Last winter had to be frustrating for Jeff Zywicki, but if there’s anything we know about this right-handed forward, it’s that he’s determined. If you’ve seen him work his magic down low on the crease, you know that’s an issue that’s not up for debate. Not only does he manage to get off a shot from what seems to be an impossible angle with a defender on his back, he scores on it. There are a few NLL guys who make you shake your head in disbelief with acrobatic goals, and Z is one of ‘em. That’s why 2011 had to be frustrating, because he was hardly able to do that last year as injuries kept him on the pine for all but 3 games. So how can we include a fella who played so few regular-season games on this Top 35 list? He’s THAT good.
Sure, he came in at No. 20 in last year’s rankings, but dropping to No. 34 this year isn’t signaling a decline in his skill as much as it’s being fair to the NLL guys who were on the floor. But like we said before the jump, even with a career-low 8 points (4-4) last year, the talent here is too great to drop completely out of sight. We’re talking about a guy who has averaged more than 77 points in each of his previous 4 seasons, which breaks down to 4.75 points a game.
And when the Stealth got a healthy Z for last year’s playoff run, that’s the form that was on display. And that’s the sorta game we fully expect to see from him this season. Not only that, we’re sure that’s the game he expects to see from himself. With 12 points in those 3 playoff games, Zywicki let everyone know he’s hardly on the decline.
Cleary, an 8-point season is not acceptable for the Ottawa native who played his junior ball in Nepean. So maybe that’s why he was back in the box this summer, suiting up for the New Westminster Salmonbellies. There was rust to work off, no doubt, but there also was something to prove. And in 13 games for the ‘Bellies this summer, he carded 45 points on 16 goals and 29 assists. The fire no doubt is burning brightly in Z’s gut to get back out there and show he’s worked through the injury bug to give the Washington Stealth the creativity they lacked down low last summer. That, and the fact that he’s driven to get the Stealth back to the top of the NLL.
NLL champs in 2010, the Stealth lost in last year’s title game to Toronto after the return of Zywicki gave the team a much-needed boost. Losing motivates any athlete as much as the next, but battling back to the form you had before an injury is even more incentive. So Z’s got plenty of motivation heading into 2012 and we know he can bring it. It’s just a matter of counting down the days to gametime, and getting that scoring groove on track, something Zywicki does with the best of ‘em in the NLL.
No. 35: Mike Thompson
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