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Every Team’s Biggest Need in the College Draft

by the PLL staff

Boston Cannons: Faceoff athlete

It was a successful offseason for the Boston Cannons. They re-signed all their free agents, traded for Garrett EppleConnor Kirst, and Bryce Young, and signed free agent faceoff specialist Zac Tucci

Now the rich will look to get richer as Boston looks to grow on their breakout 2023 season. The Cannons were the top-scoring offense last season, and you can never have too much offensive star-power – especially in this draft class. 

With the sixth overall pick, I expect the Cannons to focus in on expanding their arsenal in the midfield. Adding someone like Rutgers’ Shane Knobloch, a pro-ready dodger who can muscle his way through a defense and create scoring chances both for himself and his teammates would make this group that much more complete.

Also expect head coach and general manager Brian Holman to take another faceoff specialist to compete with Tucci. Holman said while he and his coaching staff don’t have an established plan yet for the faceoff, they’re envisioning a more athletic and speedy guy at the stripe for them to address the 32-second shot clock off the faceoff.

I’d keep my eye on either Jake Naso (Duke) or Luke Wierman (Maryland) to be the guy for the Cannons. 

Potential Fits: Shane Knobloch (Rutgers), Jake Naso (Duke), Luke Wierman (Maryland)

— Sarah Griffin

California Redwoods: Depth

After losing Garrett Epple to the Cannons, and John Sexton, and Eddy Glazener to retirement, finding an LSM and a close defender had to be at the top of the list of needs heading into the 2024 draft. 

But then, Nat St. Laurent used his second-round draft pick to trade for an established top-tier LSM in Jared Conners. Now, either Ryan Kennedy or last year’s first-round pick Owen Grant will bump down and pair with Arden Cohen and Chris Fake or Holden Garlent.

With that need addressed, the ‘Woods can focus on adding a second goalie (to replace Tim Troutner) and adding depth to their midfield (to replace Jules Heningburg and Sergio Perkovic).  

With the top-end talent in this year’s draft getting so much attention, it can be easy to forget that this will also be one of the deepest drafts.

As such, depending on how things shake out in the first two rounds, the Redwoods could be in a position to snag a generational goalie prospect like Liam Entenmann. If not, John Hopkins’ Chayse Ierlan (TD’s younger brother) or Syracuse’s Will Mark would be a welcomed constellation. 

The range of players who could bolster the Redwoods midfield unit includes all-time goal scorers who can add some more range and finishers to the ‘Woods offense or big, athletic SSDMs that can sure up the point on a new-look defense, 

Potential Fits: Chayse Ierlan (John Hopkins) Will Mark (Syracuse) | Grant Haus (Penn State) Garrett Degnon (John Hopkins)

— Jerome Taylor

Carolina Chaos: Bolstering the midfield group

Three-time All-Pro midfielder Dhane Smith and Chaos veteran midfielder Ryan Smith entered the holdout list during the offseason, leaving holes needing a replenishment via the fountain of the youth – the 2024 PLL College Draft. Dhane Smith is one of the league’s best creators on offense. His ability to draw doubles or force slides off a dodge allowed him to pick defenses apart as a feeder, making Josh Byrne’s and the rest of the attacks’ lives more exciting. 

Ryan Smith provided steady scoring throughout his three seasons with the Chaos. It will be important to replace his workload with a high-IQ midfielder or attackman who is converted to midfield. 

Carolina has pick No. 4 and and pick No. 12 early in the upcoming draft filled with a horde of midfielders. In the fourth slot, either Jake Stevens or Shane Knobloch would be an excellent selection. Stevens has a similar play style to All-Pro midfielder Zach Currier and Shane Knobloch has Kyrie Irving-like shot-creating ability. At 12 neither will be available so players like Graham Bundy Jr. will be an excellent second option.

Potential Fits: Jake Stevens (Syracuse), Shane Knobloch (Rutgers), Graham Bundy Jr. (Georgetown)

— Hayden Lewis

Denver Outlaws: An offensive engine

The Outlaws ranked last in every offensive category last season. Former Rookie of the Year Brendan Nichtern was limited last year due to military commitments and is on the holdout list. Denver needs a fresh spark offensively.

Logan Wisnauskas is a good finisher on the left side, but Denver needs a true offensive force to drive play. Either Brennan O’Neill or Connor Shellenberger would be the alpha the Outlaws’ offense needs to take the next step.

Shellenberger is the natural Nichtern replacement at X. He’s an elite feeder who elevates everyone around him. O’Neill is a more awkward fit on the left wing with Wisnauskas, but he’s a dominant presence who can attack any matchup.

Potential Fits: Brennan O’Neill (Duke), Connor Shellenberger (Virginia)

— Topher Adams

Maryland Whipsnakes: LSM or close defense

There are two schools of thought for the Whipsnakes here.

The first is taking an LSM. Future First Ballot HOF’er Michael Ehrhardt retired at the beginning of April, but lucky for the Whipsnakes, the LSM position is one of the most talented and deepest positions in the draft. The Whipsnakes should take Pat Kavanagh at #3 overall, and while I expect Jake Piseno (UAlbany) and Mason Woodward (Marquette) to be gone by the time the Whipsnakes pick next at #17 overall, there still should be quality options left on the board  like Roy Meyer (Boston University) or Tyler Carpenter (Duke). Taking an LSM would leave a crowded room, which already includes Matt Rees, Colin Squires, Brett Kennedy, and Elijah Gash. In this scenario, I think one of Squires or Kennedy slides down low, leaving the other four to battle it out for a roster spot.

The second school of thought is taking a close defender. The Whipsnakes traded Bryce Young to the Boston Cannons this off-season, leaving Matt Dunn and Tim Muller as the only ‘true’ close defenders. Both Squires and Kennedy played close defense in college, but have been playing LSM at the next level. If the Whipsnakes took a close defender in the 3rd round, the assumption is that player would start as the third close defender.

I lied. There are three schools of thought. The third school of thought is taking both an LSM and a defender in the 3rd round. The Whipsnakes hold #17 and #20 overall in the 3rd round, but no 2nd round pick as a result of the Jackson Morrill trade towards the end of last season. I think the biggest thing for the Whipsnakes is lack of talent, and while taking both an LSM and close defender would lead to battles for roster spots in training camp, it would be for the best as the Whipsnakes bolster their backline.

Potential Fits: Roy Meyer (Boston University), Tyler Carpenter (Duke), Scott Smith (Johns Hopkins)

— Adam Lamberti

New York Atlas: Chris Gray’s replacement

There is a Chris Gray-sized hole on the Atlas roster that needs patching. Luckily, the 2024 PLL College Draft resembles that of the 2003 NBA Draft class. You know, the one that saw LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade selected in the top five.

Point being: There are plenty of options to choose from with New York’s pick at No. 2. Talking with the Atlas head coach and general manager Mike Pressler, he’s looking for the best available player with his top picks (Nos. 2, 5 and 10), the first of which is sure to fill the void on attack.

That’s where Brennan O’Neill, Connor Shellenberger and Pat Kavanagh come in. With Jeff Teat as a facilitator and Gray gone, New York needs another off-ball mover and goal scorer to slot in alongside Eric Law. O’Neill, Shellenberger and Kavanagh can all score, obviously, but Teat and the 6-2, 250-pound O’Neill could wreak havoc together on the left side.

If the Outlaws draft their needed X-man in Shellenberger, O’Neill is New York’s for the taking.

Potential Fits: Brennan O’Neill (Duke), Matt Brandau (Yale), Connor Shellenberger (Virginia), Pat Kavanagh (Notre Dame)

— Lauren Merola

Philadelphia Waterdogs: Faceoff athlete(s)

The Philadelphia Waterdogs currently roster zero faceoff athletes. With long poles now banned at the stripe, Eli Gobrecht can no longer man that role, and new head coach Bill Tierney doesn’t want to lean too heavily on Zach Currier to pick up the slack. The ‘Dogs need at least one faceoff specialist, and this draft holds a few intriguing candidates in the middle rounds. With only two faceoff free agents left on the market, the draft is the most likely avenue for the Waterdogs to address their biggest need. 

Luke Wierman, the hulking faceoff man from Maryland who helped the Terps to two national championship appearances, is the top faceoff prospect, and for good reason. Wierman and Duke’s Jake Naso would likely both be under consideration in the middle rounds; yet, the Denver connection with Alec Stathakis can’t be overlooked. Tierney will surely conference with his new assistant coaches and wing players, including Currier, to get their take on the selection.

Potential Fits: Luke Wierman (Maryland), Jake Naso (Duke), Alec Stathakis (Denver)

— Wyatt Miller

Utah Archers: A lockdown cover defender of the future

Who takes Matt McMahon‘s starting spot at close is the biggest unknown for Utah. In a defense with a slew of elite defenders, McMahon was the maestro commanding where each instrument fit into the ensemble. His retirement leaves a gaping hole down low. It’s one that the club should take multiple shots at filling. 

The Archers won’t expect a new starter to fill McMahon’s shoes as the voice of the defense. They’ll look for that from club stalwarts like Graeme Hossack and Latrell Harris or their cast of blooming young stars including Brett Dobson and Warren Jeffrey. Instead, Utah needs to find the best possible option to start at close in 2024 and into the future. Hossack is 31, in his ninth professional season, and the last year of his contract. So there’s no guarantee the club doesn’t have another close spot to fill next offseason. 

2023 rookies Cam Wyers and Patrick Shoemay will compete for McMahon’s job. Both have upside, and Shoemay is a dark horse to be a major contributor. Yet an offensively-stacked draft class means Utah could have its pick of poles at eighth overall. If the board falls another way, Utah should still prioritize an option to compete at close. With just six roster locks at pole, there’s room to add depth.

Potential Fits: Ajax Zappitello (Maryland), Kenny Brower (Duke), Scott Smith (Johns Hopkins)

— Zach Carey


PLL Mock Draft: Beat Writers Predict Top 16 Selections

By PLL | May 7, 2024

The 2024 College Draft presented by Q-Collar is tonight at 7PM ET on ESPNU and ESPN+, and it’s possibly the most loaded college class in the league’s history. 

A three-man race for the No. 1 pick has been underway for months, and there’s still differing opinions on the top selection. Two of the nation’s top goalies are also up for grabs, and immense depth on both sides of the ball will be available deep into the draft.

After accepting his new role with the Waterdogs, head coach and general manager Bill Tierney talked to a number of PLL coaches, trying to get a sense of how things work. In those conversations, he said one thing became abundantly clear: The draft is always unpredictable, especially one this packed with talent. 

In our beat writers’ mock draft, two trades were made. The Utah Archers sent picks Nos. 16 and 32 to the Boston Cannons in exchange for No. 14. Utah also traded the 13th and 24th selections to the New York Atlas for the 10th pick.

With that in mind, here’s how our beat writers picked the first two rounds of the draft:

1st Round

1. Denver Outlaws: A Brennan O’Neill, Duke

We won’t know which way the Outlaws are going at first overall until the pick is made Tuesday night. Both Brennan O’Neill and Connor Shellenberger are elite, franchise-altering talents who will immediately make Denver better.

Shellenberger is the most natural fit and would instantly elevate the entire offense. But O’Neill’s talent is too tantalizing to pass up. Players with his blend of skill and athleticism are so rare. He proved at last summer’s World Lacrosse championships that he can not only compete at this level, but dominate.

The fit could be tricky on the left side with Logan Wisnauskas, but O’Neill is so good it’s worth taking the risk to make it work. 

— Topher Adams

2. New York Atlas: A Connor Shellenberger, Virginia

This pick is dedicated to Shellenberger and O’Neill, whoever doesn’t go No. 1 goes here. No matter the team, need becomes of little importance when talent like this lives on the board.

— Lauren Merola

3. Maryland Whipsnakes: A Pat Kavanagh, Notre Dame

The Whipsnakes played Jackson Morrill at X attack after trading for him at the deadline last season, but now scoop up a blue-chip X attack prospect in Kavanagh.

Kavanagh would be a terrific fit for the Whipsnakes, where he could operate at X flanked by former league MVPs in Zed Williams and Matt Rambo.

— Adam Lamberti

4. Carolina Chaos: M Jake Stevens, Syracuse

Jake Stevens can be Zach Currier-level different in professional lacrosse. That’s three-time All-Pro-level different. 

Stevens works as a roomba on the ground as part of Syracuse’s rope unit and then motors into a track hawk taking runs at both offensive and defensive midfield. Stevens’ Canadian-style background developed him into an elite finisher. At Princeton Stevens had back-to-back seasons with over 20 goals.

This year at Syracuse, Stevens has factored in on man-up goals, amassed 38 ground balls and scored 28 points – 13 goals and 15 assists. Stevens can become the next great two-way midfielder in the PLL.

— Hayden Lewis

5. New York Atlas: A Matt Brandau, Yale

Chris Gray’s replacement. Check. Plus a star feeder who can get the ball to Jeff Teat for some more shots. Last season Teat, who bears the dishing burden, had a PLL career-low 11 goals.

— Lauren Merola

6. Boston Cannons: M Shane Knobloch, Rutgers

The Cannons offense was buzzing in 2023, and adding the “most explosive dodger in the draft class” as Adam Lamberti described him will only make the Boom Squad that much more explosive. 

Boston’s midfield isn’t lacking by any means, but Knobloch’s skillset as a dodger who can muscle his way through a defense and rip off a shot with power would certainly elevate their group. 

Not to mention, there’s no harm in adding another Rutgers product to this team.

— Sarah Griffin

7. Philadelphia Waterdogs: D Kenny Brower, Duke

Kenny Brower would be the ultimate unretirement gift for Bill Tierney. He’s 6-foot-2, 215 lbs, but somehow plays like an orange house cat: quick and obnoxious, putting constant pressure on his man with checks and overwhelming physicality. Brower also touts an elite IQ and sound fundamentals to shut down every team’s top attackman. 

The Waterdogs’ biggest need is at the faceoff stripe, but that can wait until later. With his pick of the litter on defense, Tierney should get himself a big, positional stopper like the ones that defined his early success at Princeton. Brower has the talent and discipline to be just that.

— Wyatt Miller

8. Utah Archers: LSM/D Jake Piseno, Albany

The Archers sending Jared Conners to the Redwoods made this pick straightforward. Without that, Ajax Zappitello falling to eight would’ve been a boon for Utah. But the club’s need at LSM is more significant and Piseno is undoubtedly an elite, versatile talent. He’ll be a major weapon on faceoff wings, in transition, and as a caused turnover machine. 

— Zach Carey

2nd Round

9. Denver Outlaws: D Ajax Zappitello, Maryland

Brandau would be the ideal fit at No. 9, but if he’s unavailable, Denver could do a lot worse than Zappitello. He’s a dominant defensive presence and one of the best poles in this draft. 

The Outlaws are strong defensively, but Mike Manley and Jesse Bernhardt – Zappitello’s college defensive coordinator – are both north of 30. Adding Zappitello to this defensive core is a seamless fit for the short- and long-term plan.

— Topher Adams

10. Utah Archers (via New York): A TJ Malone, Penn State 

Malone feels like a perfect fit for the Archers. The lefty can play at attack or come out of the box. He can dodge from anywhere on the field, be an invert option, play in the two-man game, work off ball, and do anything Chris Bates asks of him. He’s played multiple seasons with Grant Ament and Mac O’Keefe. Malone adds depth to the offense now and could be a building block for the future. 

I’m sure many will question Utah’s management of this mock draft, and for good reason. To land the No. 10 and No. 14 picks, picks 13, 16, 24, and 32 were sent elsewhere. I’ll be the first to say that shipping off 24 and 32 to jump from 13 to 10 and 16 to 14 was too much. Other preferable moves fell through. But there was still some logic to these decisions, flawed or not. 

Utah has a stacked roster. Drafting a player at 24 or 32 only for them to be a non-30% player and get poached would be a waste. So those picks felt more expendable. I was also curious to experiment with how the draft would play out with a GM who was assertive. With enough picks and the willigness to use them, it’s possible to chase down the top guys a team wants. That comes at a price, and waiting to see who would fall could’ve been the smarter play. But Malone and who Utah picked up at 14 were both top-10 on my board. 

— Zach Carey

11. Denver Outlaws: M Graham Bundy Jr., Georgetown

Denver’s offensive overhaul doesn’t stop with O’Neill. With Brandau off the board early, the attention shifts from attack to midfield. Bundy is a goal-scoring midfielder with the shooting range the Outlaws currently lack.

Sam Handley and Justin Anderson are good players, but neither is a consistent threat from the outside. Bundy provides that field stretching ability and tertiary playmaking.

— Topher Adams

12. Carolina Chaos: M Eric Dobson, Notre Dame

Eric Dobson has the best frame of any draft pick in the 2024 PLL College Draft. Standing at 6-foot-5 235 pounds, Dobson is a matchup nightmare running out of the box, which has helped him become an All-American at Notre Dame. 

Last year Dobson likely would’ve been taken in the first round of the draft, but he was only a junior and hasn’t been the same dominant player during his senior year. Part of the issue is defenses scheming against Dobson’s game because they know how effective he is dodging by defenders with pace and power. 

On the Chaos, Dobson won’t be a primary ball-handler. With excellent players throughout the lineup, Dobson could end up matched with shortsticks early in the year, freeing up his game and giving him the confidence he needs to find success early in the year. Selecting Dobson adds more depth to the Chaos midfield room, one of the main areas that needs bolstering on the current roster. 

— Hayden Lewis

13. New York Atlas (via Utah): G Liam Entenmann, Notre Dame

Still get Liam Entemann AND another pick (No. 24)? An easy trade to make down from pick No. 10.

With Jack Concannon’s retirement, the goalies on the Atlas’ roster are last year’s backup Drake Porter and recently acquired Tim Troutner, who lost his starting gig two seasons ago on the Redwoods and instead backed up Jack Kelly.

Atlas coach Mike Pressler said he traded for Troutner to be the Atlas’ starting goalie, but oh boy should that change if Entenmann dawns the baby blue in Week 1. With the stellar pick up, it sure feels like Troutner and Porter would be in competition for that No. 2 spot.

Thanks to theoretical acting GM of the Archers Zach Carey for the assist on this one.

— Lauren Merola

14. Utah Archers (via Boston): SSDM Beau Pederson, Penn

At eighth overall, there were five players left on the board that would’ve been major additions for the Archers. The motivation for trading up to 14 was to try to get three of them. In nabbing Pederson, I accomplished that mission. Latrell Harris’ status is up in the air. He won’t be back for training camp or the early season. So Pederson is an immediate plug and play guy at short stick and is another high level individual defender who could compete for a spot on the 19-man roster. 

The Archers’ switch-heavy defensive scheme means SSDMs who can win a matchup are even more valuable. Connor Maher played a huge role in Utah’s championship run. But there were times when he struggled with surviving in matchups after switching. Best case, a Harris-Piper Bond-Pederson rope unit could be the best in the league. Worst case, Pederson fills a short-term hole and provides legitimate depth at a position where the Archers are light. 

— Zach Carey

15. Philadelphia Waterdogs: FO Luke Wierman, Maryland

On paper, the Waterdogs are only missing one piece to their gameday roster: a faceoff athlete. With the consensus top of the draft class all gone, taking the best player at the position of need seems like an easy choice here. And if faceoff guys are becoming the running backs of the PLL, the end of the second round seems like a steal for the first one off the board. 

No moment is too big for Luke Wierman. He can take over games and take matters into his own hands offensively. But more importantly, he can trust his wings and follow the game plan. Even in Maryland’s brutal 19-9 loss to Penn State in the BIG 10 Tournament, Wierman went 19-28 (68%) with a goal and an assist. His intensity and hustle would be a great fit for the ‘Dogs.

— Wyatt Miller

16. Boston Cannons (via Utah): FO Jake Naso, Duke 

Currently, the Cannons are only carrying one faceoff athlete in Zac Tucci. Head coach and general manager Brian Holman told me while Boston does not have a set plan yet at the stripe, they would without a doubt be adding another faceoff guy to compete with Tucci in training camp. 

If Wierman goes to Philadelphia, I’d expect the Cannons to take Jake Naso out of Duke. Naso averaged 58% at the stripe for the Blue Devils during the regular season this year, and a collegiate career average of 60%. 

Naso’s speedy – similar to Tucci – an attribute Holman praised aligned with his vision at the stripe. Holman said more than anything, he wants flexibility at that position. While Tucci has that physicality to his game, Naso is very skilled with his stick. The two together would provide the perfect yin-yang situation for Holman.

— Sarah Griffin