fbpx

Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day! Today, We Celebrate the Resilience, Wisdom, and Vibrant Traditions of all Indigenous Peoples

×
Scores / Schedule
Stories/Op-Ed

Way Too Early 2024-25 Power Rankings

The 2023-24 NLL Season ended three days ago, with the Buffalo Bandits winning their sixth NLL championship. Even though the party is still going on in the “Queen City,” it feels like now is as good a time as any to start thinking about next season. Will the Bandits win the championship again, and become only the second team in NLL history to three-peat or will another team take down the dynasty and steal the NLL Cup?

We don’t know who or where players are going to sign or re-sign. We don’t know who is going to be traded. We don’t know who is going to retire. Still, here are your way-too-early 2024-25 Power Rankings.

 

8. Vancouver Warriors 

The Vancouver Warriors were one of five teams that finished the 2023-24 season with an 8-10 record. However, of those five teams, they had the most impressive stretch to end the year – they won five of their last six games and six of their last eight. Rookies Owen Grant and Brayden Laity emerged as defensive stars alongside Reid Bowering and veterans such as Captain Brett Mydske and NLL Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Dilks. On offense, Adam Charalambides had a career year at 28 years old. He looks to be taking on the role of the team’s leading playmaker, which is a good thing for fourth overall pick Payton Cormier, and seventh overall pick Brock Haley from the 2023 draft who can add to the team. Add in whoever the Warriors select with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, and you’ve got a tremendous young core to develop. When you have head coach Curt Malawsky at the helm with those guys on the roster, the future for this team looks very bright.

 

7. Halifax Thunderbirds

There are a few big questions surrounding the Halifax Thunderbirds, and they all have to do with age. Forward Ryan Benesch, who had one of his most productive seasons in years, had said that this was going to be his last season in the NLL. Is that still the case? And, if so, as he’ll be turning 40 this year, how much will he have left in the tank? Fellow forward Cody Jamieson will be turning 37 this summer, and, even though he has a couple of years left on his current contract, last season was his least productive year (in terms of points per game) since his rookie season in 2011. Say Benesch returns for one more year. If those two elite players begin having off years, who is going to step up and take on that role? The offense has young talents who could be that guy such as Clarke Peterson, Austin Shanks, Dawson Theede and Aaron Woods, so they might be fine without them, but a change in the pecking order might come along with some bumps and bruises. They also have rookie forward studs Jake Stevens and Mike Robinson, who were drafted 10th and 28th respectively in 2023 able to join the attacking rotation. Defensively and in transition, when this team is on, they are elite. They just have to be consistent for 60 minutes over 18 games next season. If they can do that, that’ll make Warren Hill’s job in between the pipes a lot easier.

 

6. Rochester Knighthawks

Goaltending and defense were clear issues for the Knighthawks last season. Rylan Hartley, who missed most of last season in between the pipes, did show that he can be great again after he returned to the floor late in the year. If he plays every game next year, Hartley could be a season-changer for the Knighthawks. Defensively, the team was missing their captain, Dan Coates for eight games, and it is never easy when your leader is not on the floor with you. They were also missing Tyler Halls for almost half of the year. They will have some reinforcements on the way, though. Jake Piseno, drafted by the Knighthawks last season, has been called “Lyle Thompson with a long pole” by his University of Albany head coach,Seth Marr. They also have forward Graydon Hogg coming in to join one of the most potent offenses in the league led by Connor Fields and Ryan Smith. The vast majority of the Knighthawks’ star players are under 30 years old, which means much of the team is either in their prime or just about to hit their prime. For a team that made the postseason this year despite a handful of major challenges, they’re going to keep getting better.

BUFFALO, NY – FEBRUARY 3: (Photo by Mike Hetzel/NLL)

 

5. San Diego Seals 

Even though the Seals have a real issue with getting over their postseason hurdles, this team continues to impress year after year. In a season where Curtis Dickson missed a handful of games and Dane Dobbie had one of the worst seasons of his Hall of Fame-worthy career, the Seals still managed to have an above-average offense. Wes Berg and Austin Staats had many other guys helping out such as Tre Leclaire and Kyle Jackson. But, it was defense that helped the Seals to a 13-5 record during the regular season and a semifinals appearance in the playoffs. The Seals have many players in their mid-to-late 20s who have established themselves on the backend and all signs show they they’ll continue to improve – I’m talking about the likes of the Patrick Shoemays, Danny Logans, Graydon Bradleys, and Drew Belgraves. And, this is without even mentioning one of the league’s great goaltenders of the future, Chris Origlieri. Yes, Dickson, Dobbie and star defenseman Kyle Rubisch are all in their mid-30s, but there’s enough talent where this team needs it to be to end up in a playoff spot that they’ll still be happy with.

 

4. Georgia Swarm

If we believe the adage, “Defense wins championships”, and we also believe that great goaltending can help win championships, then it would be hard to imagine the Swarm not improving next season. With Brett Dobson, a player who some say is one of the best goaltenders in the world (among goaltenders who play box and field lacrosse), and young talents in front of him in the likes of Adam Wiedemann, TJ Comizio, Jeff Henrick and Kason Tarbell, this team can be a juggernaut on defense over the next few years – they already were a Top 5 defense last season. Offensively, they still have Lyle Thompson, Shayne Jackson and the younger Andrew Kew leading the way. But, it doesn’t stop there. They have a budding supporting cast that could grow exponentially next year because the Swarm have three first-round picks in the 2024 NLL Entry Draft (3rd, 10th, and 12th). They also know that they have Kaleb Benedict, who missed his rookie season last year due to injury, coming into the fold on the right side. If this team was able to finish 10-8 last season, they’ll have the capability to finish with the same, or with an even better record, next year.

 

3. Albany FireWolves

I don’t know if you remember, but the Albany FireWolves made the NLL Finals this season. They did so with the youngest team and one of the smallest teams. That was without Dyson Williams, the #1 overall pick in the 2023 NLL Entry Draft in the lineup. Another year with a very similar roster will give opposing teams more time to figure out how to stop familiar pieces, but on the flip side, the FireWolves will have more time to figure out how to keep finding ways to beat teams. Defensively, they have Will Johansen, the 7th overall pick in the 2022 NLL Entry Draft, joining the team on the floor – he missed all of last year due to injury. He’ll be taking the floor with breakout defensive stars Nick Chaykowsky and Patrick Kaschalk, as well as John Wagner, who was one of the best defensemen during the 2024 playoffs. The FireWolves set the bar very high this year, but they have all the pieces and a couple of key additions who will surely give this team a shot at making another deep playoff run.

CALGARY, AB – MARCH 22, 2024: The Calgary Roughnecks against the Albany
FireWolves at Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday. (Photo by Jenn Pierce/NLL)

 

2. Toronto Rock 

If the Toronto Rock didn’t have to face the Bandits in the postseason, they might be the team with a dynasty right now. The Rock had a lot of injuries this season – let’s not forget that they were without Latrell Harris all season long and Tom Schreiber, Chris Corbeil and Challen Rogers missed big chucks of the year – yet they still finished the season with a league-best 15-3 record. No wonder Jamie Dawick was named a GM of the Year finalist. The team’s depth at every position is impressive, and they have some of the best players in the league pretty much all over the floor. From Schreiber to Rogers to Mitch de Snoo to Nick Rose, these guys come to play every game, and they play so well almost every game. They are an incredibly talented group, and guess what? The Rock have two first round picks in the 2024 NLL Entry Draft, including the second overall pick, to bolster their already stacked roster. Whether they keep both picks is another story, but that #2 pick could be used as good trade bait to grab a specific player they might want to bring in. If this team can stay healthy next year, expect them to make another run at the NLL Cup.

 

1. Buffalo Bandits 

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Bandits just won the 2024 NLL Cup, and ended the season on a nine-game win streak (regular season and playoffs included). They had the league MVP on their side in Josh Byrne as well as every other offensive player on that roster who John Tavares firmly believes could put up Josh Byrne type numbers if they wanted to. This is a very scary offense, and as long as Matt Vinc is in net, there’s clearly no stopping him, no matter how old he is. Furthermore, the Bandits currently hold the 7th, 9th, and 13th overall picks in the 2024 NLL Entry Draft. Not that they would use all of those first round picks (they could use them as trade bait), but either way, it’s extraordinarily useful to have them all. The Bandits were unstoppable for most of March through to the end of the season. There’s no reason why they couldn’t be unstoppable again next year if they stay healthy. That’s been the standard over the past four seasons, so why would should we expect that change next year if everyone comes back for another season?

NLL