Preview the Three Stars of NLL Week 8 by Stephen Stamp below to see which National Lacrosse League players came up big for their teams over the weekend as the schedule reaches the halfway mark with five games in NLL Week 9 starting on Friday.
“Dhane Smith is on pace for an historic National Lacrosse League scoring total and with eight of 18 weeks in the books, it’s far enough along to consider whether he’ll actually be able to continue it for the entire season,” Stamp writes. “As former IL Indoor editor Paul Tutka pointed out on Twitter, Smith is on pace not only to shatter the year-old single-season scoring record of 130 set by Shawn Evans, he’s scoring at the highest points-per-game pace (8.6) in the last 30 years of the NLL.”
That’s right, higher than John Tavares (8.2) when he set the record Evans now holds. Higher than John Grant Jr (8.3) when he broke Tavares’ record. Higher than anything recorded by either Paul or Gary Gait. Quite simply, Smith is scoring at an unequalled rate. He fell slightly below his pace when he “only” scored 8 points against Toronto Friday night but quickly redeemed himself with an 11-point effort against Georgia.
Those 19 points earned him first star honours this week, the second time he’s topped the IL Indoor NLL 3 Stars this year. He also has a 3rd Star and four honourable mentions through eight weeks of the season. Wondering why he missed out on being honoured one week, which was actually Week 1? Because he didn’t play. That’s the only way to keep him out of the 3 Stars and has been the only way other teams have kept him from lighting it up this year, as well.
Dhane Smith, Buffalo Bandits
8 goals, 11 assists
Hard to believe Smith was selected fifth overall in the 2012 NLL Entry Draft. That was a strong group of incoming players but given a do-over you have to think the Swarm might like the chance to grab Smith with one of the three straight picks they held from second to fourth. The Rush wouldn’t be likely to budge from Mark Matthews first overall. And Georgia is pretty happy with their selections of Brock Sorensen (traded for Ethan O’Connor), Kiel Matisz and Shayne Jackson. But to add Smith, you’d have to give up any of those three at this point. So why did he last until fifth? With a couple of years of junior lacrosse left, Smith was still raw and you had to project just how good he would become. His physical skills made it clear he would be very good, but it was fair to wonder if he would become the player that he has. Seems silly now, but that’s the nature of prospect evaluation and what makes draft projections so much fun.
Curtis Dickson, Calgary Roughnecks
5 goals, 4 assists
It’s kind of funny, but Dickson’s spectacular no-look, back-to-the-net, between-the-legs goal may actually have distracted from just how good he was overall in Saturday’s game. He scored driving to the net. He scored on step-back rockets. He set up teammates with nifty passes. But that crazy goal, and the way he executed it with such panache, overshadowed all of that. As did the comeback by Vancouver to win in overtime, which deservedly got plenty of attention. Make no mistake, though, Dickson was sensational in the game and may well have been first star had Smith not had two games either one of which would have made hi a contender for top honours.
Logan Schuss (Vancouver): 1g. 7a. Fourth straight game with 8 or more points. Remarkable run…Johnny Powless (Georgia): 3g, 3a. It’s not deja vu. The lefties traded for each other are just earning their way into the column week after week…Josh Sanderson (Toronto): 1g, 6a. Shooter now has 10 assists in his two games back with the Rock and they’re six seconds from being 2-0 in those games. Apparently his absence was making that much difference…Matt Vinc (Rochester): 47/57, .825 save percentage. Vinc was pulled in his previous game and got taken out for a breather Friday as well, but when he returned he was masterful and the main reason the Knighthawks were able to stay as close to Saskatchewan as they did…Corey Small (Vancouver): 3g, 2a. Quiet for much of the evening, Small scored a pair of goals to tie the game up in the fourth quarter then notched the overtime winner. Nice finish…Reilly O’Connor (Calgary): 2g, 4a. With Dane Dobbie injured, O’Connor stepped up big time and played by far his best game, showing Calgary fans why the team took him seventh overall…Anthony Malcom (Buffalo): 5g, 3a. Another high-pick rookie who was taking a while to get comfortable in the pro game, Malcom had a strong weekend despite Buffalo’s pair of losses…Zach Higgins (Georgia): 29/36, .806 save percentage. Oddly, Higgins had the exact same stats as Angus Goodleaf posted last week to wind up in this exact spot among the honourable mentions. Higgins completely changed the momentum of Saturday’s game and allowed the Swarm to mount their comeback win…Mark Matthews & Ben McIntosh (Saskatchewan): 2g, 2a each. When you have two first-overall picks in three years, you expect them to make big contributions. Four points seems pretty quiet in a season with so many big scoring nights but they came against a tough defence in a defensive battle of a game between the teams that have won the last four Champions Cups. They were big contributions…Rhys Duch (Vancouver): 4g, 4a. You just kind of expect this type of production from Duch, which may make me treat him a little unfairly when selecting stars. He’s almost too consistent for his own good in terms of gaining attention…Jordan MacIntosh (Georgia): 1g, 3a, 20LB, 3CTO. Scored an incredible effort goal when he created a loose ball along the boards, won it from among a pair of Bandits and drove to the net through a hold to bury a goal…