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NLL Top 50: Transition

Welcome to the NLL Top 50.

As voted on by the League’s coaches and GMs, these are the players that made the cut to be considered one of the Top 50 players in the league. The list is comprised of the league’s best forwards, defensemen, transition players, goaltenders and face-off men.

Today, we honor the fastest men in the game – the loose ball scoopers, the runners, the passers, the scorers. In other words, the men who make magic happen from the back end. The best transition specialists, as voted on by the League’s coaches and GMs.

 

10. Reid Bowering, Vancouver

Reid Bowering is going to thrive under new Warriors’ head coach Curt Malawsky. The third-year defender is considered a natural leader and future captain, whose grit will fit right in with Mouse’s preferred style of play. He brings a winning pedigree from his Coquitlam Jr. A days; he is responsible defensively and is dynamic when he pushes in transition.

Bowering is one of the most prolific early-career loose ball collectors in league history, with 424 scoops in just 33 games. That means he’s good to pick up, on average, 12.8 loosies per game. That’s 12.8 more chances his team has to score. – Anna Taylor

 

9. Colton Armstrong, Halifax

Thunderbirds’ transition star Colton Armstrong stands as one of the most dominant defensive players in the NLL. Not known for his goal scoring prowess (just 12 points in 2022-2023), the 28-year-old is all about keeping the ball out of his own net and instigating offense for coach Mike Accursi’s squad. Last season, Armstrong contributed 12 caused turnovers and three blocks, amid claiming 57 loose balls, for the 10-8 club. Armstrong has zero issue putting his 5’11, 190 lbs. body on the line, in the cause of helping his teammates thrive.

Armstrong is a proud native of the lacrosse hotbed of Peterborough, ON. His connection to the city of 83,000 includes tenures with the Trent University Excalibur, Peterborough Timberman of the Arena Lacrosse League and Peterborough Lakers of Major Series Lacrosse. – Jon Rapoport

 

8. Brad Gillies, Rochester

Last season, in his return to Rochester, Gillies had one of the most complete years of his seven-year career. The Mississauga, ON native has been one of the most disciplined transition players/defensemen of this generation. Gillies was one of only two transition players last season that had zero penalty minutes (minimum 10 games played). He is also one of only a handful of transition players that recorded around a dozen caused turnovers and blocked shots last year. – Adam Levi

 

7. Josh Medeiros, Panther City Lacrosse Club

Did you know? Josh Medeiros was a forward his first two years in Jr. B, where he led Brampton in scoring both seasons. After falling back to play defense in Jr. A, he scored just four goals over three seasons. Now, as a breakout transition star for Tracey Kelusky’s Panther City squad, he’s contributed 40 points over his two seasons – 29 of them goals, and a lot of them coming off his 171 loose balls.

Entering his third season as a pro, the Brampton, ON native will look to improve on the five multi-goal games he had in 2022-23. Teamed with players like Brandon Goodwin, Tyler Burton, Tony Malcom and Connor Sellars, he makes Panther City’s transition squad a true threat. – Anna Taylor

 

DENVER, CO – JANUARY 7: Shane Simpson #22 of Calgary Roughnecks runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Colorado Mammoth at Ball Arena on January 7, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

6. Shane Simpson, Calgary

Roughnecks’ transition stalwart Shane Simpson is one of the prime initiators of perhaps the most exciting offense in the NLL. No team gets up and down the field quite like the high-flying boys from Alberta. While reigning MVP Christian Del Bianco serves as the brick wall on the backend of the defense, when the ball is stopped before Del Bianco has an opportunity to work his magic, inevitably it is the 29-year-old North Carolina Tar Heel making things happen. Last season, Simpson was responsible for a solid 18 goals, 10 assists and 40 loose balls.

The Hamilton, Ontario product is an undisputed winner. The righty’s resume features the 2019 NLL title in Calgary, the 2016 NCAA crown at UNC, and two Minto Cup wins with Six Nations. Simpson’s sterling resume also includes a business degree and a day job as a financial analyst. – Jon Rapoport

 

5. Colton Watkinson, Albany

The lean 6’4” Watkinson knows how to use his big frame in transition. He’s big enough to make his presence felt, but he’s light enough to be skilled on his feet on the run. He is one of the longest-tenured players on the FireWolves and has been able to use his experience at The Hill Academy and at Limestone University (one of the leading NCAA DII lacrosse programs) to his benefit. His understanding of the game and ability to teach on the floor and on the bench has made him a leader on the floor. – Adam Levi

 

4. Bryan Cole, Georgia 

In his six years in the league, Swarm defender Bryan Cole has proven himself as one of the most adaptable defenders in the game. As the years go on, he’s becoming more and more of an offensive threat. 2022-23 was his best year to date, scoring 15 goals and adding 27 assists for 42 points. Five of those goals came in one game, when he had a six-point outing against New York. He also reached a career high in shots on goal with 55, showing the growing confidence in his game.

A former NLL Cup winner (2017), Cole’s winning pedigree is a boon for the younger players around him. – Anna Taylor/Adam Levi

 

DENVER, COLORADO – MAY 29: Ian MacKay #4 of the Buffalo Bandits shoots the ball against the Colorado Mammoth during the second half of game two of the NLL Championship at Ball Arena on May 29, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images for NLL)

3. Ian MacKay, Buffalo

While players like Smith, Byrne and Vinc tend to dominate the marquee, the man who many consider to be the glue of the Bandits’ franchise is 29-year-old Ian MacKay. Last season, the Vermont alum posted 19 goals, 19 assists and an absolutely incredible 121 loose balls. When the Bandits turn defense into offense, more often than not, it’s MacKay who flips the switch. During his four seasons on the shores of Lake Erie, the 2018 fourth-overall pick has tallied 48 goals, 56 assists and a whopping 407 loose balls.

Away from KeyBank Center, MacKay works as a coach for Bandits Youth Lacrosse, including serving as a sideline man for the Jr. Bandits Elite program. With his on and off the field contributions in mind, the Bandits recently rewarded MacKay with a three-year contract extension. – Jon Rapoport

 

2. Zach Currier, Calgary

Widely regarded as one of the best players in the game today at any position, whether on the floor or the field, Zach Currier can do it all. The reigning transition player of the year (he won the award back to back) has an intensity when he plays the game that forces opponents to re-evaluate every strategy. If you get in Currier’s way, he’ll take you down, strip you of the ball and run up the floor and score. In 2022 he set the NLL record for forced turnovers in a season at 62.

Currier is also a loose-ball vacuum. While he hasn’t cracked the NLL’s all-time Top 10 in loose balls yet, it’s only a matter of time if he keeps having seasons like the last two, in which he scooped 237 and 228, respectively, giving the Roughnecks that many more opportunities to make a mark on offense. – Anna Taylor

 

1. Challen Rogers, Toronto

Challen Rogers oozes cool, on the floor and off. The 29-year-old captain is one of the calmest players you’ll ever watch, never panicking if the Rock are down, making him an excellent leader. Meanwhile, his chilled-out surfer-dude demeanor makes him a favourite among fans of all ages.

You know the saying jack of all trades, master of none? Only the first part applies to Rogers. He does everything well. It doesn’t matter if Matt Sawyer is sending Rogers out the front door or back door, he’s going to be a difference maker, proven with back-to-back 49-point seasons. He hasn’t played goal yet but we wouldn’t be surprised if he was good at that, too. – Anna Taylor

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