(Duluth, GA) – The National Lacrosse League named Georgia Swarm forward Lyle Thompson the 2017 NLL MVP on Wednesday, June 28. Thompson is the first-ever Swarm player to win NLL MVP after capturing the league scoring title. He was also named the Champion’s Cup MVP.
“It’s an honor to be here playing in this league,” Thompson said. “It’s given me a lot of opportunities to help me grow as a person. I’ve been grateful enough to come down here, step right in and play and be a part with people that have helped me become not just a great player but a better person … I’ve never been a part of a team like this one. Every single guy has helped in a different way, and we’re all fighting to achieve the same goal.”
In his second season with the Swarm, Thompson became the first Swarm player in franchise history to reach and surpass the 100-point threshold, capturing the NLL Scoring Crown with his 116 points (45G, 71A – both team highs). The 24-year-old’s 45 goals fell one goal short of breaking the Swarm’s single-season record set by Ryan Benesch and were good for third-best in the league, tied with New England’s Kevin Crowley. His 71 assists set a new team record and were second in the league only to Saskatchewan’s Mark Matthews’ 73.
The 2015 No. 1 overall pick averaged 2.5 goals and 3.9 assists per game during the regular season and finished with a .194 shooting percentage, the highest in the NLL amongst players with at least 200 shots. The sophomore also recorded 37 power play points (10PPG, 27PPA), three shorthand goals, and was tied for first in the league with four game-winning goals. In total, he had four games of 10 points or more.
But Thompson was not just one of the best offensive forwards. The Onondaga Nation native collected 126 loose balls (best out of the Top 24 NLL scorers), caused 15 turnovers (best among the Top 54 NLL scorers), and went 21-for-44 in faceoffs (again, best among the Top 54 NLL scorers). Thompson contributed every chance he could to help Georgia finish with a 13-5 record and postseason sweep against the Toronto Rock in the East Division Finals and against the two-time defending champion Saskatchewan Rush.
“What I thought really differentiated him from other players in the league — winning the scoring title obviously takes a whole lot of talent, but the things he did when he didn’t have the ball, the battling for loose balls, the pressing up the floor, the going back to play defense, those are all things that were not only a big part of our success but woven into the fabric of what Lyle Thompson is,” head coach Ed Comeau said. “He’s a complete player. He’s not an offensive player, he’s not a defensive player, he’s not a transition player. Lyle is a complete player, and I’m glad that others around the league saw what we saw.”
“I’m thankful for the opportunity (Swarm Owner and General Manager) John Arlotta has given me,” Thompson added, “the coaching staff who’ve helped me build my confidence, putting the ball in my stick, not pulling me down or anything like that … My teammates who’ve helped me on and off the field. We’ve built chemistry this year … Last, but not least, my brothers who push me every day to become a better player, a better person.”
In the final game of the regular season against the Rochester Knighthawks on April 29, Thompson scored the goal that surpassed the NLL team record of 258 goals in a single season, set by the Rochester Knighthawks in 2002. Georgia finished the 2017 regular season with 266 goals, averaging 14.78 GF/GAME.
During the postseason, Thompson was held relatively quiet in Game 1 of the East Division Finals against the Toronto Rock, recording three assists. In the final three games, Thompson returned to form, scoring six points (2G, 4A) in Game 2 of the East Division Finals, five points (1G, 4A) in Game 1 of the Champion’s Cup against the Saskatchewan Rush, and seven points (3G, 4A) in Game 2.
Thompson was a huge part of the final goal of the NLL season. In overtime at Sasktel Centre, his elder brother Miles Thompson had the ball on the left side but was pressed by Saskatchewan’s Jeff Cornwall. Miles passed to Lyle, and Lyle drew Ryan Dilks and Cornwall to him. His right arm was tied up, so Lyle switched to his non-dominant hand and made an underhand one-handed pass to Miles. Miles netted the game-winner and season-ender with the open lane provided by his younger brother.
“In his second year in the league, to be able to win that award really shows how much he’s developing,” Comeau said. “We really think his game is going to continue to improve, which is a scary thought, but as (team captain) Jordan MacIntosh said at one point, ‘When your best player is also your hardest working player, that’s a great thing to have.’”
Lyle was part of history alongside Miles and elder brother Jerome Thompson as they took the floor for Georgia and played against their eldest brother Jeremy Thompson and the Saskatchewan Rush on Jan. 7. The four brothers playing together in the season opener set a Guinness World Record for most siblings to play in a professional lacrosse game.
The MVP’s season was also highlighted by a number of stellar performances, notching his first-ever socktrick against Rochester on Feb. 19, setting a new personal best in points with 11 against the Colorado Mammoth on April 1, and a SportsCenter Top 10 play in the April 29 finale against Rochester.
Mark Matthews (Saskatchewan) and Corey Small (Vancouver) were also nominated for the NLL MVP Award.
In addition to Thompson’s MVP award, the Georgia Swarm has also won Defensive Player of the Year (Jason Noble), Teammate of the Year (Mike Poulin), and the Sportsmanship Award (Jordan Hall).
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