With the PLL season less than a month away, Lacrosse Playground will be going through each team in the league to get ready for the upcoming season. With the merger with the MLL and an influx of talent from the college game, the PLL will be more competitive than ever. We’re here to help you sort through it all and get ready for what looks to be an exciting summer of lacrosse. After the preview, I’ll also be predicting each team’s initial 19-man active roster.
We continue on with the Atlas LC. Although the Whipsnakes get all the recognition for winning the first two PLL Championships, the Atlas have executed the first rebuild of the PLL. They should at least get a ribbon or something.
This past offseason, Ben Rubeor went full Hell or High Water, busting into the offices of every other PLL team with a ski mask and demanding all their draft picks. Between the picks they amassed in trades and the ones they got for a poor run in the PLL Championship Series, the Atlas are set up for a prosperous future. But don’t sleep on the present.
On DraftKings Sportsbook, the Atlas currently sit at +1100 odds to win the 2021 PLL Championship. Let’s take a look at their offseason additions, get Coach Ben Rubeor’s thoughts heading into training camp and see what we can expect from this new-look Atlas squad.
2020 Championship Series Results
Pool Play Record: (1-3)
Playoff Round: Lost to Archers 11-9
Other than a 15-6 loss to the Whipsnakes, the Atlas were very much in the game for all of their losses. A bounce here or a save there, and the team could have added a couple more Ws in Utah. But the Whipsnakes game showed they weren’t ready to win a championship and they were led by an aging veteran core. So Rubeor took the proactive route and hit the trade markets to turn things around.
There were bright spots, however, as the solid seasons of young stars like Cade van Raaphorst and Bryan Costabile show that the Atlas aren’t starting at ground zero.
2021 Offseason Acquisitions
PLL Entry Draft: Dan Bucaro (A), Michael Rexrode (D), Andrew Newbold (D), Brendan Sunday (A)
PLL College Draft: Jeff Teat (A), Dox Aitken (M), Jake Carraway (A), Danny Logan (M), Peter Dearth (M), Gerard Arceri (FO)
Player Pool: JD Colarusso (G), Kyle Pless (LSM), Mark Cockerton (A)
Trade: Brent Adams (M)
Obviously, it starts with Jeff Teat. In the ongoing Teat vs. Michael Sowers debate leading up to the draft, Ben Rubeor threw his hat, along with the future of the Atlas, in with the diminutive Canadian who always seems to come up big. An offensive wizard, Teat will likely play a key role in an offense that lost its fulcrums in Paul Rabil and Rob Pannell.
“Jeff Teat is a guy that I drafted number one,” Rubeor said, “I would like to think that he will be a contributor for us.”
The next two picks in Dox Aitken and Jake Carraway both have impressive, record-setting goal-scoring resumes and will fit soundly with a playmaker like Teat. Rubeor also mentioned that he wants to build this team with guys that can do multiple things to help the team win, and Aitken fits that bill, noting that “Dox is as versatile a middie as there is coming out of college lacrosse.”
With an already stout long-pole core, the additions of Danny Logan and Peter Dearth will make this Atlas defense airtight, and without a real weak link to exploit. The Atlas had a boatload of picks in the College Draft and they took advantage of it.
In the PLL Entry Draft, the Atlas also picked up some potential day one impact players for their team. Specifically, they nabbed Dan Bucaro, a stud on the offensive end and former teammate of Carraway at Georgetown. They also got another lockdown defender in Michael Rexrode, who they will be comfortable throwing into any one-on-one matchup.
One player who could also make noise for the Atlas is Mark Cockerton, who didn’t get called in the PLL Entry Draft. Cockerton currently sits 48th all-time in professional field lacrosse history with 210 points, tied with his current Atlas head coach and former Boston Cannons offensive coordinator in Rubeor. Teams clearly valued youth in the draft, but Rubeor remains excited with Cockerton’s talent and scoring.
“That guy has put the ball in the back of the cage a ton in pro lacrosse,” said Rubeor, “I can’t wait to see how he fits on this team.”
Though most of their trades saw players going out, unique circumstances allowed the Atlas to bring in a versatile and talented midfielder in Brent Adams at a relatively low cost. His veteran experience and speed will help steady the young middie group of the Atlas.
2021 Offseason Departures
Trade: Ryan Brown (A), Paul Rabil (M), Rob Pannell (A), Chris Cloutier (A)
Released: Scott Rodgers (G), Callum Robinson (D), Jeremy Thompson (M), Kyle Hartzell (LSM)
Expansion: Connor Buczek (M)
Retired: Brent Noseworthy (A/M), Andrew Hodgson (M)
Between the four players traded away and Connor Buczek, the Atlas are losing a combined 40 points over the five games the team played in the PLL Championship series – and that’s in a down year for Paul Rabil and Ryan Brown. The Atlas are in the midst of a page-one rewrite on the offensive end, as they sent away a massive portion of their offensive creation and scoring.
Rubeor’s commitment to revamping this team is admirable, as he certainly did not take half-measures. To get full value from all these trades, however, the team has to nail the draft picks.
Speaking of which…
Biggest Question Heading into the Season: The Youth Movement
“I drafted each guy for a reason,” Rubeor said, “I think they’re all good players.”
Evidently, Rubeor is confident in his guys. That said, much is riding on this draft class for the future of the team. The Atlas’ 2021 season will largely be defined by how they perform right out of the gates. Based on the losses that I just documented, it would be a surprise if Teat isn’t the focal point of the offense the moment that he puts on an Atlas jersey. Both Carraway and Aitken will likely be relied upon as well to shoulder a pretty substantial offensive workload. Even Bucaro, a player who has proven himself in the pro ranks during his one season in the MLL, is relatively young and hasn’t yet been put to the test in the PLL.
The Atlas are not yet fully formed, but how these young offensive weapons perform this season will indicate if this is a future thing or a now thing.
Rubeor wants to see results across the board. “I think we have to improve everywhere,” he said, “besides riding, I don’t think we led the league in any other stat… Every other facet I’d like to improve.”
Biggest Strength Heading into the Season: The Poles
The Atlas have a talented, physical, and downright nasty set of poles that are a consistent threat to take the ball away on any given possession. A healthy Tucker Durkin has an argument as the best defender in the game. He and van Raaphorst sniff around the field like sharks and will attack if they smell blood in the water in the form of an exposed stick.
Craig Chick had a quality showing in the PLL Championship Series at LSM, and Michael Rexrode brings a fundamental steadiness on the defensive end. Teams will be hard-pressed to penetrate this solid front.
Rubeor also mentioned that he is relying on the veteran leadership of some incumbent players to step up on this young team. “We have three captains this year. We have Tucker Durkin, Trevor Baptiste and Eric Law,” Rubeor said, “the veterans respect them, and I think the younger guys can learn a lot from their example.”
Overall, it’s clear Rubeor is excited for his team’s new direction. “Do I believe in these guys?” he said, “Yeah, I believe in these guys. It’s why I got them on the team, and why I made what I think are some difficult decisions this offseason.”
Projected Initial 19-man Roster:
Attack: Jeff Teat, Eric Law, Dan Bucaro, Jake Carraway, Mark Cockerton
Midfield: Brent Adams, Bryan Costabile, John Crawley, Romar Dennis, Dox Aitken, Danny Logan
Defense/LSM: Tucker Durkin, Cade Van Raaphorst, Michael Rexrode, Andrew Newbold, Craig Chick
Faceoff: Trevor Baptiste
Goalie: Jack Concannon, JD Colarusso
Reserves: Joel Tinney, Brendan Sunday, Peter Dearth, Austin Pifani, Gerard Arceri, Kyle Pless