Toronto and Albany got ahead of Monday’s trade deadline this year by making a couple of moves this week to bolster their roster. As the trade deadline approaches (Monday, March 20 at 3pm ET) we looked at the wish list for each NLL team to date. Some teams are likely sellers versus buyers come this deadline and may be looking to acquire draft picks. No team is eliminated from playoff contention so everything could be on the table.
Last season, Colorado made two trade deadline acquisitions in Tyson Gibson and Anthony Joaquim who were key contributors for the team on their way to the NLL Cup. What could we see this season?
The mantra may be “defense wins championships” but you also need to score the ball in order to win games. We all know there was the large overhaul of the FireWolves offense in the offseason, but the scoring has not been sufficient enough to win games.
The team sits last in the NLL in goals scored per game, one of two teams under 10 (Colorado). They are also last in number of shots attempted per game. The teams leading goal scorer in Connor Kelly has 19 on the season, which is tied for 35th in the NLL. Albany acquired 22-year-old forward, Marshall Powless earlier this week from Saskatchewan. While he likely will not change the offense overnight, the youth movement is on.
While this may not be Albany’s year, they had three first round selections in the 2022 Entry Draft who opted in for their extra year of eligibility with their NCAA teams, all forwards, who they hope can come in and make this offense more dynamic.
One of the most banged up teams in the league this season has not slowed down Buffalo who is sitting atop the NLL standings at 10-2. Unfortunately, this team can’t trade for health points which is their crucial need. Welcoming back Josh Byrne and Chris Cloutier should help as well as adding Chase Fraser who is expected back to the lineup soon.
As we have seen the last couple of seasons, this team is a championship contender and just needs to get over the hump.
Adding additional defense depth is never a bad thing if you’re able to do it without sacrificing too much.
Calgary has a physical defense, a star in net, transition scoring for days. Offensively the team is well rounded but an area they are lacking this season is power play scoring. It is critical in tight games to capitalize on your man-up opportunities, that’s why they give them to you, right?
The Roughnecks sit last in the NLL at just 33% of their powerplay opportunities, last in the NLL. For a team that has the third most opportunities in the league, they’d like to see that conversion higher. Haiden Dickson and Tanner Cook lead the team in goals scored on the man-up, at five each.
There is not much the team can do to specifically target a player to help their powerplay so do not expect too much from this team come the deadline. Curt Malawsky and Mike Board are likely happy with their roster and their recent play.
The Mammoth still have the core of their championship winning team. They have been hit with the injury bug to key players through the year but still have one of the best in net in Dillon Ward, strong leadership within the locker room, and offensive firepower in Eli McLaughlin, Connor Robinson, Zed Williams, and Ryan Lee.
The team lost two-time Transition Player of the Year Joey Cupido to injury earlier this year and its effect has shown. While Evan Downey has played a larger role in transition, scoring four goals this season, there is minimal scoring coming in transition which has helped this team win games or at least, build momentum in close games.
We saw last week how transition can be a major part of a game when Calgary ran wild on the Mammoth in their 16-10 win. This team needs help to stop the transition and to score goals of their own.
Georgia has two MVP’s out their front door in Shayne Jackson and Lyle Thompson along with the second overall pick from the 2021 Entry Draft, Ryan Lanchbury, third overall pick from the 2019 Entry Draft in Andrew Kew, the seventh overall pick in the 2018 Entry Draft in Brendan Bomberry. They selected goaltender Brett Dobson with the 11th overall selection in the 2022 Entry Draft.
If this team doesn’t trade away its biggest assets on offense, they have the firepower and a young goaltender who will take some time to develop but with an extremely high ceiling.
Defensively is where this team struggles to help their young netminder which can be partially attributed to their 12.9 goals against per game (12th in the NLL) and 53% penalty kill record (8th in the NLL). In six of their 10 games, they have allowed more than 12 goals (which is about the league average). If you take away the game against Albany where they allowed an impressive four goals, their goals against average jumps to over 14.
On a positive note, the team allows the third fewest shots per game but might need to make adjustments to allow the shots their goalies want to see.
The Thunderbirds are a talented team. Any time you have Ryan Benesch, Cody Jamieson, and Randy Staats, the IQ and stick skills will be off the chart. The challenge with carrying some older players or players with the history of knee injuries is their speed on the floor.
This problem can partially be seen with allowing a league high 10 shorthanded goals this season and scoring just two of their own. If a team is man-down on the Thunderbirds, they know they have the option to run in transition if they get a clean look. More speed out both doors will allow for more transition opportunities to score but also to prevent an odd man rush in their own end. The majority of the pieces are there for this Thunderbirds team and maybe it is just a philosophy change to help get players on and off the floor easier rather than shaking things up in the lineup.
Expectations are always hard to judge for an expansion franchise, but the Desert Dogs have proven they can compete in this league already. They have a budding star on each end of the floor in Jack Hannah on offense and Landon Kells in net. Like Panther City, many of these young players are getting great experience which will make them stronger down the line.
If the team was more in a position to be in the postseason this season, they may look to acquire more experience to help guide them for a postseason run. However, still on the outside looking in, a key area for this team is penalty killing. They are an abysmal 37% on the penalty kill this season (last in the NLL) and almost half as successful as the number one team in Rochester at 68%.
This team leads the league in penalty minutes at over 20 per game, not a stat you want to be leading in. More discipline is one thing, but this team is trying to make a name for itself. Helping their young goaltender in positions where the team has to kill off a penalty and bring more stability on the backend could help propel this team for years to come.
This New York team has arguably the best player in the sport in Jeff Teat and a solid supporting cast in Reilly O’Connor, Connor Kearnan, and Larson Sundown. When they are on, they can compete in a high scoring affair with any team.
The backend of the floor is where they see their challenges. Goaltending has been a bit of a revolving door that has not been helped by injuries to their netminders. They can run the ball in transition with players like Ron John, Kevin Brownell, Damon Edwards, and Scott Dominey but the team allows too many goals, last in the NLL at 14.5 per game.
The team is looking to sure up their goaltending with the likes of Steve and Kevin Orleman and adding Cameron Dunkerley to the mix. This team needs more stay-at-home defenders, that can take on an opposing teams best player and shut them down without the need to move the ball down the floor. Someone who can help cause more turnovers, block shots, apply pressure, and boost their confidence.
Panther City is a team on the rise and they have a lot of great players on their roster. With the pieces in place, they can be competitive for years to come. While they make a playoff push and potentially a deep run in the postseason, an area this team lacks is in experience when you think of their many young stars.
Earlier in the season, they acquired veteran Callum Crawford to help provide some of that experience, but he doesn’t have the championship history they may need. Only Tyler Burton, Connor Sellars, and Matt Hossack have experience on a championship winning team. Burton was young in his career with Rochester when they went on their three peat and won again with Calgary in 2019. Connor Sellars won in 2017 when he was a rookie with the Swarm. Hossack got a championship with the Rush in his second season in 2018.
Regardless, it will be great experience for their young players should they make the playoffs.
The Wings made a move a few weeks before the deadline in acquiring Mitch Jones from Vancouver. Had that trade not occurred, we likely would have said this team needed an offensive spark which Jones has provided in abundance.
Now looking at their roster, the offense looks stacked and if Zach Higgins can repeat his Week 13 performance which earned him Player of the Week honors, this team has the talent.
Philadelphia can’t trade for consistency, but another complimentary defensive player could bolster this team for a deep playoff run. The offense does rank in the lower half of the league in goals per game but is not far back from the pack and is already in the upper half of goals allowed but not by much.
Zach Higgins is competent enough to win games in this league, but he is not in the top three or four goaltenders statistically speaking. He has a 79% save percentage which is mid-tier, along with his 11.81 goals against average. We saw the Game 3 of the NLL Finals won in a low scoring and physical game, which could suit this Wings team if they can add one more defensive piece to support.
The Cinderella run for the Knighthawks has been going strong all season long. They have gone from the surprise of the year to a legitimate championship contender with a few tweaks in the offseason and staying healthy. It is no longer a surprise to see a win but now an expectation.
Rochester can outscore opponents like they did last week in Georgia or play a low scoring game with opportunities to score coming at a premium. One area that may be a reason for concern with this team is their ability to win faceoffs. It’s the age-old question but showed its head last week when Georgia almost mounted the comeback late in the fourth when they were able to get more possessions off the draw.
In a close game (which almost every postseason game is), possessions could become crucial late in games and this team has struggled at the dot this year. Tyler Halls who has taken the majority of draws for the team is sitting at just a 35% success rate. Going against the likes of TD Ierlan, Max Adler, Jake Withers, Trevor Baptiste and others from the East cause’s problems.
They did sign street free agent Joe Post to help in that position but is he the answer long term? In his first game against the Swarm, he went 13 of 37, essentially the same percentage of Tyler Halls. The Knighthawks wrote a great feature on Post which can be found here.
San Diego is no doubt a championship contending team. They have offensive firepower on both sides of the floor, a physical defense, players who can run in transition and two capable goaltenders. So what’s the issue?
For many watching this team all season, the caveat is their goaltending and not performing for all 60 minutes. Not that they need to improve but at some point, you feel like this team needs to start a goalie and stick with him for the duration. Chris Origlieri is young but has a lot of talent which has not peaked yet. Frank Scigliano is a veteran who is capable of stealing games for you but has shown his inconsistencies.
The Seals are leading the West despite these issues so maybe it is a moot point to the common fan or someone analyzing their games. On the other hand, do they look to sell the farm to win now with a more established goaltender with a higher ceiling than Scigliano but more experience than Origlieri? If so, who would be on the market? Premier goaltenders don’t grow on trees, much to the chagrin of many NLL GM’s.
Robert Church and Mark Matthews have seemingly been putting up work for the Rush for forever but as the years have gone on, they have lost some of their key supporting pieces on the offense and otherwise are aging (even though the stats won’t show it). Those two have 67 points each, Ryan Keenan is at 50, but after that there is a drop off in production.
With Church and Matthews aging this team could use another impactful forward to help on the offensive end to help get them into the playoffs. While the defense has struggled in recent games, they have enough talent and experience to figure it out.
Will this be a final run for this Rush dynasty with some of those key players?
Like Buffalo, the Rock can’t trade for health of their players. They made a move earlier this week to bolster their defensive depth with veteran Greg Downing coming in from Albany.
Otherwise, this team is still awaiting the debut of Chris Corbeil and getting reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Mitch de Snoo back into the lineup.
In net, Nick Rose has made a strong case not just for Goaltender of the Year, but MVP as well. The team has the lowest goals allowed per game at 8.92 and is second in goals scored per game at 13.4.
Looking at the lineup, there are hardly any gaps, if any. As mentioned previously, you can never have too much depth but it is about what you are willing to give up in the process to acquire it. Jamie Dawick likely feels fairly pleased with the roster he has assembled.
Vancouver is another team that acquired a player to help cover one of their largest needs in veteran leadership by signing Aaron Bold in net and has looked good, winning their last two games.
Offensively Keegan Bal is one of the biggest dual threats in the league. Adam Charalambides is having a successful sophomore season and other role players have stepped up. They also have one of the best to ever lace up the sneakers in Shawn Evans.
On the back end, they are led by veteran Brett Mydske and Reid Bowering, who may be the most amazing player to watch with how effective he plays and his athleticism out the back door. He definitely does not always get the credit he deserves.
Otherwise, many players on this team are largely unproven on a franchise like Vancouver, who has only qualified for the playoffs once since 2014. Aaron Bold and Shawn Evans are close to the end of their careers so moving forward, this team needs more of the veteran leadership with proven winning accolades.
The question for this team could also focus on their situation in net. Aaron Bold is not the goaltender of the future and young Aden Walsh was thrown into the fire this season potentially before he was ready. Otherwise Brody Harris on their roster is also largely unproven in the NLL.