NLL Preview: Toronto Rock Primed for Improved Offense

PHOTO BY DEVIN MANKY

Tom Schreiber matched his incredible rookie performance last season, once again notching 94 points.


The countdown to the NLL season is upon us, as the season kicks off Nov. 29. 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 Toronto Rock.

Toronto Rock

Head coach: Matt Sawyer (fourth season)
2018-19 record: 12-6 (tied for second in East Division)
Playoff finish: Lost in East final

Overview

Toronto Rock games were stressful last season, but the franchise and fans will absolutely take the final result. Toronto finished with 12 wins, its highest total since the league went to an 18-game season in 2014, and earned a spot in the divisional final for the second time in three years.

Unfortunately for the Rock, they didn’t continue their regular season success against the Bandits in the second round of the postseason, falling 12-8.

The offense lost a pair of pieces in the expansion draft, but there wasn’t a flurry of voluntary changes made by the Rock. They’re hoping continuity, and adding a big-name veteran to the roster, can help the team take that next step.

What’s new

Toronto brought in future Hall of Famer Dan Dawson, who showed he’s still got something left in the tank by leading San Diego in points last season. Tom Schreiber is the only returning Rock player who notched more points in 2018-19.

In the draft, the Rock snagged Toronto Beaches transition player Aaron Forster at No. 15. He led Toronto in scoring last season at the Jr. A level.

What’s gone

The Rock lost some of their offensive depth in the expansion draft, as Dan Lintner and Kieran McArdle were selected by Rochester and New York, respectively. McArdle was sixth on the team in points last season with 40, while Lintner was right behind him with 37.

Former No. 2 overall pick Brock Sorensen is out for the year after suffering an Achilles injury in summer ball. His spot could be filled by David Brock, who was acquired after two seasons with the Black Wolves.







What’s the same

The offense returns its top five scorers, led by Schreiber and Rob Hellyer. Toronto is hoping for a bit more from the group after the team scored just 213 goals last year, tied for fifth overall with New England. That was a 24-goal difference from the year prior and just one goal ahead of Rochester, which had the lowest output in the East Division.

Challen Rodgers emerged as a real two-way force last season, earning the league’s Transition Player of the Year honor. Damon Edwards, Latrell Harris and Bradley Kri are all reliable on the back end.

What could they use

A healthy season from its top scorer, Schreiber, is obviously key. He enters the season with injury questions for the second time in three years. This time he’s recovering from a shoulder injury suffered late in the Premier Lacrosse League season. He was optimistic any absence from the field would be minimal when he spoke with US Lacrosse Magazine on the PLL Players Tour earlier this fall.

Biggest question

How slight is the difference between a great season and a forgettable one? Eight of the Rock’s games last year were decided by one goal, and four more were decided by two. Toronto was an incredible 7-1 in one-goal games, but it is playing with fire.

Bonus question to ponder: Will there be any hang-ups out the back door with how many of the team’s most experienced defenders play the right side?

MVP Watch

Tom Schreiber

Schreiber matched his incredible rookie performance last season, once again notching 94 points. That was good for a tie for seventh in the league. Captain America has been the Rock’s leading point producer in both his healthy seasons in the NLL.

Verdict

After finishing tied for second last year, it makes sense Toronto didn’t mess too much with the formula. A return to form from Halifax could make the race in the Northern Division interesting, though, and some of the close-game luck could swing the other way.

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