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Dan Arestia: 2020 PLL College Draft grades

The 2020 PLL College Draft was broadcast on Wednesday and it was somehow equal parts predictable, surprising, confusing and clear. The top of the draft seemed obvious, the rest of the draft was surrounded by this fog of college careers that might not be over, teams drafting for need, roster composition and availability for the upcoming PLL Championship Series.

The fog lifted a little bit by the conclusion of the draft. Teams continue to draft for the culture and personality, which is a good thing. Fourteen players now join rosters and it’s up to them to make the gameday squad and play meaningful time at the next level. The PLL talent pool makes it arguably one of the most competitive leagues in all of sports, so these rookies have their work cut out for them. That said, let’s hand out some grades and look at who nailed it and who still has some work to do.

Archers LC

Picks: Grant Ament (A), Jack Rapine (D)

One of these picks we all saw coming. One of them not so much. I think you can figure out which is which. The Archers added a dodging, pass-first attackman to play at X, something they need and that perfectly pairs with the rest of their attack personnel.

Grant Ament can be effective as a feeder on an island, uses razor picks extremely well, plays well in the two-man game at and below the goal line, and has elite vision. Ament projects as already one of the best passers in the league.

The second pick the Archers made is a little more interesting. Jack Rapine had excellent caused turnover numbers at Hopkins, and started every game of his career there including freshman year. This year, Jack Rapine left the team in the fall in what was reported as an amicable split. Rapine is 6’1, 205, and the type of defender PLL teams like, but he certainly wasn’t on anyone’s draft board, which maybe is an error on the part of us experts.

The Archers needed some more help at midfield after losing Ben McIntosh, Danny Eipp, and Christian Cuccinello to expansion. They added Christian Mazzone through the entry draft, and ultimately this becomes an opportunity for guys like Ian Mackay and Austin Sims to see more time. 

Grade: B

Atlas LC

Picks: Brian Costabile (M), Aidan Hynes (D)

Bryan Costabile seemed like a no-brainer here. He’s big, fast, extremely athletic, has the ability to play both ends and has two point range. That’s the type of player that is arguably the most valuable asset to have in the PLL.

Redwoods Head Coach Nat St. Laurent told Pro Lacrosse Talk after the draft that he had some discussions around trying to trade up into this spot to take Costabile, but ultimately the price was too high. The Atlas midfield now lists Paul Rabil, Connor Buczek, Joel Tinney, John Crawley, Joel Tinney, Romar Dennis, and Costabile—and that’s not counting the SSDM players like Kevin Unterstein and Jake Richard.

Head Coach Ben Rubeor has some tough calls to make with this group as far as who to dress, but Costabile to me is already an easy one. He’s a guy you could see start to demand a pole. Aidan Hynes is, like most players out of Yale in recent years, a pro-ready, solid defensive piece. Early in his career at Yale he drew the top assignment in quite a few games, and sometimes went unnoticed playing on defenses with Chris Keating and Chris Fake. Hynes can play the LSM spot or down low, and if he chooses the PLL over the MLL, will bring some stability and quality off-ball play to an Atlas defense that needs it. 

Grade: A-

Waterdogs LC

Picks: Michael Kraus (A), Matt Deluca, G. 2(1)

The Waterdogs have built a team full of swiss army knives on offense. Guys who can play multiple spots, run out of the box, and be effective from all over the field. Michael Kraus is dead on brand for them. Paul Carcaterra calls Kraus a chameleon, which is accurate. Kraus has been the alpha at UVA, he’s been a feeder, a scorer, an off-ball player, he does it all. He’s one of four players in UVA history with 100 goals and 100 assists. This pick is a good one because it really completes their offense in my mind; Coach Copelan can set his roster on the offensive and feel solid with what he has, and he has the depth and flexibility to feel good about heading into the grueling championship series.

Matt DeLuca is a goalie who will immediately compete for a spot as well. He’s 6’6, athletic and saw a ton of shots at Delaware, averaging double digit saves on his career. The Waterdogs grabbed Charlie Cipriano in expansion, then added Tate Boyce shortly after the Entry Draft, and have Reed Junkin on their roster as well. That’s four guys for two spots. Cipriano is a well regarded pro already, and Boyce showed himself to be a capable player in spots for the Boston Cannons last summer in the MLL. Who ultimately makes it out of this group is a story to watch, although adding a fourth goalie to the roster could be seen as a little bit of a head scratcher at this point when they still had needs on the defensive end and could use faceoff depth.

Grade: B-

Note: Michael Kraus signed with the Connecticut Hammerheads in MLL after this grade was given.

Chrome LC

Picks: Tom Rigney (D), Reece Eddy (D/LSM)

I had thought adding an off-ball scorer might have made sense for the Chrome here, but truth be told their offense really wasn’t a problem last year. They needed an elite, stay-at-home defender to play down low for them, and they got the best one available in this draft in Tom Rigney.

Rigney was the captain of the team at Army, at the latest part of what is an outstanding defensive tradition at West Point. Rigney is 6’3 and 225 lbs. He won’t wow you with stick skills, but his strength and footwork are outstanding, and has a knack for ground balls.He’s exactly who you want guarding the X attackman.

Reece Eddy is a great player to pair with Joel White at the LSM spot. Eddy was having a spectacular 2020 before the season was cut short, amassing 16 caused turnovers and 31 ground balls in just six games. He was also the captain at BU. This is a player who can move the ball from defense to offense on his own, quickly, and create quick strike chances to that strong attack group. Chrome are going to look like a very different team in 2020, and you may see them on the right side of those close games this year rather than the wrong side. 

Grade: A

Chaos LC

Picks: Matt Gaudet (A), Jeff Teat (A)

And now the eyebrows go up. Not at Gaudet, he makes a ton of sense here from a fit point of view. Gaudet is the best pure goal scorer in the draft. He does his damage off ball, has a strong indoor background, and was instrumental in Yale’s run to an NCAA Championship. If not for the cancelled season, he likely leaves Yale as the all time leading goal scorer for the program. Even in other imperceptible ways, this pick is great (if you don’t think Gaudet knows how to hold up a slide in odd man situations in transition, you need to watch closer). Gaudet provides much needed balance to the ball dominant players on the team like Connor Fields and the newly acquired Sergio Salcido. This team also will have Curtis Dickson this summer, who wasn’t available in 2019.

Jeff Teat is a risky choice from Coach Andy Towers. He’s one of the top prospects this year no doubt, and his game and skillset perfectly match the Chaos and newly added linemate Matt Gaudet. But if he decides to return for another year of college, the Chaos don’t retain his rights, and this is a lost pick. If he joins the Chaos, then you have an attack of Fields/Teat/Gaudet, and that group will score a lot of goals. Looking at this suddenly very crowded roster now, Coach Towers may be better served submitting it like an NLL roster, with players listed as Forward, Defender, and Transition. Canadian fans, this is your team. 

Grade: A (if Teat plays) or B (if Teat returns to college)

Redwoods LC

Picks: Peyton Smith (FO), Chris Price (D)

As earlier noted, the Woods looked into trading up in round one, but ended up standing pat. That worked out just fine. With Greg Gurenlian retiring, the Redwoods need some depth and quality at the faceoff spot. They brought in Greg Puskuldjian in the entry draft, but Peyton Smith is an excellent addition to this team. He’s slept on a little bit because so many were expecting the faceoff men to go in this draft to be named Ierlan, Gallagher or Arceri. But Smith is, as many have described, a technician, and if he can go 50% or over on draws this is an absolutely massive impact for an already loaded team.

Chris Price is another name that probably was slept on a bit. It also is important that he’s a former teammate of Tim Troutner. Price has played his best games in High Point’s biggest games. He might be more of a stash pick at this point, as the Woods already added Finn Sullivan in the entry draft to help replace Matt Landis, and this team still has John Sexton, Larken Kemp, and Hugh Crance on the roster along with their strong group down low. The pick adds depth to one of the strengths of the Woods, it’s defense, but in my eyes Price isn’t an instant impact guy.

Grade: B-

Whipsnakes LC

Picks: Sean New (LSM/D), Matt Hubler (SSDM)

The Whipsnakes went to the defensive end with both picks. They lost a truckload of offensive production when the Waterdogs took Ben Reeves, Connor Kelly, Ryan Drenner, and Drew Snider (and their combined 61 points) in the expansion draft. The Whips will have Brad Smith this summer, who didn’t suit up in 2019 and was a top prospect last year, and will look to get larger contributions from Dylan Maltz and Jay Carlson. New is a player who can spell LSM Michael Ehrhardt at times, and the Whips were looking for a consistent player in that role last season, using a few different options last year.

Matt Hubler is more of a stash pick for them. Tyler Warner, a top SSDM in the league, will soon begin medical school, and it’s not clear how that impacts his availability for pro lacrosse. Hubler is a pick to add some depth to the SSDM spot and be prepared for when Warner ultimately moves on. That said, the Whips do have excellent midfield depth already, with plenty of guys who play both ends (Jake Bernhardt, John Haus, Max Tuttle, TJ Comizio, and now Brad Smith), so it’s tough for me to see Hubler getting a Whips roster spot anytime soon. 

Grade: C+

Do you agree with these grades? Let us know in the comments.

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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