Investing in "buy-low" candidates such as Minnesota Swarm rookie Logan Schuss might pay dividends in 2014 NLL Fantasy. (Photo: Larry Palumbo)
The 2014 National Lacrosse League season is set to begin this weekend and that means you better have your fantasy lineups set and ready to roll. Keep in mind there are only three games during opening weekend, all of which can be watched live on YouTube via The Lacrosse Network.
The Calgary Roughnecks, Toronto Rock and Vancouver Stealth won’t open their seasons until next week so make sure you don’t have any players from those three teams in your lineup. This is one of the most common mistakes by fantasy owners to start the season and can really set you back in terms of overall fantasy points. You wouldn’t want to be playing catch up for the next few months all because of a Week #1 lineup mistake.
Normally this weekly column will provide fantasy owners with advice on players to buy and sell for the upcoming weekend. Since it’s the first week of the season, however, we’ll just focus on potential buys for now.
Logan Schuss (Minnesota/Forward $15.5) – Schuss was the first overall pick in the 2013 NLL Entry Draft and that could potentially mean big numbers for the rookie in terms of fantasy. His starting value is around where other first overall picks began their fantasy careers but that could easily go up if he starts doing well. There is a lot of room for profit here and that makes him a great player to buy early on. Let’s take a look at the rookie performances of some past first overall draft picks. Kevin Crowley was taken first overall two years ago. In his first season with the Philadelphia Wings, Crowley scored 36 goals and added 35 assists for 71 total points. Mark Matthews was the first overall pick last season. In his rookie campaign with the Edmonton Rush, Matthews scored 38 goals and had 31 assists for 69 total points. Can fantasy owners expect that kind of production out of Schuss? Time will tell.
Craig Point (Rochester/Forward $10) – Point recently re-signed with the Rochester Knighthawks for an additional seven years. After a somewhat disappointing 2013 regular season where he put up the lowest point total of his career, Point had a key four-goal performance against the Minnesota Swarm during the playoffs. Last time Point played the Swarm during the regular season was back in 2011 and he had a hat trick in both games. In Rochester’s preseason game against the Swarm earlier this month, Point scored an impressive six goals. He clearly seems to do well when he faces the Swarm which is who the Knighthawks will be playing this weekend. Point could be a huge bargain with a lot of upside at just $10.
Mark Steenhuis (Buffalo/Transition $15) – Steenhuis is another player coming off a down year in which he scored just 39 total points – the fewest he’s had since 2004. Steenhuis is still a very dangerous player on offense, however, and the addition of Ryan Benesch to the lineup should open up some more opportunities for him. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Steenhuis once again eclipse the 60 point mark by the end of the season especially if he plays forward as he was listed on the preseason roster.
Rochester (Rochester/Goalie $23.5) – The Knighthawks’ goalies were among the best fantasy investments of last season and there is no doubt that Matt Vinc played a huge role in helping the Knighthawks win the Championship. Vinc won the NLL Goaltender of the Year award for the third time in his career and led the National Lacrosse League in numerous stat categories. He had the most saves out of any goalie last season with 662 (which was also a career high for him) and the highest save percentage among all starters with a .803 save percentage. Vinc also had a 10.17 GAA which was the best among full-time starters in the league. The fact he makes so many saves means he will rack up fantasy points in bunches and that makes the Rochester goalies a good buy right out of the gate for fantasy.
Kiel Matisz (Minnesota/Forward $18) – Matisz was the runner up for the 2013 Rookie of the Year award and for good reason. He had 62 points (29 + 33) and one of the highest scoring percentages on the team with 29 goals on 127 shots (.228). Benesch may be gone but that doesn’t mean this Swarm offense lacks talent. If anything it means that Matisz could play an even larger role this year.
Ryan Ward (Philadelphia/Forward $15) – Ward led the Edmonton Rush in total points last season with 75. Yes, he had even more points than Mark Matthews. Ward had a career-high 54 assists feeding passes to Mark Matthews all season long. He should be able to see similar success playing alongside Kevin Crowley in Philly. Assists do count for less than goals in the fantasy game but at $15, Ward is a low risk option that should provide consistency and stability to your fantasy roster.
John Tavares (Buffalo/Forward $16) – Injuries took Tavares out for several games last season and really restricted his productivity. At 45 years old, injuries will remain a concern for his fantasy owners but the all-time scoring leader in league history could still be a good deal at just $16. The Bandits had the second-fewest goals scored out of any team in the league last season and were the sole team to miss the playoffs. That’s a big reason they traded for Ryan Benesch during the offseason. Benesch and Tavares will make for an incredibly powerful one-two punch as long as he can remain healthy. He’s a pretty risky buy but if anybody is worth the risk, it’s JT.