The regular season has wrapped up, and it’s time to look at the frontrunners for league MVP and Rookie of the Year with three postseason matches remaining.
The ISL determines MVP based on individual points tallied throughout the season, so this one is more of a mathematical projection of who could move up or down the ranks in the postseason:
THE FAVORITE: Caeleb Dressel, Cali Condors
Dressel leads all swimmers in scoring by 16.5 points – though across four matches, that adds up to just about four points per match. The kicker for Dressel, though: he hasn’t gotten to swim a single skins race in either of his primary strokes, free or fly. The league has made it a shared goal to avoid Dressel in those races, and he’s still managed to make the final once and the second round once in breaststroke, his third-best stroke.
We don’t see the league’s strategy changing this postseason. But Dressel is also proving that he doesn’t need the skins to put up MVP-level scoring.
IN THE HUNT
Lilly King, CAC: King has a league-high 3 skins wins. She also has an unbeaten medley relay continually funneling the skins her way. We noted at midseason that King’s only disadvantage against Dressel is that her event lineup is mostly limited to just breaststroke and the medley relay, and Dressel has basically used his extra volume of swims to pass up King in points.
Ryan Murphy, LAC: Murphy has basically the same setup as King – a league-leading 3 skins wins, plus a medley relay that hasn’t lost in 2020 funneling skin races his way. Murphy has one advantage over King: if he really wanted to, he could beef up his event lineup some more to try to keep pace with Dressel. Murphy could be a tough free relay leg and perhaps even an IMer, though of course taking on a tougher schedule just means extra fatigue for those all-important skin races.
Beryl Gastaldello, LAC: Gastaldello is much more in the Dressel mold. She’s currently #2 in the league in points scored with just one skins appearance – that was a week 2 win in which she actually wound up outscored by her teammate Weitzeil. She also avoids almost all of the swimmers ranked ahead of her in fly and free in the second semifinal, so the scoring avenue is wide open for one week at least.
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
It really can’t be anyone else at this point. Sakci has been an incredible pickup for Iron. He’s set ISL records in the 50 breast and 100 breast, and came within hundredths of the world record in the 50 breast. He’s also 2-for-2 in 50 breast skins wins. He’s contributed massive free relay splits, which is rare for a breaststroker. And when Energy picked away from him with the fly skins in match #9… he swam it anyway and made the second round.
IN THE HUNT
Yui Ohashi, TOK: Ohashi is currently third in the league among rookies in MVP scoring, and that’s without the benefit of the skins. She wrapped up an undefeated rookie season in the 400 IM, and probably needs an ISL record or two to pass up Sakci for the title.
Maria Kameneva, LON: Kameneva might have had a stronger resume earlier in the year. She won a skins race in week 1 and led all rookies with 47.5 points. But without the skins going in her direction, she’s fallen off to just 24.5, 22, and 15 points over her final three matches.
Beata Nelson, CAC: Nelson is second in rookie scoring, trailing Sakci by about 63.5 points. She does have a chance to technically outscore him, as her Condors are favored to advance to the final, giving her one more swim than Sakci if Iron is eliminated next week. Nelson has improved as the year has gone on, and holds top-5 ranks in three different events for the year. She’s also been in a skins final.