January 21, 2018
By Adam Ruffner
The AUDL Power Rankings are back! And probably much sooner than you expected. There have been six franchises to win a title in the seven years of the league's existence. and 2019 is shaping up to have more parity than ever.
Team records from 2018 regular season in parentheses. Playoff teams' outcomes listed.
21. Detroit Mechanix (0-14)
24-year-old rookie Tate Halberg emerged as a legitimate downfield playmaker in the Midwest last season, using his long 6'3" frame to reel in a team-high 34 goals in just nine games played, including 21 goals over his final four games of the season. But there were few other bright spots in 2018 for Detroit, as it was another unkind year for a Mechanix team that went winless for the third time in franchise history; their average margin of defeat was nearly 12 goals per game last season. And with just five wins total over the past five seasons, they will need more young players like Halberg to step up into bigger roles to avoid a seventh straight season in the cellar of the division.
20. Pittsburgh Thunderbirds (4-10)
The Thunderbirds won their first game of 2018 against the Mechanix by a score of 17-16, and then promptly lost their next 10 contests while failing to score 20 goals on six different occasions during that stretch. But for as bad as the year started, Pittsburgh ended on a hopeful note with a three-game winning streak that included a hard fought road victory at Minnesota over the playoff-bound Wind Chill. Max Sheppard went off in those final three games, scoring 12 goals and tossing 21 assists; he finished the year with 64 assists, putting him fifth in the league for 2018 while tallying the second most assists for a single season in Pittsburgh franchise history.
19. Ottawa Outlaws (3-11)
After going 14-14 over their first two years as a franchise, the Outlaws have stumbled to a 5-23 mark the past two seasons, ranking second-to-last in goals allowed in both 2017 and 2018. It's a hard pill to swallow for a team that rosters one of the best throwers (Derek Alexander) and receivers (Alec Arsenault) in the East Division, if not the league at large. But what's harder is that a lot of Ottawa's struggles might just come down to focus and some dumb luck: In 2018, Ottawa was 0-5 in games decided by two goals or fewer. Nothing epitomized the snakebitten nature of the Outlaws better than the end of regulation against the rival Royal in Week 5. The Outlaws merely needed to maintain possession to preserve the win at home, and instead coughed up the disc with only seconds left on the clock, which led to a game-tying huck by Montreal to send the game to overtime before the eventual Royal win.
18. Seattle Cascades (5-9)
Seattle was the youngest team in the league last season, not only rostering but also relying on numerous players who were born during the second term of the Clinton presidency. And other than a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season that saw them get outscored 141-111, Seattle showed a lot of moxie throughout season and remained close in most games. They started off the year with a signature win over Minnesota at home, and finished by going 3-2 while scoring an average of 25.8 goals per game. Scoring phenom and perennial All-AUDL member Mark Burton remains the focal point of the Cascades attack, and Brad Houser is one of the most reliable offensive players in the division, throwing 61 assists and scoring 76 goals combined over the past two seasons.
17. Tampa Bay Cannons (4-10)
There is no throwing duo more underrated than the combination of Andrew Roney and Bobby Ley. Though they come from rival programs in Florida State and Florida, respectively, the two have established an almost telekinetic bond in the Cannons backfield. Over the past two seasons they've put up ridiculous, video-game-like numbers: 204 assists on 2546 completions, all while completing a tidy 94.89 percent of their throws combined. Both players have near full field range on their forehand and backhand throws, and both possess an elite complementary throw, with Roney favoring a devastating hammer, while Ley has honed one of the best outside-in forehand blades in the sport. Despite all of that, the Cannons finished in the bottom three in the league in scoring in 2018.
16. Philadelphia Phoenix (5-8-1)
Entering Week 14 last year, Philadelphia was coming off an impressive 27-19 win over Montreal and in control of their playoff destiny, with their final three games coming against the other two wild card playoff contenders in the division, DC (once) and New York (twice). But the Phoenix might have shot a little too close to the sun, as their playoff aspirations were dashed when they dropped all three contests by a combined 18 goals, narrowly missing their first postseason appearance since 2012. Sean Mott and Ethan Peck were a lot of fun in a run-and-gun, uptempo offense shooting to targets like Himalaya Mehta and Mike Arcata. But while the offense was making highlight plays, the Philly defense led by Matt Esser quietly finished tenth in the league in goals allowed.
15. Chicago Wildfire (5-9)
Despite being on the outside of the playoff race for most of the 2018 regular season, the Wildfire were sneakily competitive despite enduring their third consecutive losing campaign. Last year, Chicago was in seven games where the outcome was decided by four goals or fewer, and lost all seven. Pawel Janas is coming off the best two season throwing stretch in AUDL history: he threw 85 assists, an AUDL single-season record 933 completions (92.70 percent), and 45 secondary assists in 2017; an AUDL single-season record 97 assists, 818 completions (96.60%), and 59 secondary assists in 2018. With a few more wins and a playoff appearance to bolster his resume, Janas begins 2019 as legit an MVP candidate as anyone.
14. DC Breeze (8-5-1, lost in first round of South Division playoffs)
For a DC team that has three consecutive postseason appearances, a great strategist in Head Coach Darryl Stanley, and the reigning league MVP Rowan McDonnell, this ranking feels a bit low. But the Breeze will be dealing with heavy roster turnover heading into 2019, while their rivals only grow stronger. Stanley and McDonnell are maybe the most powerful motivating duo the league has to offer, but how far can their leadership take a team that will have to rely a lot on young, inexperienced players? There have been two two-time MVPs in AUDL history—Jonathan Helton and Beau Kittredge—and McDonnell has the talent and opportunity to become a third.
13. Atlanta Hustle (7-7)
The Hustle started 2018 on a tear, going 4-1 in their first five games before a tough schedule got the better of them in the second half of the season. Atlanta is one of the best teams in the AUDL at remaining competitive from opening pull through the final buzzer: 11 of the team's 14 games were decided by four goals or fewer. But other than the offensive talents of Matt Smith, the team lacks definable playmakers, which makes things difficult in the star-studded South Division. If one of their younger guys can emerge as a consistent threat, the Hustle will be right in the thick of the playoff race.
12. San Jose Spiders (6-8)
With just one playoff apperance in their last three seasons combined, the former two-time league champion Spiders are looking to reassert themselves in the West Division. They signed Antoine Davis to add a much needed star-caliber receiver to a handler-heavy lineup. Davis' presence as a number one target will allow Jackson Stearns, Zach Sabin, and Ethan Falat to draw more favorable matchups, freeing up San Jose offensive system. Falat in particular is one to watch in 2019. The longtime Spiders defender switched to offense in 2018 and had a career year, registering 33 assists, 36 blocks, and 301 completions (94.40 percent).
11. Montreal Royal (6-8)
The story of the Royal as a franchise boils down their almanac: If the year ends in an even number, the team will finish 6-8 and miss the playoffs, as they have done in 2014, 2016, and 2018; if the year is an odd number, Montreal will finish 9-5 and qualify for the postseason, as they did in 2015 and 2017. Simple predictive math would then tell us 2019 is a boon year for Montreal. The team continues experimenting with integrating international talent to local, homegrown youth, which has produced an interesting mixture of ages and styles. But it has not produced consistency, as the Royal ranked in the bottom six in the AUDL in turnovers last season with 26.5 per game.
10. San Diego Growlers (7-7, lost in West Division championship game)
One of the true litmus test teams in the league, the Growlers are coming off their third 7-7 finish in four seasons. San Diego did qualify for their first postseason appearance in franchise history, but abruptly departed after losing their fourth matchup of 2018 to their rivals from Los Angeles. After years of flashing his offensive potential, Travis Dunn put it all together last year as the Growlers primary option on his way to earning All-AUDL honors. Just as important to the team's success, Dom Leggio finished last season distributing the disc as well as anyone, putting up 14 assists and 229 completions (98.28 percent) over San Diego's final four contests.
9. Minnesota Wind Chill (8-6, lost in first round of Midwest Division playoffs)
Minnesota was the number one scoring team in the league in 2018, averaging 25.53 goals per game and conducting many of their drives with a methodical blend of patience and precision. All-AUDL handler Josh Klane, Bryan Vohnoutka, and Ryan Osgar led much of the Wind Chill's continuation-based attack with poise, looking equally comfortable with or without the disc in Minnesota's whirling system. But the team struggled against good competition, and their offense went from clean, open looks to muddled drives. Minnesota was 1-5 against the other Midwest playoff teams from Indianapolis and Madison last year, and finished just 2-4 over their final six games. But with one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Wind Chill could see improvements very soon.
8. Indianapolis AlleyCats (11-3, lost in Midwest Division championship game)
Short of winning a title, 2018 was as close to a dream season as Indianapolis could have hoped for. They finished with a franchise-best 11 wins, had a top 10 offense and defense, finally beat Madison for the first time in team history, and made it all the way to the Midwest Division championship game after knocking off Minnesota in the opening round of the playoffs. Rick Gross has had no peers when it comes to overall production the past two seasons, recording 65 assists, 470 completions (93.07 percent), 117 goals, and 54 blocks combined during the 2017 and 2018 regular seasons. Alongside Travis Carpenter and new-but-fits-right-in Keegan North, Gross leads one of the most promising youth cores in the AUDL. And the AlleyCats are only looking to get better. A lot of last season's success was due to the solid-if-not-great play of their youngsters, who make up the majority of the back end of their roster.
7. Austin Sol (7-7, lost in first round of South Division playoffs)
Despite dealing with a spate of injuries, Austin had one of the better combinations of youth and veterans in the league last year on their way to qualifying for the playoffs for the first time. And with few departures and another offseason together to get healthy, the Sol are on the rise. They had impressive, hard fought wins over elite teams Los Angeles and Raleigh, and inched closer to their first ever win against their in-state rivals from Dallas. Kyle Henke led the club with 42 goals despite not turning 20 until last June, and is the de-facto face of a fun group of up-and-coming Texas talent in Austin. If the Sol can figure out how to win on the road, they could become a dark horse contender for the South Division championship game, if not Championship Weekend.
6. Raleigh Flyers (10-4, lost in South Division championship game)
What a difference a few months make. Following their Week 9 demolition of the Radicals in Madison, the Flyers looked like the favorites to win the 2018 AUDL title. With 2017 MVP Jon Nethercutt, Jack Williams, Jacob Fairfax, Mischa Freystaetter, and Jonathan Helton manning up one of the most explosive offenses in the league, while Justin Allen, David Richardson, and Noah Saul led a stout defense, Raleigh had an embarrassment of riches on both sides of the disc. But they squandered a six-goal lead in a South Division championship game loss to Dallas, lost Williams to New York via free agency last week, and have rumors swirling about other major departures prior to the start of the 2019 season.
Still, Raleigh will be loaded in the new season. Even with the loss of an All-AUDL talent like Williams, the Flyers can still score a lot of goals with Fairfax, Freystaetter, and young phenom Terrence Mitchell filling in for production; even Shane Sisco, who has predominantly been used as a shutdown defender in Raleigh, is just two seasons removed from a 43-goal campaign. Head Coach Mike Denardis is a guru at getting the most from his players, and with one of the best collegiate pipelines in the country, expect the Flyers to showcase another upcoming star.
5. Los Angeles Aviators (11-3, lost in AUDL semifinal)
Los Angeles looked like the best team in the West Division from the first game of the season, and other than a tough Texas road trip last April, went relatively unchallenged until their semifinals matchup with Madison. So when the Aviators found themselves jittery and on the wrong side of a 9-3 score at the end of the first quarter against the Radicals, it was both surprising and expected for a team making their first trip to the final four. Los Angeles eventually adjusted, found their rhythm, and outscored Madison over the final three quarters. But it was not enough, and the team took away some hard learned lessons in their first Championship Weekend loss.
With much of the same core expected back, the Aviators have a lot of upside in 2019. Sean McDougall is coming off an All-AUDL year that saw him lead the league in goals, and his connection with Chris Mazur was perhaps the best one-two in the division a season ago. Los Angeles finished with the number two scoring offense in the AUDL.
The perennially underrated Zach Theodore leads an Aviators defense that ranked fifth in takeaways in 2018, and almost propelled Los Angeles back into contention in their semifinals game.
4. Toronto Rush (13-1, lost in East Division championship game)
At the end of the 2018 regular season, Toronto looked like the team to beat. Their sole loss came by a single goal in the closing moments on the road to the Breeze, and the Rush had six wins by seven or more goals to go with their league-best 13-1 record. But an East Division championship game loss to New York and the intervening offseason has placed the once impervious reign of the Rush in a bit of peril. This is, after all, a team that has the most wins in AUDL history, six consecutive regular season divisional titles, five Championship Weekend appearances, and one title.
Toronto is one of the deepest teams around, with a roster full of two-way players. But the team's utility approach might have contributed to their downfall in the playoff loss to the Empire. Eight different Rush players led the team in goals in a regular season game in 2018, making it hard for opponents to know which Toronto player to focus on. But in the playoffs, New York's defense inverted Toronto's spread attack scheme, and without a discernible go-to playmaker, the Rush faltered. Andrew Carroll, Cam Harris, and many others could easily fill such a role. Toronto just needs to get their mojo back.
3. New York Empire (8-6, lost in AUDL semifinal)
Not since the 2016 champion Roughnecks has the league seen such a team top-heavy in talent as this year's Empire. With the announcements of Jack Williams and Grand Lindsley joining a cast that already featured Ben Jagt, Jeff Babbitt, and four-time league champion Beau Kittredge, New York looks markedly better than the squad that was just two goals shy of a championship game appearance last August.
Jagt, in particular, looks ready for a monster season. He was unguardable in his last appearance in the 2018 semifinal against Dallas, putting up an AUDL single-game playoff record of 15 combined scores with nine assists and six goals. His 6'6" build helps him dominate over opponents, but his work on his technique as a thrower and downfield timing as a receiver have taken him from elite to borderline MVP.
2. Dallas Roughnecks (13-1, lost in AUDL championship)
Hard to remember now, but 2018 was supposed to be a bit of a down year for the Roughnecks. They lost almost an entire line of All-AUDL level talent following the 2017 season, then went 13-1 in the regular season, manifested a historic comeback against Raleigh in the divisional title game, and qualified for their second championship game in three seasons before bowing out to the Radicals.
Jay Froude is playing as close to an MVP level as possible without the physical award in his possession. The Roughnecks needed more throwers to complement their arsenal of young athletes, so Froude doubled his previous career bests in assists and completions while completing a career-best 91.80 percent of his throws; Froude also notched a career-high 46 goals during the regular season. In their semifinal win against New York, Froude was flawless, completing all 24 of his passes while getting four assists and five goals.
1. Madison Radicals (12-2, won AUDL championship)
Madison got mollywhopped at home on May 26 by Raleigh, switched their arguably best defender Peter Graffy onto offense, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Radicals became the second team in league history to win a title in front of their home crowd, and there's very little written words can do to express what goes on in this video.
With a majority of their championship roster expected back, and a full season of Graffy and Pat Shriwise running the Radicals offense, Madison is poised for a repeat. They have had the best defense in the AUDL since joining the league in 2013, and that doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon with Kevin Pettit-Scantling, Sterling Knoche, and Andrew Meshnick entering the primes.