March 13, 2019
By Adam Ruffner
There's nothing quite like the purgatory of being relegated to the sideline due to an injury. These seven players had their seasons shortened last year, and enter 2019 hoping to make a lot of impact for their teams.
Tarik Akyuz, Madison Radicals
A three-year veteran of the Midwest Division with Detroit, PIttsburgh, and now the Madison Radicals, Tarik Akyuz might see a major increase in his receiving role in the wake of a series of retirements following Madison's 2018 championship. The 6'1" Case Western product has been productive in limited playing opportunities, scoring 56 goals in just 19 career games, including 22 in six regular season games for the Radicals last year. His combination of speed, size, and motor make Akyuz a difficult cover, able to outrace bigger defenders and overpower smaller opponents alike. Although he lacks downfield throws, Madison's balanced offensive attack will limit Akyuz's need to pass, allowing him to focus as a receiver.
Mitchell Bennett, Austin Sol
After averaging 20 assists and 30 goals in his first two season with the Austin Sol, Mitchell Bennett missed the entire 2018 season. Not only did Bennett miss out on the Sol's first postseason appearance, he missed the first opportunity to play with his younger brother Matt Bennett on the same team for the first time in their collegiate or pro careers. While Matt operates on defense, Mitchell has quietly thrived in the South Division as a downfield pacesetter for the Sol offense. His range and quick release as a thrower make him dangerous with the disc, and he's exceedingly underrated as a receiving threat despite his 5'9" frame.
Bennett ended the 2017 season playing some of his best ultimate. He finished with eight straight 2+ goal games, and seven of his last eight with 2+ assists. The Sol finished with a bottom four offense last year, so plugging in Bennett would give them an immediate boost.
Quentin Bonnaud, Montreal Royal
While Quentin Bonnaud did suit up for 10 games for the Montreal Royal last year, an early season wrist injury in 2018 limited his impact after a breakout rookie season in 2017. Despite just turning 23 this month, Bonnaud has already established himself as a consummate pro, averaging over five scores (assists plus goals) per game in 25 appearances with the Royal. He and handler Stève Bonneau have established an uptempo French connection on Montreal's offense that looks to get only more dangerous with the addition of a squad of fellow countrymen to the 2019 Montreal roster.
Bonnaud has demonstrated an ability to elevate his play in big games. He dished two assists and scored six goals in his only playoff game, and averaged three assists and six goals in three matchups against the New York Empire in 2018; Montreal will likely need to take a game (or two) from the supercharged Empire if they want to get back to the playoffs for the first time in two years.
Abe Coffin, Dallas Roughnecks
While the Dallas Roughnecks abstained from making a big splash in free agency for the second consecutive offseason, they do regain Abe Coffin after he missed all of last season. New York made headlines for adding All-AUDL talent Jack Williams after their semifinals appearance in 2018; Coffin is just as valuable for a Dallas team coming off their second AUDL championship game in three seasons. Though he falls nearly half a foot shy of 6', Coffin was perhaps the most consistent offensive contributor on a Dallas offense loaded with stars the last time he took the field, racking up 37 assists and 39 goals during the 2017 regular season.
Coffin's precision with the disc and athleticism without make him a perfect "any position" fit for the Roughnecks uptempo, interchanging system on offense. Jay Froude, Matt Jackson, and Brandon Malecek powered Dallas to the seventh most goals per game in 2018, and Coffin's presence will surely push that production even higher.
Jake Fella, Indianapolis AlleyCats
At the beginning of 2018, Jake Fella and first-year Indianapolis AlleyCats member Keegan North were coming off of breakout performances as teammates on the U-24 Team USA squad that claimed gold. North went on to have a great year as a tweener role player in the Indy offense as the AlleyCats had their best season to date. But Fella, a 6'4" defender just beginning to tap his potential, missed almost the entirety of the season with an injury. He was tied for fourth on the team with 14 blocks in 2017, and was beginning to see time against the top talents in the Midwest Division before his season ended abruptly.
The AlleyCats defense finished very under the radar for ranking fourth in the league in blocks per game (14.4) and third in goals per game allowed (19.9). Now with Fella returned and the addition of veteran defensive handler Brett Matzuka, Indianapolis is poised for a legit run at Championship Weekend.
Cole Sullivan, DC Breeze
Nearly three seasons removed from leading the league in assists, Cole Sullivan has found a new home in 2019 with the DC Breeze after injuries and a move limited him to just two games last year. Known for his big hucks and bigger ego, Sullivan's integration into the DC offense alongside Xavier Maxstadt and 2018 MVP Rowan McDonnell will be one of the more interesting developments in the league to watch. And though he has a reptuation as a chucker, Sullivan was remarkably efficient with the disc in his last full season of play, completing 94.60 percent of his nearly 500 throws and tossing 42 assists in just nine games.
In fact, Sullivan is already in the league's top 20 all-time for assists with 181, and is one of its most potent distributors, averaging 4.76 assists per game in his career; only Pawel Janas, Jonathan Nethercutt, and Mark Burton have more assists with a higher per game average than Sullivan in league history.
Jason Tschida, Minnesota Wind Chill
One of the more unheralded handlers in not just the Midwest, but the league at large, the 27-year-old Jason Tschida—happy birthday!—is one of the best precision throwers around. He is averaging 40 completions per game at a ridiculous 97.00 clip in 24 regular season games in his Minnesota Wind Chill career, and has almost identical per game numbers in his three playoff appearances. He's also underappreciated releasing from the backfield as a receiver, carrying a respectable 1.5 goal-per-game average in his career. Tschida started 2018 playing his best disc as a pro, putting up eight assists on 209 completions compared to just three throwaways total in his first three games before an injury sidelined him for a month and a half.
Minnesota finished with the best scoring offense in the league in 2018, and Tschida's return alongside handling partner and All-AUDL member Josh Klane will only add to the team's firepower. The Wind Chill added a host of young Canadian talent during the offseason who like to play fast paced style of offense, which caters perfectly to Tschida's skill set as a thrower.