in 2020 and won the PLL’s version this summer.


The National Lacrosse League is back … almost.

We’re one month out from 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 first part of USA Lacrosse Magazine’s ramp up to the 2021-22 season, NLL contributor Jack Goods takes a stab at predicting who will be this season’s major award winners.

NLL 2021-22 SEASON PREVIEW

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

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
CALLUM CRAWFORD, NEW YORK RIPTIDE

Crawford led the NLL in goals and points when the league went on hiatus in 2020. He has a stellar opportunity to prove his worth in helping a Riptide team that was at the bottom of the standings in its first season.

Under the Radar Contender: Mitch Jones, Vancouver Warriors

If there’s a way in which you can finish second in the league in points and still be under the radar, Jones has done it. He was on pace for a 100-point campaign before the pandemic hit, by far his best yet. There are new talented faces on the Warriors offense that will need serious possession time, but added talent could help Jones, too.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
JEFF TEAT, NEW YORK RIPTIDE

Fans had to wait a year, but they’ll finally see a player heralded as a generational talent this season. Teat is looking to become the first player to win Rookie of the Year honors both in field and box since Brodie Merrill and is coming off a Rookie of the Year showing in the Premier Lacrosse League this summer.

Under the Radar Contender: Adam Charalambides

In addition to possessing serious talent, the lefty forward also has the benefit of jumping to the professional game at 25 years old. He may need to shake off some rust, though, as injuries have kept him off the box field since 2016.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
GRAEME HOSSACK, HALIFAX THUNDERBIRDS

It is hard to pick against Hossack, who seems addicted to winning Defensive Player of the Year honors. He won this award for a third straight year in 2020 and won the PLL’s version this summer. A fourth straight would tie Kyle Rubisch for the longest run ever.

Under the Radar Contender: Steve Priolo, Buffalo Bandits

Priolo has gotten used to finishing just short in this category, a finalist five times but never the winner. He’s not flashy, but he’s the backbone for a Buffalo defense that has had the team in contention frequently in the last few years.







TRANSITION PLAYER OF THE YEAR
ZACH CURRIER, CALGARY ROUGHNECKS

It is wild that Currier has not won this award yet, but he has been a finalist each of the last three seasons. The do-it-all talent will be relied on heavily by the Roughnecks, who are entering a new era of youth.

Under the Radar Contender: Kiel Matisz, Philadelphia Wings

Don’t underestimate Matisz’s impact in the Wings’ jump from 4-14 in their first year to 8-6 in 2020. Philadelphia’s captain, Matisz is coming off back-to-back seasons of 100 loose balls and can play wherever Paul Day needs him to.

GOALIE OF THE YEAR
NICK ROSE, TORONTO ROCK

The veteran finished second in the NLL in save percentage and third in goals against average in 2020. He’ll have added help on the defensive end this year with Toronto’s additions of Jason Noble and Mitch de Snoo, helping his chances of winning the award for the first time.

Under the Radar Contender: Zach Higgins, Philadelphia Wings

It wasn’t long ago that Higgins was paying to play box lacrosse, then simply a backup in Buffalo. In 2020, he ranked among the top five in both goals against average and save percentage for a Wings team on the rise.

COACH OF THE YEAR
PATRICK MERRILL, SAN DIEGO SEALS

The Seals have been competitive from the start of their existence but seem poised to have their true breakout this winter with the addition of former MVP Dane Dobbie if Austin Staats can return from his knee injury quickly. Merrill has an impressive 16-14 record in the first two seasons with an expansion team.

Under the Radar Contender: Dan Ladouceur, New York Riptide

Ladouceur takes over a Riptide franchise that won just one game in 2020 but is gifted with an influx of offensive talent. This award is all about expectations, and a sizable improvement from New York in its second year would result in major praise for the first-time head coach.

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