Minnesota Swarm 2013 NLL Preview: Taking the Next Step to the Top
The Minnesota Swarm finished the 2012 season in third place in the National Lacrosse League West Division with a 9-7 record following an offseason that saw them make wholesale changes to the roster.
The changes meant going to a much younger group of players, and the youth movement paid off.
In a year in which 12 rookies saw playing time, they followed their solid regular season by earning their first-ever postseason win—an upset victory over the Colorado Mammoth—before falling to the Edmonton Rush in the second round.
The success enjoyed by Minnesota earned Joe Sullivan the 2012 Les Bartley Award, given to the NLL's coach of the year.
This year, with four first-round picks in the NLL entry draft, the Swarm are looking like a team that is invested in getting even younger and faster.
The combination of first-rounders Brock Sorensen and Kiel Matisz on transition means Minnesota is adding to what is already a strength for the team. With Sorensen at 6'6" and Matisz at 6'5", they both add size and strength.
It is notable, however, that Sorensen will start the season on the physically unable-to-perform list while nursing an injury.
They join a transition squad that already includes 2012 all-rookie Jordan MacIntosh (51 points, 153 loose balls) and 2011 all-rookie Andrew Suitor (26 points, 120 loose balls, league-leading 74 penalty minutes), arguably making them the best transition unit in the NLL.
On defense, first-round pick Alex Crepinsek adds to a solid corps that includes Jeff Gilbert, who led the team in forced turnovers (26), and Mitch Belisle (57 loose balls).
One surprise on defense is the absence of veteran Joe Cinosky, who is currently on the Swarm's holdout list and is not expected to play this year.
Based on last season, goaltending should be a strong suit for years to come in Minnesota.
Evan Kirk (9.81 goals against average) made the all-rookie team and had the lowest goals against in the league.
Tyler Carlson also made a big splash as a rookie, winning five games and posting a decent 12.04 goals against.
The forward position should be strong once again for the Swarm.
Their one-two punch of Ryan Benesch (83 points) and Callum Crawford (33 goals) is back and should again pace the scoring.
Benesch led the NLL in 2011 in both points (95) and goals (46) and may have been in the race once again last year had he not missed three games due to injury.
Minnesota's fourth first-round pick, Shayne Jackson, was a proven commodity at Limestone College and should add depth to the offense.
Returning to Minnesota to round out the offense are solid secondary scoring options Jay Card (34 points) and Corbyn Tao (39 points).
Last season the Swarm were third in the NLL in goals for (202) and third overall in goals against (190). If the ongoing youth movement can continue to improve on those numbers, there's no reason the Minnesota can't move up in the standings and take a run at the Champion's Cup.
The Swarm open the 2013 season on the road when they visit the Buffalo Bandits on Jan. 12
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