National Lacrosse League Announces 2019-20 NLL Award Winners

Shayne Jackson and Lyle Thompson, courtesy Georgia Swarm

The National Lacrosse League (@NLL), the longest running and most successful professional lacrosse league in the world, officially announced the 2019-20 NLL Award winners. All awards are voted on by head coaches, general managers, and the League’s Board of Governors.

Like all major sports, the 2019-2020 season was interrupted, and ultimately cut short due to COVID-19. There was over 15 weeks of game play and much success for the players, teams, and fans of NLL’s 13 active franchises—including two competing for the first time this year. All three divisions featured tight races with three or more teams within two games of the lead, the launch of the Alterna Cup Series, and thrilling overtime victories.

“In an unusual year we congratulate such exceptional players coaches and executives,” said NLL Commissioner, Nick Sakiewicz. “At the end of each season we award top performers and they epitomize everything that is good about the game of lacrosse on and off the field. All our leaders and athletes participate in the top lacrosse league in the world, and this year’s winners have distinguished themselves as the best of the best. We look forward to the time when we can present these awards in person and honor each of them with their teammates in front of their home fans.”

Peter Schmitz, President, Professional Lacrosse Players’ Association (PLPA), also shared his praise, “On behalf of the PLPA, I’d like to congratulate all the award winners for their excellence, commitment, and success. We wish to recognize the effort and talent that it takes to win these awards, especially among so many qualified candidates.”

The voting resulted in major award winners representing a wide array of squads, showcasing the competitive balance of talent and high-level competition in the NLL. Earning the Most Valuable Player Award was Shayne Jackson of the Georgia Swarm. Jackson finished the year with 31 goals and 42 assists totaling 73 points while leading the league in even strength assists with 36. Jackson also tied for the league lead in power play goals with 11 and collected 65 loose balls.

The Rookie of the Year was New York Riptide star, Tyson Gibson. Gibson was the first overall selection by the expansion franchise in the 2019 Entry Draft. Gibson scored 16 goals and had 27 assists for 43 points, which led the team in the Riptide’s inaugural season.

For the third year in a row, Georgia Swarm’s Lyle Thompson won the Sportsmanship Award. He is the only NLL player to ever win it three consecutive times since the award debuted in 2002. He continues to represent the sport of lacrosse to the highest degree and tallied 27 goals and 33 assists on the season.

Making it three consecutive seasons, Halifax Thunderbirds stalwart, Graeme Hossack took home Defensive Player of the Year honors. Hossack lead all defensemen in Time on Floor averaging 27:32 per game, over two minutes higher than the next best player, and finished in the top four amongst all defensemen in goals, points, loose balls, and caused turnovers.

Another back-to-back award winner, the Toronto Rock’s Challen Rogers was named Transition Player of the Year. In 11 games, Rogers scored 11 goals and recorded 14 assists while corralling 51 loose balls.

In his first full year as a full-time starter, New England Black Wolves goaltender, Doug Jamieson won the Goaltender of the Year Award. Jamieson led the league in Save Percentage (.829), which is a league record for save percentage, Goals Against Average (8.80) and tied for the league lead in wins with 8.

For the first time in NLL Awards history, the Teammate(s) of the Year honor was a tie to both Dan Dawson, Toronto Rock, and Mike Poulin, Georgia Swarm. Throughout the season, the players exhibited leadership, sportsmanship, and dedication to their teammates, communities and the sport.

Philadelphia Wings Head Coach and General Manager, Paul Day received dual honors, winning the Les Bartley Award for Coach of the Year and General Manager of the Year. Day led his squad to an 8-6 record after acquiring Goaltender of the Year finalist Zach Higgins and veteran forward Cory Vitarelli during the offseason, and overseeing the development of second-year stars, Trevor Baptiste and Matt Rambo. Day previously won the Les Bartley Award in 2004 when he helmed the Rochester Knighthawks.

The Tom Borrelli Award Media Member of the Year goes to Craig Rybczynski of the Rochester Knighthawks. As the longest-tenured broadcaster in NLL history, calling over 300 straight games, he provides strategic communications, develops community partnerships and interacts with local, regional and national media

John Catalano, of the Halifax Thunderbirds, was honored as the Executive of the Year, overseeing the day-to-day operations following the franchise’s relocation after a long, successful run in Rochester. John played an instrumental role in what was a successful inaugural season for the franchise, both on and off the floor. His guidance and expertise in sales, integrated marketing, game presentation, broadcast, and community relations have landed Halifax on the map as one of the newest staple franchises in the league.

The complete list of 2019-20 NLL Awards winners are as follows:

Most Valuable Player: Shayne Jackson, Georgia
Rookie of the Year: Tyson Gibson, New York
Sportsmanship Award: Lyle Thompson, Georgia
Defensive Player of the Year: Graeme Hossack, Halifax
Transition Player of the Year: Challen Rogers, Toronto
Goaltender of the Year: Doug Jamieson, New England
Teammate of the Year: Dan Dawson, Toronto, AND Mike Poulin, Georgia (t)
Les Bartley Award Coach of the Year: Paul Day, Philadelphia
General Manager of the Year: Paul Day, Philadelphia
Tom Borrelli Award Media Member of the Year: Craig Rybczynski, Rochester
Executive of the Year: John Catalano, Halifax

Additionally, the 2019-20 NLL All-League and All-Rookie Teams have been announced. The teams are comprised of the top vote getters for the season awards.

All-League First Team:
Doug Jamieson, New England, Goaltender
Graeme Hossack, Halifax, Defense
Kyle Rubisch, Saskatchewan, Defense
Challen Rogers, Toronto, Transition
Shayne Jackson, Georgia, Forward
Callum Crawford, New England, Forward

All-League Second Team:
Dillon Ward, Colorado, Goaltender
Robert Hope, Colorado, Defense
Dan MacRae, New York, Defense
Kiel Matisz, Philadelphia, Transition
Rob Hellyer, Toronto, Forward
Cody Jamieson, Halifax, Forward

All-Rookie Team:
Tyson Gibson, New York, Forward
Andrew Kew, New England, Forward
Connor Fields, San Diego, Forward
Clarke Peterson, Halifax, Forward
Ryland Rees, Rochester, Transition
Joe Nardella, New England, Defense

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Authored by: Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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