NLL: 2022-23 Season In Review: Pt. 1
The 2022-23 season is unfortunately over but don’t be sad it’s over, be glad it happened. It is just the beginning of bigger and better things. A record 15 teams played this season, a record 135 regular season games, record attendance and viewership for the National Lacrosse League.
To wrap up the season, we took a look back at some of the major storylines or trends from the season and how it can impact future seasons and broke it down into two parts.
Records Are Made to Be Broken
That’s the old adage, isn’t it? This season may have only seen Dhane Smith set the single season assist record at 96, surpassing the 94 he had in the 2021-22 season but there are others that could be broken in the coming years based off of play this year.
Smith also set the single-season scoring record with 137 points in a season back in 2016. Since then, he came close to surpassing that total with 135 in 2021-22 and 132 this past season. Riptide forward Jeff Teat finished the season with 136 points, just one shy of tying Smith’s record.
This season saw a record number of players surpass the 100-point mark with 13. Mitch Jones was third in the NLL with 126 points this season, good for the sixth-best season in league history. It doesn’t seem too far off that we could have multiple players attempt to break Smith’s 137 points in the coming years and potentially getting to 150 in a season (that would be an average of 8.33 points per game over an 18 game schedule).
Four goalies this season surpassed the 700-save mark, with Matt Vinc coming the closest to the 752 record set by Anthony Cosmo, with 742. Zach Higgins, Rylan Hartley and Christian Del Bianco all got past the 700 saves mark which are all in the top-10 all-time in a single season.
Speaking of goalies, four active goalies are in the top-10 all-time in regular season wins, saves and minutes played (Matt Vinc, Nick Rose, Dillon Ward, Aaron Bold). Goaltending numbers could reach a new high if Matt Vinc decides to return for another year. The 41-year-old would likely become the first player to ever surpass 15,000 minutes in net (14,739 currently), 10,000 saves (9,788 currently) and 150 wins (147 currently). Number two in each of those categories is at 11,186 minutes, 7,222 saves and 107 wins, respectively.
While John Tavares’ career goals and points record is still out of reach, there are multiple players climbing the ranks from this past season. Five players active from the 2022-23 season are in the top-10 all-time in goals scored while four active players are in the top-10 in points and assists. While it is unknown if players like Dan Dawson are returning for next season, those other players will, in all likelihood, continue to climb the ranks. Those players include Dane Dobbie (514 goals), Ryan Benesch (511 goals, 706 assists, 1,217 points), Curtis Dickson (502 goals), Shawn Evans (479 goals, 879 assists, 1,358 points) and Callum Crawford (739 assists, 1,193 points).
At the faceoff dot, five of the top 10 all-time are active players, with Jay Thorimbert leading with 2,937 wins. Jake Withers, in just five seasons, is number nine all-time with 1,475 wins while Trevor Baptiste, in four seasons, is not far behind at 1,221.
Nick Damude is a goal-scoring machine, now with two in his career after scoring against Colorado on February 24 this season, and just two behind the NLL record by a goaltender. Nick Rose has three in his career trying to catch Rob Blasdell with four. Other active goalies with a goal are Matt Vinc and Doug Jamieson.
An interesting record that could be broken and almost was in 2022-23 was the single-game scoring record, set by Mark Steenhuis with 17 in 2009. Tom Schreiber had a game with 15 this past season (3g, 12a). The single-game goals record is 10 (Paul and Gary Gait) and assists is 13 (Steenhuis). Can it be done?
Age is Just a Number
Speaking of numbers and records, the NLL has a sizeable number of players who seemingly have always been around and may be near the end of their careers. What is surprising is the performances in which these players continue to put on as the game continues to adjust.
In net, Matt Vinc (41) was one of four goalies to surpass 1,000 minutes played with a league-high 14 wins and most saves. Aaron Bold (38) made a return for the Warriors to help stabilize their season. Nick Rose (35) led the league in goals against average at 9.03.
Ryan Benesch (38), Dane Dobbie (36) and Curtis Dickson (34) all surpassed the 500 career goals mark this season in the span of weeks. Rhys Duch (36) made a return to an NLL lineup and got his 1,000th career point. Corey Small (36) was second on the Rock with 83 points and 40 goals. Zack Greer (37) was tied for the team lead with 33 goals for Las Vegas. Shawn Evans (37) was second in scoring for the Warriors. Cody Jamieson (35) was fourth for the Thunderbirds in scoring. Stephen Keogh (36) continued his impressive play with the Rock with 26 goals. Dan Dawson (41), while banged up, still played 12 games and contributed with 24 points for the Rock.
On the other end of the floor, Brodie Merrill (41) scooped up 116 loose balls and caused 18 turnovers. Paul Dawson (37) scored two goals and helped lead Rochester to their first playoff appearance. Greg Downing (38) is still one of the best shutdown defenders in the game, being traded midseason from Albany to Toronto. Jay Thorimbert (36) is still a menace at the faceoff position and in transition. Curtis Manning (35) enjoyed a great comeback season with the Roughnecks. David Brock (36) enjoyed a quick retirement before the urge to play got to him.
The total number of seasons played by the aforementioned 18 players is 277 seasons (average of 14.58) and total games played is 4,173 (average of 219.63 per player). Collectively, they are a generation of stars who have helped us get to where we are today.
On the flip side, we have young stars in the making who will be the face of the league for years to come. MVP Christian Del Bianco is just 25-years-old, leading scorer in Jeff Teat is 26, Defensive Player of the Year Latrell Harris is 25, and transition star Reid Bowering is 25. Even in net, one of the hardest positions to crack, we have youngsters in Landon Kells (22), Nick Damude (24), Rylan Hartley (25), Laine Hruska (22), Will Johnston (21), Steve Orleman (24), Chris Origlieri (20), Doug Jamieson (26) and Brett Dobson (23), all ready to take over the league.
The American Invasion
It is amazing to know that in the World Box Lacrosse Championships, Canada has still never lost a game. But the other nations are quickly catching up in talent, including more US born players.
More and more Americans or field-first players are giving box a chance and seeing success. That success then translates into their field game. Tom Schreiber is one of those names. Going undrafted but winning Rookie of the Year in 2017, he set a US record of 116 points in a season (fourth in the NLL). Connor Fields set a record with 52 goals in a season (second in the NLL) by a US-born player.
Other stand out Americans saw Joe Resetarits lead the Wings with his third career 100-point season. TD Ierlan and Trevor Baptiste were both top five in loose ball recoveries along with being two of the most dangerous players at the faceoff dot. Connor Kelly led Albany in points and goals scored while Kieran McArdle led the team in assists.
It wasn’t all just the veterans of the league. Jack Hannah led all rookies with 33 goals and was tied for the team lead. He was tied overall with players like Shayne Jackson, Ryan Smith and Zack Greer in goals scored. Danny Logan led all rookies with 24 caused turnovers and 98 loose balls while John Piatelli joined Logan and Hannah on the All-Rookie team. Evan Downey turned some heads with his speed and ability in transition for Colorado after signing as a free agent last offseason. Jake Govett got great experience and game time with the potent Seals’ offense.
When you think of the other players from around the league, Blaze Riorden, TJ Comizio, Tim Edwards, Greg Downing, Brett Manney, Mike Manley, Ryan Terefenko, Charlie Bertrand, Connor Kirst, Mac O’Keefe, Liam Byrnes, and more, the US invasion into box lacrosse is well underway.
*Update: 6/12/23: Dan Dawson has announced his retirement and transition into the Rock’s Director of Player Development