December 12, 2013

NLL East Division Preview: Minnesota Swarm

by Neil Stevens | | NLL 2014 Preview

Captain Andrew Suitor returns to the Swarm lineup after missing most of last season with a knee injury. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Swarm)

2013 Record: 7-9

Playoffs: Sensational 20-11 first-round win in Toronto in first round; lost to Rochester 12-10 in division final

Skinny: Only Calgary scored more goals than Minnesota last season.

Defensively, the Swarm ranked fifth in goals allowed. Everybody on the team has to contribute in improving that ranking, coach Joe Sullivan said.

"We have to get better defensively from the goalie (Tyler Carlson) on out, and we'll put more onus on our offensive guys to play smarter so we can have the ball in our sticks longer and reduce the minutes the other team has the ball," Sullivan said.

Captain Andrew Suitor is ready to play again after missing most of last season with a knee injury, and that is a big plus.

Ryan Benesch, the team's all-time leading goal scorer, and transition veteran Andrew Watt were traded to Buffalo for the Bandits' 2015 and 2016 first-round entry draft picks in the ongoing Swarm effort to stockpile futures that can be converted into stars.

Minnesota had four first-round picks for the second year in a row. Logan Schuss, Jason Noble, Cam Flint and Scott Jones will push for lineup spots. Schuss and Noble are expected to win the Benesch and Watt spots.

"It just makes it more competitive," Sullivan said. "Every practice, every shootaround means something now. We don't have time to wait and see if a guy's head is in the game or if he's in top shape."

Neil Stevens' NLL 2014 Season Preview (in projected order of finish)

NLL East Preview

1. Rochester Knighthawks
2. Minnesota Swarm
3. Toronto Rock
4. Buffalo Bandits
5. Philadelphia Wings 

NLL West Division

1. Edmonton Rush
2. Calgary Roughnecks
3. Vancouver Stealth
4. Colorado Mammoth
» Where are the Americans? 

Schuss, the No. 1 overall draft pick out of Ohio State, won't be able to replace Benesch, a former No. 1 pick, by himself.

"Ryan is a star in this league and Logan is coming in as a rookie. He'll have to learn for a while like any rookie does," Sullivan said. "He'll help fill that hole, but it'll take a committee to fill that hole."

Minnesota has advanced to the division final the last two years. Sullivan is looking for more.

"We had our offseason meetings and met with each player to assess how they did," Sullivan said. "Everybody has bought into the fact that small things have to be done better. There has to be a sense of urgency in games. I'm excited about our opportunity this season with some of the young blood we have coming in. Our fans can look forward to seeing a team with size, speed, youth and athleticism. We're a team looking to get to the Champion's Cup."

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