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2020 MLL College Draft preview

The MLL announced that their draft will take place on May 4 and that it will be conducted via the league’s social media channels. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, college sports and pro sports have been thrown into uncertainty. College seniors in spring sports have been given an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA, however schools and conferences get to ultimately decide if/how they will allow a fifth-year senior to participate.

For the lacrosse world, this turned the transfer portal into something resembling a train station at rush hour. Players not returning are looking for a new home, or deciding to go forgo the fifth year of college lacrosse, graduate, and in some cases join the professional ranks. To deal with some of the uncertainty, the MLL has said that any player who was a senior in 2020 is eligible to be drafted, and should a player decide they want to take the extra year in college, that player’s rights will be retained by the drafting team for one year. 

Compounding this, the MLL saw 16 players depart for the PLL via the PLL Entry Draft, along with goalie Tate Boyce, who signed with the league after the draft took place. MLL teams need to address those openings. As I took a look at who teams might want to target to replenish their ranks and improve their roster, I did not consider that a college player might choose to play in the PLL. The MLL does have a registration portal, allowing college players who register to signal their interest in playing in the MLL and not returning to college. Yet, they’ll make that decision when the time comes, with the exception of Grant Ament who has already said he’ll play in the PLL. I simply went with the best available player for the roster based on who was available at the time of writing. 

A reminder that last year’s first round of the 2019 PLL College Draft went:

  1. Pat Spencer – college basketball
  2. Ryan Conrad – Unprotected in PLL Expansion Draft and now on Waterdogs LC
  3. Zach Goodrich – MLL
  4. Alex Woodall – MLL Rookie of the Year
  5. Clarke Petterson – Unprotected in PLL Expansion Draft
  6. Johnny Surdick – Exempt from PLL Expansion Draft

The first round of the MLL draft went:

  1. Alex Woodall – MLL Rookie of the Year
  2. Tim Troutner – PLL Rookie of the Year
  3. Zach Goodrich – MLL
  4. Austin Henningsen- Unprotected in PLL Expansion Draft
  5. Ryan Conrad – Unprotected in PLL Expansion Draft and now on Waterdogs LC
  6. Max Tuttle – Unprotected in PLL Expansion Draft
  7. Pat Spencer – college basketball
  8. Chris Sabia – Unprotected in PLL Expansion and now on Waterdogs LC
  9. Dan Bucaro – MLL (did not appear on the active roster)

It is not a foregone conclusion that players choose a particular league, regardless of where they get drafted and by who. That said, onto the prognostication.

New York Lizards

Key Departures: Rob Pannell – A, Greg Puskuldjian – F/O, Kevin Crowley – A/M (reportedly)

Key Arrivals: Connor O’Hara – A

The New York Lizards are picking first, and can replace one generational talent at X with another. Michael Sowers is the only choice to make here.

Sowers is in the NCAA transfer portal to explore options for another year, and since he has yet to appear in the NCAA tournament despite being an all time great, I’d bet he takes the extra year with a strong title contender and tries to add a ring to his extremely impressive college resume. So the Lizards would have to wait a year for him. That still doesn’t justify passing on the most electric attack prospect since Mikey Powell.

Other options, for the sake of argument, would be faceoff specialist TD Ierlan, or either of midfielder Dox Aitken or Bryan Costabile for some midfield help, as Kevin Crowley is reportedly heading to Philadelphia in a trade that was progressing before COVID-19 brought the world to a halt.

Connecticut Hammerheads (former Dallas Rattlers roster)

Key Departures: Craig Chick – D, Bryce Wasserman – A

Key Arrivals: Will Sands – A

The Hammerheads made one of the biggest trades of the offseason, acquiring Will Sands in a deal that sent Bryce Wasserman to Boston. Sands is as pure an X attackman as there is in lacrosse. Head Coach Bill Warder has already suggested he’s hoping to see Bradley Voigt see a bump in production from playing with Sands, comparing his spot with the spot occupied by Mark Cockerton in Boston last season. Sands had 32 assists in 2019, and the highest total from the Hammerheads roster was Ryan McNamara with 14, so this is a welcome addition.

They did lose Craig Chick, a caused turnover machine, to the PLL, and will need to bolster the defense in front of Sean Sconone. I would expect they prefer to take a player who can contribute right away rather than risk waiting a year for JT Giles Harris to finish his football and/or lacrosse career. Notre Dame’s Jack Kielty, Virginia’s Jared Conners, Penn’s Mark Evanchick (a Connecticut native) or Boston University’s Reece Eddy could all be good fits if they decide to come out.

If they decide to go offense, I wouldn’t hate to see the Hammerheads go down the big board a bit and take a righty shooter like Tre Leclaire. Sands with Voigt and Leclaire has the makings of a lethal attack unit. 

Philadelphia Barrage (former Atlanta Blaze roster)

Key Departures: Randy Staats – A, Bryan Cole – M, TJ Comizio – M, Christian Mazzone – M, Colton Jackson – A

Key Arrivals: Tim Barber – M, Kyle Marr – A, PT Ricci – LSM, Kevin Crowley – M (reportedly)

When you look at those departures on offense, you might think the cupboard is completely bare in Philly. But the Barrage still have Tommy Palasek (tied for second in the MLL in scoring last year), Mark Matthews, Shayne Jackson, Brendan Sunday, and reportedly could be adding Kevin Crowley through a trade with the New York Lizards. The Barrage also have 2019 Rookie of the Year Alex Woodall taking draws again and Defensive Player of the Year Liam Byrnes and all-star goalie Chris Madalon coming back to anchor the defense.

An area of need is to replace the likes of TJ Comizio and Christian Mazzone, gone to the PLL. The Barrage should look at Peter Dearth, if available, or another athletic midfielder like Bryan Costabile. The Barrage have acquired quite a bit of draft capital in their deals so far this offseason and will get a chance to draft multiple players in the early rounds to replenish the roster. 

Boston Cannons

Key Departures: Zed Williams – A/M, Will Sands – A, Ryland Rees – LSM, Tate Boyce – G

Key Arrivals: Randy Staats – A, Bryan Cole – M, Bryce Wasserman – A, Matt Gilray – D

The Cannons have been quite busy already and build a formidable offensive group. A deal with Philly landed them Randy Staats and Bryan Cole, and a separate deal with Connecticut brought in Bryce Wasserman. Mark Cockerton still patrols the lefty attack spot. This is an offense that is positively loaded. Normally a team that loses Zed Williams and Will Sands would need to go big on offense in the draft to reload, but the Cannons did it via the trade route, sending a lot of draft capital to Philly in the process. The Cannons have Zach Goodrich back at SSDM and their starting goalie in Nick Marrocco back. Frankly it’s tough to find a major immediate need, so Boston may be comfortable with a player who will be heading back to school in 2021. LSM Jared Conners could be a solid choice here, or they could add an off ball threat from range in Mac O’Keefe.

Denver Outlaws

Key Departures: Zach Currier – A/M, Brendan Kavanagh – A/M, Dillon Ward – G, Finn Sullivan – D, Eli Gobrecht – D, Matt Gilray – D

Key Arrivals: James Burr – A

Denver lost a ton, but I’m sure they’ll reload, because somehow Denver is never bad. Zach Currier and Brendan Kavanagh were both in the top 20 in the league in points and Currier was an MVP finalist. Dillon Ward is arguably the best goalie in the world. Finn Sullivan was a defensive player of the year finalist. These are some tough players to see depart.

The Denver Outlaws do return rookie of the Year finalist Chris Aslanian, as well as Ryan Lee who scored 38 goals last year. Denver needs to look at taking the best offensive player available. The Outlaws are going to need to figure out who will trigger this offense, which will get plenty of touches thanks to Max Adler.

Jeff Teat and Michael Kraus both look like solid choices here. Mac O’Keefe could be an option, but he is going back to Penn State and the Outlaws need help now, and I don’t know if O’Keefe can be the guy who you run the offense through at the pro level rather than an off ball player who’s lethal from range. 

Chesapeake Bayhawks

Key Departures: Jesse Bernhardt – D

Key Arrivals: Callum Crawford – A

The defending champs are in a good spot. They still have arguably the best player in the world in Lyle Thompson. Their attack runs deep with Steele Stanwick, Andrew Kew and Colin Heacock and they added 2020 NLL leading scorer and Kew’s Black Wolves teammate Callum Crawford in the supplemental draft.

An immediate need is replacing their defensive leader down low in Jesse Bernhardt, although they still have a veteran presence on that end in LSM CJ Costabile. The Bayhawks are probably most suited to take a risk on players who may have already declared they’ll be heading back for an extra year of college ball. If you want to nitpick, a bit more athleticism in the midfield on offense would be a boon for the Bayhawks. Jamie Trimboli, Tanner Cook, Connor Kirst, and Dox Aitken all make sense for the birds. Should they look for another defensive presence, JT Giles Harris might last this long and would be a solid pick, even if he is playing college football in 2021. 

Dan Arestia is a lacrosse fanatic first, writer second. He is a frequent contributor to Lacrosse Playground and has been published on College Crosse and Inside Lacrosse.

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