March 17, 2022
By Adam Ruffner
With the start of the 2022 AUDL season just six weeks away, it’s time to start digging in for another big pro ultimate campaign. This space will be a bulletin board for news, notes, links, and other flotsam from around the league and internet. Let’s get into it.
Opening pull is on Friday, April 29 with a great rivalry battle to launch the new season as the Atlanta Hustle travel to face the Carolina Flyers. The teams split their 2021 two-game series, with each team winning their home matchup. And following that up in the West Division is an intriguing head-to-head as the two-time reigning division champion San Diego Growlers host the expansion Salt Lake Shred. The Growlers are undoubtedly the favorites, but they are also just 2-4 in home openers since 2015, including last year's 20-18 loss to Los Angeles.
The Portland Nitro dropped their roster last week, with Eli Friedman, Raphy Hayes, Leandro Marx, Timmy Perston, and Jack Hatchett as notable standouts. Friedman is the only one among that group with AUDL experience—he last played in 2018 with Los Angeles, tossing five assists on 22 completions in a semifinals loss—but all figure to be featured playmakers across both lines. Hayes has emerged on the club circuit as one of the premier athletes in space in the sport, and when paired with Marx, forms one of the most formidable, high tempo offensive duos. Perston has former professional experience playing in the now-defunct MLU, and was one of the best receivers in the league during his tenure. Hatchett is currently playing like the best D-line player in the country, able to lock-up top offensive threats, and be an asset on the counterattack. This group will be bolstered by a deep rotation of young talent, and figures to be in the thick of the playoff race in the West Division.
After losing Antoine Davis—arguably the team’s second best offensive threat last season—to the New York Empire in free agency earlier this offseason, the Atlanta Hustle announced the signing of Khalif El-Salaam last week. A 2019 all-star for the Cascades and key defender for semifinalist San Diego in 2021, El-Salaam figures to be a versatile piece in Atlanta Coaching Director Miranda Knowles’ system, potentially on both offensive and defensive rotations. With 34 blocks in 31 career games, El-Salaam has been most utilized as a lockdown defender—and as a booming puller to establish good field position—throughout his career. But he’s just as potent with the disc: In two seasons with Seattle, El-Salaam had 68 assists and 45 goals, regularly leading the Cascades attack. El-Salaam and Knowles go back over a decade, think of the game similarly, and have a high regard for each other, so El-Salaam could figure into a variety of positions for a Hustle team looking to make their first Championship Weekend appearance.
If you have not already, be sure to check out the new player and team stat pages on the site. Not only are stats now completely sortable by team and year, including career stats, but there are also added categories. Here’s a quick rundown of the new categories to check out:
- Total yardage
- Offensive Efficiency
- Hockey Assists
- Huck completion percentage
- Offensive Points Played
- Defensive Points Played
- Huck completion percentage
- Hold percentage
- Offensive Line Conversion percentage
- Break percentage
- Defensive Line Conversion percentage
- Red Zone Conversion percentage
A couple of things to touch on, particularly “holds” versus “offensive line conversion”. A hold is accounting for total points played as an offensive line. You could say, “Atlanta has an 80 percent hold rate” as “Atlanta has scored on 80 percent of their total O-points.” Offensive Line Conversion, meanwhile, is based on an O-line’s total possessions—it’s a more specific rating of an offensive line’s ability to score on any given possession; “Atlanta has an OLC of 60 percent” can be said as “Atlanta’s O-line has scored on 60 percent of their offensive possessions.” Make sense? Ok.
Speaking of stats: Ben Jagt has led the league in scores in each of the last three seasons, totaling 370 over his last 46 games with the Empire. No other player has ever led the league in scores more than once, and just 16 other players in AUDL history have totaled 370 scores for their careers. Jagt currently sits fifth all-time in scores with 525, and could vault into the top three by the end of the season.
The Madison Radicals have announced a cadre of returners including Kevin Pettit-Scantling, Victor Luo, and Sterling Knoche. But maybe the most intriguing returner is one that didn't play in 2021 as Thomas Coolidge is set to return after a year off. One of the team's most versatile defenders historically, Coolidge excelled during the team's 2018 championship run as a handler cover. Despite missing the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, the Radicals have led the league in breaks per game, and now return a top tier veteran defender.
As much excitement as there is with three new expansion teams and a slew of offseason all-star signings around the league, it’s hard not to like the Carolina Flyers as repeat champions in 2022. They are coming off of one of the best offensive seasons ever—second highest offensive efficiency rating ever, trailing only the 2021 Chicago Union by a tenth of a percentage point—and led the league in scores per game. Sol Yanuck led the league in completions and throwing yards, Anders Juengst was second in goals and won Rookie Of The year, Allan Laviolette made Second Team All-AUDL and arguably , Henry Fisher and Jacob Fairfax are likely the best big tandem in the league, Matt Gouchoe-Hanas was the most reliable thrower with the disc in the AUDL as a rookie—he had seven throwaways on over 600 throws—oh and Terrence Mitchell is a walking highlight and his sole turnover in the 2021 playoffs was due to a teammate’s drop. Notice how deep I am into this paragraph and I haven’t even mentioned do-everything Eric Taylor, or the intriguing development Matthew Mcknight, or the potential for Alex Davis to shift over to offense as a receiver and wreak havoc on the South. And don’t even get me started if they unearth another rookie crop half as good as the last two. Carolina goes deep on both lines, and it feels like with how they finished off last season by vanquishing the top teams in the league, they could start this season in rhythm.