The National Lacrosse League has announced three finalists for the 2016 NLL Most Valuable Player Award. The New England Black Wolves’ Shawn Evans, Saskatchewan Rush’s Mark Matthews and Buffalo Bandits’ Dhane Smith were voted as the top trio of players in the league this season.
Evans ranked second in the league with 118 points, third in the NLL with a career-high 50 goals, third in assists (68), and led all forwards with 116 loose balls, 14th-most overall. The forward recorded six or more points and had multi-goal games 13 times including four double-digit point outings plus nine hat tricks in 17 games played. Evans helped the Black Wolves return to the playoffs with a 10-8 record as the league’s most improved team. The 11-year veteran has 907 points (330+577) in 178 career games and won NLL MVP last year as the four-time NLL All-Pro (2012-2015) became just the fourth player in league history to win the award twice (2013 & 2015). The 30-year-old from Peterborough, Ont., who played collegiately at Bellarmine University, was the second overall pick in the 2005 NLL Draft and was named to the 2006 NLL All-Rookie Team.
Matthews finished second in the NLL with a career-high 69 assists, sixth in points (109), tied for ninth in goals (40) and tied for 20th among forwards in loose balls (76). The forward registered six or more points in 11 games with five hat tricks and 12 multi-goal outings in 18 games played to help the Rush finish first in the West Division for a third-straight year with a 13-5 record. Matthews tied for third in the league in shorthanded goals (3) and ranked third in power play assists (23). The 26-year-old from Oshawa, Ont., who played collegiately at the University of Denver, was the first overall pick of the 2012 NLL Draft and won 2013 NLL Rookie of the Year. The four-year veteran, who has 371 points (162+209) in 70 career games, was a 2015 NLL All-Pro First Team member and was named 2015 NLL Champion’s Cup Finals MVP.
Smith set the new NLL single-season scoring record with 137 points and scored a league-record 72 goals in 18 games played. The fourth-year pro ranked first in game-winning goals (5), second in power play goals (16), fifth in assists (65), and second among forwards with a career-best 111 loose balls, 17th-most in the league. Smith had a .214 shooting percentage, sixth-best among players with 10-plus goals, helping the Bandits finish atop the NLL standings and East Division with a 13-5 record. The fourth-year pro recorded six or more points 14 times with 16 hat tricks, 17 multi-goal games and three double-digit point performances. The 23-year-old from Kitchener, Ont., who has 347 points (155+192) in 69 career games, won NLL Player of the Month three times in 2016. Smith was selected in the first round (5th overall) of the 2012 NLL Draft and was named to the 2013 NLL All-Rookie Team.
The 2016 NLL Season Awards are determined by a vote of the league’s Board of Governors, General Managers and Head Coaches at the end of the regular season. The winners will be announced at the NLL Season Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 27 in Toronto, Ont.
Schedule of finalist announcement for the remaining NLL Season Awards:
Tuesday, July 5: Teammate of the Year award finalists
Wednesday, July 6: Air Canada Wingman of the Year award finalists
Thursday, July 7: Executive of the Year award finalists
Monday, July 11: Media Person of the Year (The Tom Borrelli Award) winner
Tuesday, September 27: 2016 NLL Season Awards Ceremony