ISL 2020: Midseason MVP & Rookie of the Year Watchlists

We’ve hit the midway point of the International Swimming League season, and it’s time to look at who is leading the competition for both league MVP and Rookie of the Year.

MVP Watch

Bye weeks make the overall scoring ranks a little misleading – only four of the league’s ten teams have swum in three meets. The top four individual scorers come from those teams, but they’ll also take an overall scoring hit when their team has its bye week in the next two weeks.

With that in mind, we’re looking more at per-meet average scoring. Every swimmer will have four opportunities to compete in the regular season, so the scoring should even out to closer to the per-meet average as the year goes on. We’ve got the top overall and per-meet scorers compiled at the bottom of this page.

The Favorite: Lilly King, Cali Condors

King is the current league leader in per-meet average scoring, putting up 64.5 points a meet so far this year. She has the league’s single highest-scoring match: an 87.5-point haul in match #1.

King has a pretty safe scoring floor in the breaststrokes every week. She’s got the best time in the ISL this year (and in ISL history) in all three breaststrokes. She leads the 200 by more than a full second, and leads the 100 by about half a second.

Her remaining schedule could be worse. The closest swimmer to her in the 50 and 100 is Energy Standard’s Benedetta Pilato, but Cali doesn’t swim Energy Standard again this regular season. They do swim London in each of the next two weeks, and Alia Atkinson is really the only other true threat to King in the sprints. But Cali also has zero matches left against Toronto and the league’s #2 200 breaststroker Kelsey Wog.

King would honestly be leading the league by even more if Cali had picked the breaststroke skins in week 2. And in any meaningful meet, Cali probably has to go back to King and the breaststroke for the jackpot potential. That’s going to boost her scoring and keep her as the frontrunner for league MVP this year.

In the hunt

Caeleb Dressel, Cali Condors

Dressel is less than a point behind King in per-meet scoring. He also has a higher ceiling with typically double the weekly event entries of King. (Dressel swam 8 events in week 1 and 9 in week 2, compared to just 5 and 4, respectively, for King). Dressel hasn’t been at his best yet, but if there’s one swimmer who could go off for a 90+ point week, it’s Dressel. The only downside to his MVP hopes? His relays are really letting him down compared to the other contenders. Cali’s season-best men’s medley relay ranks dead last among the ten teams in the league.

Beryl Gastaldello, LA Current

Gastaldello is the current series points leader, though she’s had one more meet than both King and Dressel. She’s got a Dressel-like event range that should provide a lot of scoring opportunities, but also has a bye week followed by a very tough regular-season finale against Cali and London.

Siobhan Haughey, Energy Standard

Haughey is currently #8 in total scoring but #6 on a per-meet basis. She had one of the highest-scoring single-meet performances of the season with her 61.5 from last week, and that was without the benefit of the skins. In fact, Haughey is by far the highest scorer who hasn’t gotten a skin race opportunity. That means her scoring could actually be undersold right now – if she gets an opportunity at a skins race, Haughey could see her scoring explode. On the other hand, it’s hard to see a path to a freestyle skin race. Energy has two more meets left against Toronto, and the Titans are (1) very good in the medley relay and (2) not likely to pick freestyle. If Energy can steal a medley, though (their season-best is three tenths behind Toronto), they could conceivably pick freestyle if their roster is healthy.

Ryan Murphy, LA Current

Murphy is currently the league’s #2 scorer and #5 in per-meet average. His raw stats are definitely boosted by a league-leading two skins opportunities – in fact, in his one meet without a skins race, Murphy’s scoring was pretty much cut in half. (He scored 74.5 in week 1, 60.5 in week 2 and then 33 in week 3 without the benefit of the skins). There’s a good chance he keeps getting shots at skin points, though: LA has the league’s #2-ranked men’s medley relay and could continue to lean on Murphy with their skin stroke choices. But the backstrokes are also very deep across the league, and Murphy will have to contend with London’s Guido/Diener duo in week 5, plus very likely those two and Energy Standard’s Rylov/Kolesnikov/Grevers/Manaudou crew in the postseason. That makes his road to big jackpot scoring a lot tougher.


Rookie of the Year Watch

There’s no indication that “rookie of the year” will be an actual ISL award. But we’re still interested in the most impactful newcomers to the league this year.

Our rules: a rookie cannot have competed in the ISL last year even once. Outside of that, any ISL newcomer is eligible regardless of age or actual world swimming experience. You can see a full list of swimmers to score points in the 2019 ISL season here.

The Favorite: Emre Sakci, Iron

A newcomer to the Iron roster, Sakci has been a breakout sensation in two ISL meets. In his ISL debut, Sakci knocked off the world’s most dominant sprint breaststroker, Adam Peaty head-to-head. The next week, he swept the 50 and 100 breaststrokes before sweeping all three rounds of the breaststroke skins to the tune of 38 individual points.

Sakci is the league record-holder in the 50 breast at 25.50. Not only that, but he’s contributed valuable relay splits for Iron, going 46.5 and 46.9 on freestyle legs for Iron’s top relay.

In the hunt

Danas Rapsys, Energy Standard

While league MVP is really more about raw scoring numbers, there’s a little more subjectivity to rookie of the year. Rapsys is a little pigeon-holed in terms of events, and that artificially lowers his scoring ceiling. But he’s had an incredible start to his ISL career, breaking ISL records in both the 200 and 400 frees within his first two matches. Rapsys remains unbeaten in his ISL career in the 200 free and is powering one of the league’s best teams into the postseason.

Maria Kameneva, London Roar

Along with Sakci, Kameneva is one of just two rookies to win a skin race. The London Roar newcomer won the 50 back skins in her very first ISL meet. That’s a big boost to her individual scoring, where she’s second to Sakci in per-meet scoring average among rookies.

Suzuka Hasegawa, Tokyo Frog Kings

Hasegawa is very much a specialist, and like Rapsys, her overall scoring ceiling is a little limited. But it’s hard to overlook Hasegawa’s two 200 fly wins in her first two ISL matches with the two fastest times in ISL history. There’s one easy way Hasegawa could instantly boost her rookie of the year stock: handing unbeaten Hali Flickinger her first-ever ISL 200 fly loss in next week’s matchup.


Team MVP races

Here’s a look at the leading MVP candidates for each team in scoring so far:

Cali Condors

See our overall league MVP discussion above – Dressel has the high scoring ceiling with a wide event range, but if King keeps getting skin race opportunities, she’ll be tough to beat.

Energy Standard

  • Current leader: Siobhan Haughey (49.75 points per match)
  • Other contenders:
    • Florent Manaudou (43.75 points per match)
    • Sarah Sjostrom (66.5 in her first match, but missed last week with injury)

Haughey is the odds-on favorite. Sjostrom scored huge in her first match and is the defending league MVP. But sitting out week 3 with a back injury sets her about 34 points back of Haughey in total scoring with two matches to go. Manaudou could make a skins-fueled run after a big week 3.

London Roar

  • Current leader: Kira Toussaint (41.75 points per match)
  • Other contenders:
    • Marie Wattel (38.75 points per match)
    • Alia Atkinson (36.25 points per match)
    • Maria Kameneva (36 points per match)

This one is very much up in the air and probably depends heavily on which stroke the skins end up in over the next two weeks. Backstrokers Guilherme Guido and Christian Diener aren’t far behind either, and could make a run on this group with the right breaks, too.

LA Current

This one should be pretty intriguing. LA is on bye this week. Their regular season finale will feature stiff London competition for Murphy in the backstrokes and Dressel threatening Shields’ points in the butterfly. But Gastaldello has to deal with the elite Cali women’s roster.

Tokyo Frog Kings

  • Current leader: Yui Ohashi (31.75 points per match)
  • Other contenders:
    • Takeshi Kawamoto (31 points per match)
    • Suzuka Hasegawa (28.25 points per match)
    • Vladimir Morozov (25 points per match)

Morozov’s scoring has been relatively muted so far, but he could easily blow up and make a run if the skins bounce in his favor. Kosuke Hagino is another possibility, but his lack of relay and skins scoring caps his output a little.

Toronto Titans

  • Current leader: Kylie Masse (44 points per match)
  • Other contenders:
    • Kelsey Wog (33.75 points per match)
    • Lisa Bratton (30.25 points per match)

Masse is the clear frontrunner, and should get more skins points funneled her way if Toronto can beat Energy Standard in the women’s medley relay the next two weeks. Shane Ryan could also get into the mix, though Energy’s men’s backstrokers will hurt his scoring chances.


Kromowidjojo and Sakci are running away with the MVP battle on Iron’s roster. If the skins move to freestyle, Kromowidjojo is a proven scorer there. But her versatility means she’s probably the skins entrant in any stroke but breaststroke.

NY Breakers

  • Current leader: Marco Koch (32.83 points per match)
  • Other contenders:
    • Abbie Wood (28.83 points per match)
    • Michael Andrew (28.17 points per match)

Koch has crushed the jackpot points in the 200 breast and should continue to do so. Andrew’s best hope is a big skins win next week. Wood has quietly been extremely good, but her IM fields get tough next week with Cali (Margalis) and Tokyo (Ohashi) in the mix.

DC Trident

  • Current leader: Zach Apple (31 points per match)
  • Other contenders:
    • Amy Bilquist (22.92 points per match)
    • Linnea Mack (21.5 points per match)

Apple should probably run away with this one, though Bilquist has been swimming very well in the 200 back. DC will in all likelihood wrap up its season this week with a week 5 bye and no postseason berth expected.

Aqua Centurions

  • Current leader: Szebaztian Szabo (47.83 points per match)
  • Other contenders:
    • Alessandro Miressi (25 points per match)
    • Philip Heintz (20.83 points per match)

Szabo has been a real standout, and there’s really no one catching him on Aqua’s roster. In a league where team strength has generally been a defining factor for the top scorers and money-earners, Szabo is a major outlier: he’s the only swimmer in the top 8 in per-meet scoring that is not from one of the powerhouse Cali, Energy or LA rosters.

Top Scorers Through Week 3


  1. Beryl Gastaldello (LAC) – 171
  2. Ryan Murphy (LAC) – 168
  3. Szebaztian Szabo (AQC) – 143.5
  4. Tom Shields (LAC) – 139
  5. Lilly King (CAC) – 129


  1. Lilly King (CAC) – 64.5
  2. Caeleb Dressel (CAC) – 63.75
  3. Olivia Smoliga (CAC) – 58
  4. Beryl Gastaldello (LAC) – 57
  5. Ryan Murphy (LAC) – 56
  6. Siobhan Haughey (ENS) – 49.75
  7. Szebaztian Szabo (AQC) – 47.83
  8. Tom Shields (LAC) – 46.33
  9. Ranomi Kromowidjojo (IRO) – 46.25
  10. Emre Sakci (IRO) – 45.25

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Coach Mike 1952
2 years ago

Great article, thanks!

PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
2 years ago

I feel like Nic Fink’s form will determine the league MVP race. If Cali can win a men’s medley in these last two matches, they can pick free, in which Caeleb has significant jackpot potential through the skins. If they don’t, Lily is a big favorite unless another team somehow doesn’t pick backstroke.

Reply to  PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
2 years ago

You know cac beating London men relay is pretty much impossible right

Reply to  PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
2 years ago

Assuming his split from Vegas last year just adding in Fink with the same other splits from this year wouldn’t be enough to beat any of ENS, LAC or LON.

PK Doesn't Like His Long Name
Reply to  Troyy
2 years ago

I don’t know why the splits wouldn’t be changing. Adding in Fink at 56.high and switching Dressel to fly (where he could easily be 1.8-2.2 seconds faster than their split this past week) is a full 3 second difference.

2 years ago

25.7 on the last 50 breaststroke skins race, 46.5 100 free split is unfair.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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