Dillon Ward has been considered one of the world’s best goalies for quite some time; with his dominance in both indoor and the field, he’s one of the few who can excel at both positions. But over the last 13 months, he has had quite a run. With his third championship appearance in that time frame, it’s time to ask the question, is Dillon Ward not just the best goalie but possibly the best lacrosse player in the world right now?
Since coming into the professional game, Ward has always been one of the top goalies in the NLL. He’s a multiple-time all-star, winning Rookie of the Year in 2014 and Goalie of the Year in 2017. While he had instant success in the NLL, his outdoor career started off a little slow. He played sparingly his first few seasons of the MLL but really broke out in 2019 with Denver.
Ward had gained some momentum in that year, but it all came to a halt in 2020. Not only was the NLL season canceled after allowing only nine goals per game with an 81% save percentage, but he was a backup for Blaze Riorden during the 2020 PLL bubble season.
Things changed when the Chaos traded Ward to the Waterdogs. He made an instant impact, helping the Waterdogs clinch the No.1 seed in only their second season. Ward proved to everyone again that he was still one of the best goalies in the world.
But 2022 is where the legend of Dillon Ward wrote its next chapter. He led the undermanned and underdog Colorado Mammoth to the NLL Cup, where they upset the Buffalo Bandits, putting on a historic performance and taking home MVP honors. Then came the PLL season. It started slow, with Ward breaking his thumb during his first start of the season. Even with the disadvantage, Ward played every game the rest of the season; in the postseason, he took his game to another level, saving 59% of the shots he faced and only allowing 11 goals per game, helping lead the Waterdogs to a PLL Championship over the Chaos.
After two championships in less than 100 days and playing extensive minutes in both the NLL and PLL, Ward started the 2022-23 NLL season slow. But when the games mattered, Ward was at his best, and once again, he has led his underdog Mammoth to another date with the Bandits for the NLL Cup.
When people consider the best players in the world, you hear familiar names like Lyle Thompson, Tom Schreiber, Trevor Baptiste, and Blaze Riorden. However, Dillon Ward is the forgotten name in that group. If we look at the resumes and his current hot streak, Dillon Ward needs to be added to the conversation. Not only is Ward dominating in two disciplines of lacrosse, but he’s doing something most of the other top names aren’t doing, winning championships. Depending on how the next two months go, Ward might be adding another NLL Cup and, quite possibly, a World Championship with Team Canada. No player has ever had as dominate of year as Ward.
Regardless of what happens in the 2023 NLL Cup, Ward has proven himself once again he’s the best goalie in the world right now. While that’s a huge honor, Ward’s game needs to be recognized more and should be easily considered as a top three player, if not the top player in the world right now.