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PLL Championship Series Preview: Waterdogs LC

Photo courtesy of the Premiere Lacrosse League

The Waterdogs are an expansion franchise, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at their roster.

New head coach Andy Copelan enters his first season in the Premiere Lacrosse League having been able build a roster from the ground up. What coach’s dream isn’t to be able to build a roster exactly how they want? Hell, that’s what fantasy lacrosse team owners dream of. Copelan did just that, selecting 15 players in the first ever PLL Expansion draft.

Last year’s champion, the Whipsnakes, were the team most affected by Copelan’s choices, losing four of their most versatile offensive talents. The Waterdogs will rely on the winning pedigree of 1st overall pick Connor Kelly, former Tewaaraton Trophy winner Ben Reeves, 6x all-star Drew Snider, and late game hero Ryan Drenner to lead them to success in year one.

Speaking of leading, Copelan also made sure to add veteran leadership to his roster in Brodie Merill. In addition to adding the all-time great defender, the Dogs bring in Noah Richard and Chris Sabia through expansion. Versatile LSM, Ryland Rees, was also added with the Waterdogs’ second pick in the entry draft.

In addition to Rees, Copelan used the first overall pick in the entry draft to select two way midfielder Zach Currier. The All-World Currier comes over after a stellar career with the Denver Outlaws and will look to make an immediate impact on both ends of the field.

In addition to Currier and the aforementioned former Whipsnakes, Christian Cuccinello and Kieran McArdle will be tasked with being major contributors for the Dogs on the offensive side of the ball.

With the ability to build a roster around his coaching style, look for Copelan’s Waterdogs to make a splash in year one.

Strengths

Depth

This is not your parents’ expansion franchise. The Waterdogs could absolutely make noise in year one of existence. One of the main reasons why is because of their depth. Their slogan is “every game is a revenge game” for a reason. Coach Copelan was able to cherry pick 15 players left off the original six rosters’ protected lists. Players that those teams, if you ask their coaching staffs, would still like to have. The depth that the Waterdogs were able to build from the middle tier of the original six rosters will be a benefit in the absolute sprint that is the Championship Series.

Weaknesses

Chemistry

This take will probably not age well, but it has to be brought up since this team has literally never played a game together. Other teams around the league did make large scale changes to their rosters in the offseason, but no one other than the Waterdogs is coming in with a completely blank slate. With only a few days of training camp to gel, the Waterdogs will have to make adjustments on the fly. The condensed season in Utah may not be the most conducive environment for an expansion franchise to succeed right away.

Most Intriguing Matchup

Waterdogs vs Atlas, July 26

I know it may be a cop-out, but I have to go with the franchise’s first ever game, right? Not only will it be their first tilt, but they will be going up against one of the league’s most popular teams. The Atlas will be looking to start the season off hot after a disappointing year one. With that being said, I think the Waterdogs will match up well in the transition game and give the Bulls a run for their money. All eyes will be on this one as it will be the league’s only game on Sunday and can be seen on NBC at 4:00 p.m.

Players to Watch

Zach Currier, Midfieder

Currier was selected first overall by the Waterdogs in this year’s entry draft after playing his first three pro seasons with the Denver Outlaws. The Princeton grad is arguably the best two way midfielder in the world and will make an immediate impact for this new Watersdogs squad on both ends of the field. Currier’s style of play is a perfect fit for any team in the league. Waterdog fans can only hope that he brings his winning ways to his new expansion franchise as Currier won 5 championships in the span of 407 days.

Ryland Rees, LSM

Rees is arguably the player that I’m most excited to watch this season in his first year with the PLL. Also selected in this year’s entry draft, he spent his first professional season with the Boston Cannon last summer. The Stony Brook graduate vacuumed up 63 GBs last season and had 15 caused turnovers. Rees will not only make an immediate impact on the field for the Waterdogs at LSM. Fantasy lacrosse fans may also want to grab him in their drafts before he becomes a household name. Oh, and did I mention that he scored seven goals last year and isn’t afraid to pull up from two?

Adam Moore is a Delco native, co-founder/host of Pro Lacrosse Talk and managing editor of Lacrosse Playground. He also has a passion for sports history and serves as Lacrosse Playground's creative director. Adam has been writing on lacrosse for more than a decade and has been published online with The Capital Gazette and US Lacrosse Magazine. Adam played four years of college lacrosse as a goaltender for Elizabethtown College. When he’s not covering pro lacrosse, he can be found coaching at Boys’ Latin School in Baltimore and watching Philadelphia sports.

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