While the NHL continues to latch onto the Mayan prophecies, the National Lacrosse League powers on, giving Minnesota fans something to look forward to coming in January. Today, the Minnesota Swarm announced their 23 man final roster, and an addition 3 man practice squad roster.
The roster is as follows:
Forwards (8): Ryan Benesch, Jay Card, Callum Crawford, Matt Gibson*, Joel Henry, Shayne Jackson*, Pat Smith, Corbyn Tao
Defensemen (7): Dan Ball, Mitch Belisle, Nik Bilic, Alex Crepinsek*, Greg Downing, Jeff Gilbert, Michael O'Brien*
Transition (6): David Earl, Tyler Hass, Jordan MacIntosh, Kiel Matisz*, Andrew Suitor ‘C', Andrew Watt
Goalies (2): Evan Kirk, Tyler Carlson
Practice Roster (3): G Zach Higgins*, G Ryan Masters*, T Tyler Tanguay*
The Swarm enter the 2013 having has the best season in franchise history last season, advancing to the West Finals. The roster returns powerhouse forwards Benesch and Crawford, and adds a first round pick in Jackson. This is in addition to Henry, Tao, and Card, who all had impressive seasons last year and will no doubt be able to add to their totals.
On defense, the Swarm lose big (and I mean big) man Rich Morgan, but add big man (and I mean big) Alex Creinsek, who should more than compensate for the loss. The defense was, at times, both spectacular and maddening last season. With the players returning, and the addition of a very big, very athletic Crepinsek, the defense should be able to stabilize.
Captain Andrew Suitor leads a transition team that will be giving opposition coaches and players nightmares all season. Jordan MacIntosh had one of the best rookie seasons in the NLL, and showed he is a force in the faceoff circle as well. Add in Earl, Hass, and Watt, and the Swarm have a wealth of talent on transition.
Oh, and third overall pick Kiel Matisz is ready to go as well. If that isn't enough for you, second overall pick Brock Sorenson is still rehabbing from an knee injury, and will join the transition at some point this season.
But hey. That's all the Swarm have, right? A dominating offense, a stabilized shut down defense, and a transition that would make any team jealous. That's plenty. Nothing else to see here.
Unless, of course, you want to take a look at goaltending, where Tyler Carlson and Evan Kirk will once again split duty. After the Swarm drafted Anthony Cosmo is last season's dispersal draft, and already had Nick Patterson on the roster, Kirk and Carlson had no shot at playing a single game. Instead, the Swarm traded the rights to Cosmo and released Patterson. Kirk and Carlson responded by winning multiple NLL honors throughout the year.
For Wild fans, the fact that a team in Xcel Energy Center is full of young players ready to dominate the league is going to be bitter sweet. Still, if you haven't been to a Swarm game yet, this season is the time to do it. The Swarm have to be near the top of the favorites going into the season, and barring any seismic shifts in the roster, there is no reason to believe they can't win their first NLL championship.
You hear that Wild fans? Championship caliber team. At the X. This January.
Note: Minnesota Swarm coverage will be filling the pages of Hockey Wilderness for the foreseeable future. SB Nation is moving away from their regional hubs, and the Swarm are a natural fit for hockey fans. Please follow all of our coverage on the front page, and also at HockeyWilderness.com/Swarm.