#1 – San Diego Seals (9-2)
Week 16 Result: 16-9 win at Vancouver
Week 17 Opponent: at Panther City (8-5), vs Buffalo (10-3)
Previous Ranking: 3rd
The Seals’ performance on Friday night against the Warriors was exactly what we’ve all been waiting for from this team all season long. The Seals have been good this year; they’ve been very good. On Friday, they were great. Their 16 goals scored was tied for the second-highest total of the year – tied with their last game against Vancouver (a 16-11 win). This was the first time this season that the Seals have scored 15+ goals while also allowing fewer than 10 goals. As you would expect, their +7 goal differential was their highest so far this year. In fact, it was their highest goal differential since December 11th, 2021 (they were +9 against the Mammoth). Frank Scigliano has played a significant role in the team’s recent success. Scigliano has allowed 11 goals or less in his last three games and has had an 80.2 save percentage to go along with his 10.07 GAA in that span. The Seals are playing a tough and balanced game right now. With two very competitive games on the docket in Week 17, the Seals will need to remain as hungry for a win as they looked in Week 16. If they can continue to replicate what they did last Friday for the remainder of this season, this team is going to cause a lot of trouble in the postseason.
#2 – Toronto Rock (10-4)
Week 16 Result: 14-12 loss at Halifax
Week 17 Opponent: at Albany (2-10)
Previous Ranking: 2nd
The Rock remain at the #2 spot heading into Week 17. The Rock came up short against a Thunderbirds team that understood they needed to start turning things around if they wanted to continue to be competitive in the playoff race. The Rock offense has not been as potent as it often was in January and February – they have averaged 10.75 goals per game in March. On Saturday, the offense was not as hot as it needed to be, and Nick Rose also had an uncharacteristic night between the pipes. While this is the second time he’s allowed 13 goals in a game this season, it’s only the second time in the last four years (in the regular season) that he’s allowed 13 or more goals in a game. Tom Schreiber, Corey Small, Dan Craig, and Stephen Keogh have all been electric and consistent all season long. Nick Rose is still very much an NLL Goaltender of the Year candidate, not to mention that the effort that guys like Brad Kri and Latrell Harris (to name a few) have given has been very intimidating at times, therefore I’m not worried at all about the Rock. They still need to be completely healthy, which they haven’t been all year, so hopefully, guys can get back in the lineup before the postseason.
#3 – Buffalo Bandits (10-3)
Week 16 Result: 13-8 loss vs Colorado
Week 17 Opponent: at San Diego (9-2)
Previous Ranking: 1st
The Bandits suffered a pretty tough loss on their home floor on Saturday night. This was a repeat of the NLL Finals, and the Bandits were hoping to redeem themselves, but alas, that was not going to happen on this night. This was the Bandits’ worst regular season home loss in terms of goal differential (-5) since December 28th, 2019 – they lost 15-10 against the Thunderbirds. The last time the Bandits only scored eight goals in a game was against the Mammoth in the 2022 NLL Finals – the Mammoth held the Bandits to eight goals in back-to-back games en route to the title. In terms of regular season play, this was only the fourth time the Bandits had been held to eight goals or less on their home floor in the last five years. The Bandits have been one of the teams hit hardest by injuries this season, and they are now beginning to get all of their key pieces back. Tehoka Nanticoke did miss out on Saturday night’s clash, but once he’s back, this Bandits offensive is going to be stacked, just like last year when they made it to the NLL Finals. Oh, and they still have goaltending legend Matt Vinc, so there’s that.
#4 – Calgary Roughnecks (9-4)
Week 16 Result: 11-6 win vs Saskatchewan
Week 17 Opponent: at Saskatchewan (5-7)
Previous Ranking: 4th
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Roughnecks are the most dangerous team in the NLL that not enough people are talking about as a serious NLL Cup contender. Between his performances in net and how he outlets the ball, leading to transition scores, Christian Del Bianco is your NLL Goaltender of the Year frontrunner through Week 16. But this team is so much more than the brick wall that is the last line of defense. Zach Currier is the NLL Transition Player of the Year, and Jesse King is having an underrated year in his first season as the team’s Captain. King is one of only four players in the NLL right now with 70+ points, 50+ loose ball recoveries, and 5+ caused turnovers. Then there are weapons like Eli Salama or Shane Simpson, or Josh Currier. This is a team that this well-balanced and very capable at every position. When they are clicking, this is a team you don’t want to face. This is the third time this season that the Roughnecks have held their opponent to six goals or fewer.
#5 – Panther City Lacrosse Club (8-5)
Week 16 Result: 11-8 win vs Las Vegas
Week 17 Opponent: vs San Diego (9-2)
Previous Ranking: Next 3 In
For the first time this season, Panther City Lacrosse Club is in the Top-5. The 11-8 win against the NLL’s expansion team was not incredibly inspiring, but this team has been working its way up the rankings over the past few months. Since January 14th, PCLC are 6-2. Their two losses came against the Seals and the Mammoth, and both games were lost by only two goals. Each of those losses were also on the road. In that eight-game stretch, PCLC has averaged 14 goals per game. In that same stretch, they’ve only allowed 10.1 goals per game. Nick Damude is one of three goaltenders in the NLL with a GAA under 10 (minimum 50 minutes played). Will Malcolm leads the way on the goalscoring front with 30 shots finding the back of the net, but seven of his other teammates have 10+ scores as well. Jonathan Donville is the clear front-runner for rookie of the year with his 19 goals and 53 assists for 72 points. And, in only six games with the team, Callum Crawford has scored 15 goals and dished out 16 assists. If they can beat San Diego in Week 17, that will be an incredibly colossal statement win that would definitely put PCLC on the radar of the league’s best teams.
Next 3 In (in alphabetical order)
Colorado Mammoth (6-6)
Week 16 Result: 13-8 win at Buffalo
Week 17 Opponent: vs Vancouver (3-10)
Previous Ranking: N/A
The Mammoth are back in the Next 3 In after their signature win against the Bandits. As I stated above, “The last time the Bandits only scored eight goals in a game was actually against the Mammoth in the 2022 NLL Finals – the Mammoth held the Bandits to eight goals in back-to-back games en route to the title.” Of course, Dillon Ward and the defense are going to step up for the biggest games. The Mammoth are 6-6 and are right in the middle of the West Conference playoff race. Much like the Bandits, the Mammoth have been riddled with injuries all season long, but they’ve found a way to win enough games to still be in the hunt. At the trade deadline earlier this week, the Mammoth made a couple of notable moves. They traded away Rhys Duch, who had been a welcomed addition on offense, but they added defenseman Garrett McIntosh from Las Vegas. McIntosh will hopefully be a positive addition to the defense in front of Ward – he has recorded 10+ blocked shots & 10+ caused turnovers.
Halifax Thunderbirds (6-7)
Week 16 Result: 14-12 win vs Toronto
Week 17 Opponent: at Philadelphia (6-7)
Previous Ranking: Next 3 In
The Thunderbirds had one of those days where things came together like they were supposed to in Week 16. They were at risk of falling out of the Next 3 In if they had lost, especially by multiple goals at home to the Rock. Thankfully, they avoided that. A the beginning of this season, it looked as though the Thunderbirds were going to challenge the NLL single season team record for most goals scored. They scored 18 and 20, respectively, in their first two games and had 14+ goals in three of their first four games. The Thunderbirds came ready to put on a show in front of nearly 10,000 fans on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Warren Hill stepped up in a big way as he stopped 40 of the 52 shots on goal. The 52 shots on goal tied for the most he’s faced all season, and this was his third 40+ save game this season – his first since January 27th. The Thunderbirds play a massively consequential game against the Wings in Week 17. Both teams are 6-7, and they are fighting for what could be the fourth and final playoff spot in the East. If the Thunderbirds win, they will not only move further ahead of the Wings (they currently are ahead based on tiebreakers) but also clinch the season series against the Wings.
Rochester Knighthawks (9-4)
Week 16 Result: 9-8 OT loss vs Philadelphia
Week 17 Opponent: at Las Vegas (4-8)
Previous Ranking: 5th
This is a tough one because the Knighthawks’ success during the 2022-23 NLL Season has been one of the best storylines of the year. However, they have been struggling over the last couple of months. After starting the year 6-0, they have now gone 3-4 in their previous seven games. Sitting at 9-4 in the standings, they still have the third-best record in the East and have a better record than PCLC, who sit in the #5 spot. But, while the Knighthawks have gone 3-4 in their last seven games, PCLC have posted of record of 5-2 in that same span and are only a game behind the Knighthawks (if you combine both conferences.) It’s even more difficult to put the Knighthawks here when you see that the two losses in their last three games were decided by one goal, their game in Week 16 being one of them, and that contest went to OT. The Knighthawks are still very good and are still very capable. This ranking is less about how poorly the Knighthawks are doing (because they aren’t playing poorly by any means); it’s more about how well the other teams in contention have been playing of late.