MVP Race: Entering the Homestretch
By Austin Owens | Jul 20, 2021
We’re through the first portion of the 2021 season, and with the All-Star Game finished, we’ll take one look back at the opening stretch before turning our focus to the final run ahead of the playoffs.
The talks for individual awards are sure to heat up going into the final stretch of the regular season. With just two weeks of play remaining following the All-Star break, there are some frontrunners for the respective awards.
The next two weeks will prove to be the decider in the award races, and with the standings being as tight as they are, the MVP could very well go to the player who can push his team to the first overall seed heading into the postseason.
But we want to give a nod to the players that have been standouts for their respective squads through the first stretch of the season.
While one man doesn’t make a team, there have been some incredible individual performers for each of the eight squads.
Here are the first-half MVPs for each team:
Archers - Grant Ament (A)
I mean… was there any doubt here?
Ament is currently one of, if not the favorite to take home the 2021 Jim Brown Most Valuable Player Award this season with his strong showings to date this season.
The current league leader in both points (26) and assists (18), Ament has emerged as the guy – yes, I know full well that Tom Schreiber is still on the field. With the 2020 first overall College Draft pick taking the next step this season, he’s been able to draw attention away from the other weapons on the Archers.
Schreiber sits eighth in scoring with 19 points while Will Manny sits fourth in goals with 16. Six Archers are into the double digits for points and this offense has been firing for the majority of the season.
Ament has the ability to do anything he wants on the field. He has been the best feeder in the league and he can also create his own shot and blow the ball past goalies. Ament has 42 assist opportunities and only 29 shots on the year; the only other high-volume players who set up teammates more often than they shoot: Stephen Rehfuss, Dhane Smith, Ethan Walker, and Ned Crotty.
His ridiculous skip passes – including cross-field, underhand skips through multiple defenders – leave fans with their jaws on the floor regularly.
He’s the complete package and a reason why the Archers are never out of any game.
He could wrap up the hardware with strong showings down the stretch. He’s certainly the clubhouse leader at the All-Star Break.
Atlas - Jeff Teat (A)
The way Jeff Teat is playing since joining Atlas, it’s still mind-boggling that his first live reps in over a year came in Week 3 against the two-time defending champion Whipsnakes.
The 2021 first overall College Draft pick was held to two assists in his debut, and fans questioned whether Ben Rubeor made the right decision with the top selection. Teat put that speculation to bed with a seven-goal, nine-point outing against the Cannons a few nights later.
The Brampton, Ontario native currently leads the Bulls with 22 points in four games. That includes the aforementioned nine-point game, along with an eight-point outing in Week 5 against Chaos.
He needed just those four games to be voted into the 2021 All-Star Game, and he’s going to be the catalyst when it comes to pushing his squad towards the playoffs.
The word gets thrown around a lot, but Teat is generational. He’s had as close to a Connor McDavid-esque hype train as I can remember recently in lacrosse. Especially north of the border, where folks have been waiting for him to turn pro for what seems like a decade now.
We finally get the chance to see him against the best in the world, and he’s absolutely crushing the competition – as he’s done for pretty much his whole life.
Despite missing their first two games of the season, Teat is the Bulls’ MVP through the first half, and if he keeps up this pace to end the year, he’s going to be up for the Jim Brown MVP award at season’s end – again, playing TWO FEWER GAMES THAN EVERYONE ELSE THIS SEASON.
Cannons - Lyle Thompson (A)
When looking at the Cannons, there were really two individuals that could realistically receive the nod at the All-Star Break.
Thompson has been playing with a nagging injury for the past few games, and if that wasn’t difficult enough, he’s also drawing the opposing team’s top close defender every single night. With Thompson drawing so much of the attention from the defense, it opens up cutting lanes and open chances for others.
Week 5 was a showcase for him against a stout defensive unit on the Archers. Going head-to-head with the likes of Graeme Hossack and Matt McMahon, among others, Thompson was able to put up a season-best five goals and nine points to help the Cannons keep their postseason aspirations alive.
It hasn’t been the easiest season for the Cannons so far, as they sit at 2-5 with two weekends remaining. If they want to make it into one of those last playoff positions, they’re going to need the man considered the best player on the planet to continue doing what he does.
Chaos - Blaze Riorden (G)
It’s no secret, Blaze is the backbone of this Chaos squad, and he has been since 2019. You don’t win back-to-back Oren Lyons Goalie of the Year awards without turning away a lot of rubber.
The story has been no different for Riorden this year, as he leads the league with 104 saves in six games – his 60.0% save percentage is tied for second-best in the league behind only Adam Ghitelman.
On top of that, 38.2 percent of Blaze’s saves have been clean. That’s the highest total among goalies who have faced at least 100 shots. His clean save percentage is even higher between the hashes (47.2%), and against low-angle shots, he’s able to make butterfly saves, utilizing his lower body regularly.
Chaos sits just above Cannons for the final playoff spot. They face a tough trio of games to end the season in the Chrome, Archers, and Redwoods. We’re going to have to hear a lot more of “Save by Blaze” if the ‘Aos wants to be in the postseason. I’d say he’s up for the challenge.
Chrome - John Galloway (G)
Talk about a goaltender that has made a difference in every game for his team. John Galloway has been the X-factor when it comes to Chrome’s success in 2021, and it comes following a bit of a goalie controversy that was brewing heading into the season.
Tim Soudan selected two-time MLL Goalie of the Year Sean Sconone to be the backup, and the UMass product was looked at as the man to take over for Galloway once the time was right.
Galloway held his starting job, and he’s been dynamite every step of the way. In every game that he’s started so far this season, he’s put up double-digit save totals. In his past three games alone, he’s put up 53 saves – 21 of which came in Chrome’s upset win over the Whips.
Yes, one of Jackson Morrill or Colin Heacock could have taken this spot, but the most important position on the field is goalie, and Galloway’s voice in the room and play on the field is one of the major reasons his team is in the position they are.
His efforts in the clear game shouldn’t go unnoticed either. Joel White’s return to the team has given Galloway a clear option every time he makes a save. Add rookie Ryan Terefenko into that equation and Chrome has the chance for quick-strike goals every time they get on the run after a defensive stand.
Just his mark on Chrome’s goal differential alone could play a big role once the regular season comes to a close.
Redwoods - Rob Pannell (A)
The Redwoods’ offense has been lethal this season, and five players are into double digits when it comes to points.
Their key offseason acquisition, Rob Pannell, has been everything the team could have hoped for and more. After averaging three points per game for Atlas last year in the Championship Series, he’s been incorporated into this offensive unit and put up four points per game so far.
Speaking to Pannell recently, he mentioned that he’s never had the chance to be an off-ball finisher the way he has within this offense. I’ve talked about it before – as have many others. Pannell’s arrival pushed Jules Heningburg into the midfield, giving Nat St. Laurent two legitimate playmakers in Heningburg and Myles Jones, along with one of the best sharpshooters in the game in Sergio Perkovic.
Defenses have truly had to pick their poison this season. Pannell has continued to put up solid assist numbers, but that added attention to the midfield has afforded him some extra looks on the cage while the defense is sliding or trying to recover. He’s posted a goal in every game this season and is on pace for a 36-point campaign.
He can be a facilitator and that go-to guy if needed, but within this system, he’s not asked to carry the load. The wealth is distributed evenly for the Woods and Pannell has thrived with this change of scenery.
Waterdogs - Zach Currier (M)
After battling through injury last summer, Zach Currier has been proving to everyone why the Waterdogs scooped him up with the first overall pick in the 2020 Entry Draft.
Matt Abbott is The Human Clear, and with his performances this year, Currier is soon going to earn the moniker as The Human Triple-Double.
Week after week, he continues to put up asinine numbers across the board. He currently sits second on the team in points with 19, 10 of those being assists. But Currier also has 40 groundballs on the year, which is the best total among non-face-off specialists in the league. He’s also put up seven caused turnovers as a two-way midfielder.
The Peterborough, Ontario native has been incredible this season. His seven-point, seven-groundball, and one CT performance is the standout from Week 4. But he also had back-to-back Triple Doubles during the Dogs’ Week 2 doubleheader against Chaos and Chrome.
Currier is a special talent that Andy Copelan can depend on both offensively and defensively. When it comes to two-way midfielders, there’s no one better than him currently.
Whipsnakes - Zed Williams (A)
The Whipsnakes are, surprisingly, a tough team to pick an MVP for at this point in the season. They spread the offense out so well that everyone is productive, making it difficult to single out an individual.
Luckily, they do have the reigning Jim Brown MVP, and Zed Williams has been every bit as dominant as he was last year during the Championship Series.
He crushes defenses with his ability to catch and shoot, and he’s a physical nightmare to match up against, standing at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds.
Williams has posted 13 goals on the year along with a 2-pointer – the second of his career – and an assist.
He’s also had to take on a bigger role as a facilitator within the offense, as Matt Rambo has been out due to an injury. He and Brad Smith have been amazing for this squad, but as I said, everyone is deadly within this unit.
Mike Chanenchuk, John Haus, and Jay Carlson all have 10-plus points on the year and Chris Aslanian and Simon Mathias have been solid complementary pieces during the season.
But when this team is firing on all cylinders, which is most of the time, it’s No. 36 in red and teal who’s putting on the biggest performances.