The 2019 MLL season is just a little over a week away with the season getting underway on Friday, May 31st. This year may be the most interesting year the MLL has seen since in a while with the number of teams being reduced to six, teams having new faces, the league having a new look, and more.
As we sit nine days away from the start of the MLL season, here are some storylines to follow throughout the season.
Will Atlanta Finally Get Over The Playoff Hump?
The Atlanta Blaze have been around for three seasons and have failed to miss the playoffs each year. 2019 looks like it could be the year that the Blaze finally break through and reach the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Atlanta has a very strong core group of guys on both ends of the field, and bring in some very talented rookies that can make an impact day one, that’s what makes this years Atlanta Blaze so dangerous.
On the offensive end they are led by midfielder Tommy Palasek who is their top returning point scorer. Palasek tallied 26 points (16G,10A) last season for the Blaze. In addition, Randy Staats is returning to Atlanta after being acquired by Dallas last season, Staats is an electric attackman and can certainly be a leader on this Blaze squad.
Atlanta’s top returning defenseman is Liam Byrnes who has been a staple on that end of the field for the Blaze. They also return goalie Chris Madalon who will be stepping up into a bigger role this season as a starter, but has proven himself with this play last season, making 99 saves with a .559 save percentage.
What really gives the Blaze an edge this season is the rookie talent that they are bringing in. Three of the Blaze biggest signings have been faceoff man Alex Woodall, attackman Brendan Sunday, and midfielder Colton Jackson. Those three are expected to help take this Blaze offense to a whole other level.
Can Boston Returns To Form?
Over the past few seasons the Boston Cannons have been one of the worst teams in the league. With some new faces emerging their year as stars, the Cannons have the ability to return to their former glory, sitting up there as one of the best teams in the league.
Everything starts with the defense for Boston as James Fahey looks to step into a bigger role and be “the guy” on the defensive end for the Cannons. In cage, Boston returns Nick Marrocco but also bring in rookie Tate Boyce who had a fantastic college career at Providence. While it’s Marrocco’s job to lose, the Cannons goalie play shouldn’t be much of a problem this year. Rookie Zach Goodrich should also be a big help on the defensive end as one of the best SSDM’s in the game.
On the offensive end of the field the Cannons are led by attackman Mark Cockerton who tallied 32 points (29G,3A) last season despite only playing 7 games due to injury. Attackmen Zed Williams and Will Sands will also be leaders for the Cannons again this upcoming season with Kyle Jackson and Shawn Evans possibly making big impacts as well.
With the players that the Cannons return on both ends and the rookies that have a real shot at making an impact, they can certainly get back on track starting with this upcoming 2019 season. They just need to stay healthy, unlike last season.
Is Chesapeake A Championship Frontrunner?
When you look at what teams return the most talent from last season the Chesapeake Bayhawks jump off the page. After taking a heartbreaking loss in the semifinals last year, the Bayhawks return star players on both ends of the field and really look like a team that can make a run for the Steinfield Cup.
Colin Heacock is one of the faces of the league and certainly a superstar talent for the Bayhawks squad. Last season Heacock helped lead Chesapeake’s offense, tallying 38 points (23G,14A). The attackman looks to bring that same energy and leadership to the Bayhawks in 2019 as well. Steele Stanwick and Matt Abbott also return and should also make big impacts for the Chesapeake in 2019.
With Niko Amato and Brian Phipps as goalies, the Bayhawks have two guys that can step in a get it done, but Amato looks to be the starter once again. In front of the cage they boast a tough defense with Jesse Bernhardt being one of the leaders. Two-way midfielder Isiah Davis Allen and SSDM Nick Manis will also help add to that defense, especially up front.
The Bayhawks also have a whole host of players that could possibly step up and see much bigger roles in 2019. This is a team that has mostly stayed together through the offseason, despite a few pieces here and there. That chemistry is their biggest strength. Just like last season, this team has a very good chance of hoisting the Steinfield Cup at the end of the season.
Can Offensive Firepower Carry Dallas?
In their first season in Dallas the Rattlers had a ton of success, making to the MLL championship where they eventually fell to the Denver Outlaws. While the Rattlers do return some pieces from last year’s squad they have also lost some big pieces and some new faces have been added as well. The Dallas offense looks to be the marquee aspect of this team, the defense has plenty of holes.
The Dallas offense looks like it won’t miss too many steps with Ryan McNamara and Cody Radziewicz returning. Both were top five scorers for the Rattlers last season. Dallas also adds attackman Bryce Wasserman who they picked up in the dispersal draft. The attackman really broke through with Ohio last season and looks to do much of the same while playing back in his home state. They also add rookies Jack Jasinski, Joe Saggese, and Lucas Wittenberg who should also be able to contribute to the Rattlers offense as well.
While the Dallas offense certainly looks electric this season, their defense may take some time to develop with plenty of new faces and maybe less star power than some other teams. While they add rookie defenseman/LSM Craig Chick the Rattlers have one of the really have a lot of question marks as to who will fit in where on the defensive end.
Does Denver Repeat As Champions?
The Denver Outlaws come into the 2019 season as the defending champions. While the Outlaws have been the closest thing to a dynasty over the past few seasons, do they have what it takes to be able to repeat as champions? With Tony Seaman stepping in as the new head coach there may be some growing pains early on, but this is a team built to win.
Denver has a strong core group of returners with faceoff man Max Adler and midfielder Zach Currier being the two “Faces of the team” while goalie Dillon Ward is also a big returner for the Outlaws as well, anchoring the defense in cage. Midfielder Mikie Schlosser and defenseman Matt Gilray will also be two returners that should make significant impacts for the Outlaws this season.
That core group of guys gives the Outlaws a lot of consistency that other teams don’t have right off the bat. In addition, that also helps when bringing in rookies as well. The Outlaws have already signed rookie attackmen Kyle Marr and Daniel Bucaro who can be serious threats on the offensive end. Rookie midfielder Sean Eccles and attakckman Chris Aslanian could also contribute as well.
What Can The New Look Lizards Do?
New York might have the least amount of returners from last season and they have a new head coach in BJ O’Hara. With a new coach and new faces on the field, this New York team may be the newest bunch of teammates this league has seen in a while. It will be interesting to see how far they can go with the star power that they have on both ends, despite all the changes.
The Lizards may have the best offense in the league with attackmen Mark Matthews, Rob Pannell, and Dylan Molloy leading the charge. In addition to signing Molloy, the Lizards also picked up star-studded midfielder Kevin Crowley in the dispersal draft. The Lizards offense will be one of the deadliest in the league.
While the offense is certainly championship caliber, so is this New York defense. While Mike Unterstein is one of the leaders of the New York defense, they picked up goalie Austin Kaut in the dispersal draft as well as defenseman Den Randall. Rookie Quintin Germain should also be able to make an impact on the defensive end as well.
New York looks to be a championship caliber team with all the talent that they return and bring in this season. While they do look stellar at glance, it may take some time for all the pieces to gel properly. If they can figure that piece out fast then we could see something pretty special from the Lizards this season.