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2021 PLL Season Preview: Cannons LC

With the PLL season less than a week 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.

The merging of the PLL and MLL is a banner moment for professional field lacrosse, and Cannons LC is the product of that marriage. Tasked with shepherding in a new era of lacrosse while upholding a rich tradition, the spotlight will be on the Cannons all season long. They spent their entire offseason making sure they were prepared for that, building a team that can compete in its first season in the PLL.

On DraftKings Sportsbook, the Cannons currently sit at +1000 odds to win the 2021 PLL Championship. Let’s take a look at how they built their team, get Coach Sean Quirk’s thoughts, and see what we can expect from the new Cannons this season.

Photo courtesy of PLL

How Coach Quirk and the Boston Cannons did Last Season

In their last season before they dropped the Boston and added the LC, the Cannons excelled in the MLL bubble on their way to their second MLL Championship. It was only fitting that the Cannons, the MLL’s final champion and member of their original six, would join the PLL with Sean Quirk still at the helm. Going into 2021, Quirk wanted to keep that championship pedigree intact while building this iteration of the team.

“I thought it was really important to bring a core group of guys over from our championship team, particularly some of those guys that were instrumental and really good leaders,” Quirk said.

Assembling the Cannons

PLL Expansion Draft: Brodie Merrill (D), Connor Buczek (M), Ryan Drenner (A), Curtis Corley (D), Reece Eddy (LSM), Brent Adams (M) (traded to Atlas), Jake Pulver (D), Josh Currier (A/M), Drew Simoneau (FO), Deemer Class (M), Clarke Petterson (A), Max Tuttle (M), Sam Duggan (M), Brendan Fowler (FO), Thomas Kelly (FO), Tyson Bell (M), Brendan Gleason (A/M), Jacob Stover (G)

Existing PLL teams were able to protect 14 players from the Cannons in the PLL Expansion Draft. As a result, it would not be the source of star power for the Cannons in their team building process. Instead, the PLL Expansion Draft was essential in filling out a deep, complete roster, establishing leadership and team chemistry, and forcing each player to battle for their spot.

“We wanted to create competition at every position going into training camp,” Coach Quirk said.

The Cannons were able to fill their rosters with impact guys that played key roles for their teams last year and form the basis for a competitive roster. Quirk also used the top of the draft to continue to build a cultural foundation for the team. “We really just did our homework on guys that were going to be good culture guys and exceptional players,” Quirk said.

He mentioned Brodie Merrill as “someone that our defense will really look to” for leadership. Merrill has been available for expansion teams two years running – he’s well past his prime. That said, both teams have jumped at the opportunity to pick him as he can still make plays, and few match his reputation as a communicator and leader.

“Connor Buczek is a veteran player and a college coach as well,” Quirk said of his second pick in the expansion draft. Quirk loves his pedigree as a coach and believes he can impact the team both with his play and his leadership skills.

Beyond those two, there will be a lot of talented lacrosse players with a chip on their shoulder looking to help the Cannons win games. Ryan Drenner joins Merrill as a double expansion guy and wants to make the Whipsnakes and Waterdogs regret their decisions. Reece Eddy had a marvellous showing in the PLL Championship Series and will look to build off that. Thomas Kelly and Drew Simoneau, the two faceoff men going to camp, have had success in the league.

There is opportunity and incentive for the players of the PLL Expansion Draft to have bigger roles than they have in the past and help this Cannons team in their inaugural season.

PLL Entry Draft: Lyle Thompson (A), Zach Goodrich (M), Nick Marrocco (G)

The first pick in the PLL Entry Draft was among the most anticipated draft picks in professional lacrosse history. That said, there was little mystery around it. It was always going to be Lyle Thompson, already an all-time great and someone who has, according to Quirk, “proven to be a great leader.” More on Lyle in a moment.

The next two picks were Quirk’s players with the Cannons, starting with Zach Goodrich, who Quirk notes is “one of the best defensive short-sticks in the game.” He also got his backstop in Nick Marroco, fresh off his excellent showing on the way to the Cannons’ MLL title.

Trade: Paul Rabil (M), Andrew Kew (A)

The move for Paul Rabil almost made too much sense. Drafted by the Boston Cannons in 2006, Rabil will possibly end his prolific career with the team (kind of) that he began with. To get too caught up in the nostalgia of it all would be to miss the point. After a down year, Quirk is bullish on what Rabil can bring as a lacrosse player.

“The guy has got a lot of juice left in the tank,” Quirk said.

As for his role, Quirk sees him as a versatile offensive midfielder who can do a bit of everything on that end, explaining that “we feel that he can be an exceptional dodger still, but he’s got a great supporting cast around him as well and he can be a really strong off-ball player that can score a lot of goals and make a lot of things happen on offense.”

Of course, his leadership was a huge draw as well, as Quirk said that Rabil will “lead the way for a lot of these younger players in showing them how to be a professional in this league.”

They also made the move to get Andrew Kew who was initially picked up by the Redwoods. Kew is a talented scorer who has also shown off some playmaking ability. Kew was a teammate of Lyle Thompson on the Chesapeake Bayhawks, and that chemistry will be an important factor in Kew’s chance to play a big role with the Cannons.  

Player Pool: Shayne Jackson (A), Luke Anderson (M), Scott Hooper (D), Chris Hogan (M), Justin Pugal (D), John Uppgren (A), Bryce Wasserman (A), Chase Levesque (LSM), Holden Garlent (D)

The Cannons have compiled a fascinating collection of players off the waiver wire, with each one having a case to get on the active roster. The former Cannons – Uppgren, Pugal, Wasserman, and Hooper – were an enormous part of 2020’s MLL Championship squad and have a connection with Quirk. Wasserman, notably, is coming off an MVP season, and would love another shot to prove his doubters wrong.

Shayne Jackson, the 2020 NLL MVP, comes to the PLL with a deep bag of tricks around the net and a knack for finishing that few can match. Jackson also has a connection with Lyle as a member of the Georgia Swarm in the box league.

Of course, there is Chris Hogan. Everyone’s favorite football player who used to be a lacrosse player is now, and bear with me here, a lacrosse player who used to be a football player who used to be a lacrosse player. Hogan is an unknown at this point, so far removed from his last legitimate lacrosse game, and this is not a league you just walk into, NFL background or not. That said, Hogan remains an elite athlete and a fascinating experiment.

College Draft: Jack Kielty (D), Stephen Rehfuss (A)

Finally, the PLL College Draft. The Cannons were short on picks after the Rabil and Kew trades, but still made impact moves. They selected Jack Kielty from the Notre Dame long pole factory in the second round and got Rehfuss from Syracuse in the fourth.

Kielty could be a day-one starter for the Cannons.

Biggest Question Heading into the Season: The Attack

There is one lock at attack for the Cannons – Lyle Thompson. How Quirk fills in the offense around him is one of the more intriguing subplots surrounding this team. Do they opt for players who have chemistry with Thompson in guys like Kew and Jackson? What about Quirk’s guys with the Cannons in Uppgren and 2020 MVP Wasserman? Where does Ryan Drenner, the third pick in the expansion draft, fit into all of this?

The entire roster is really up in the air, but the attack has so many different ways it can go, and all the directions have merit.

Photo courtesy of PLL

Biggest Strength Heading into the Season: Lyle Thompson

If you’re building a lacrosse team from scratch (which the Cannons are doing), Lyle Thompson would be the first player you would pick up to do so (which the Cannons have done.)

Although he will be tested this season, Thompson is generally accepted as the best lacrosse player that roams our planet at this moment. He is an offensive hub, a player who instantly changes the trajectory of a team. A patient playmaker and creator, he sees angles and makes moves that most other players don’t even dream up. Anything is on the table when he is on the field.

The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor always reminds us not to take LeBron James for granted. Keep that same message in mind with Lyle Thompson. Don’t take his greatness for granted and let us enjoy every moment of it.

Projected Initial 19-man Active Roster:

Attack: Lyle Thompson, Andrew Kew, Ryan Drenner, Bryce Wasserman, Shayne Jackson

Midfield: Paul Rabil, Connor Buczek, Deemer Class, Zach Goodrich, Max Tuttle, Sam Duggan

Defense/LSM: Brodie Merrill, Jack Kielty, Reece Eddy, Justin Pugal, Jake Pulver

Faceoff: Thomas Kelly

Goalie: Nick Marrocco, Jacob Stover

Reserves: Drew Simoneau, Chase Levesque, Chris Hogan, John Uppgren, Josh Currier, Tyson Bell

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