Thursday, July 7, 2016

MSL players Evans, Matthews and Smith are finalists for NLL MVP

The National Lacrosse League post-season accolades continue to accrue for Major Series Lacrosse players. The 2016 NLL MVP will be an MSL player after the league announced the finalists for the award: Shawn Evans, Mark Matthews and Dhane Smith.

This will mark the fifth year in a row that the league's top player has come from MSL. Evans is the reigning MVP, has won two of the last three awards, and is once again a finalist. His inclusion among the final three is particularly noteworthy because he switched teams in the offseason, moving from the Calgary Roughnecks to the New England Black Wolves.

Evans became the first player in league history to crack the 100-point plateau in four straight seasons. More importantly, he led the turnaround of a team that was last in the league in 2015 as the Black Wolves advanced to the East Division finals this year.

Evans scored 50 goals for the first time in his career. He has continued his high-scoring ways, leading the Peterborough Lakers to first place in MSL at this point and having more assists this summer than anyone else has points.

His main competition for the NLL award comes from Smith. The Buffalo Bandits star broke Evans' year-old single-season scoring record with 137 points and also set the record for most goals in a season. His 72 broke Athan Iannucci's mark of 71 from the 2008 season.

Smith has only played one game this summer because of plantar fasciitis but the Six Nations Chiefs hope he'll be back for the playoff. He helped the Bandits to reach the NLL finals, where they lost to the Saskatchewan Rush in an outstanding series.

The Rush were led by the third MVP finalist, Brooklin Redmen's Matthews. He was second in the league with 69 assists as he put up his second straight 100-point-plus season.

It was the second straight NLL title for the Rush. Now Matthews is back in Brooklin playing for Rush head coach Derek Keenan. The team is celebrating its 50th anniversary season and hoping to make the celebration a big one by winning the Redmen's first Mann Cup since 2000.

The NLL awards will be handed out at the Toronto Rock Athletic Centre, home of MSL's Oakville Rock, on Tuesday September 27.