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Everything you need to know about the PLL expansion draft

Dan Arestia provides all the latest details and clarifies common questions about the PLL expansion draft.

Updated on December 11, 2019 with more details on the 2020 entry draft.

The Premier Lacrosse League this week announced that the first of three offseason drafts will take place this February.  The expansion draft will pull players from existing PLL clubs to form the roster for the seventh PLL club, as of this writing still without a name. Shortly following that, the league will have a draft for players currently in or entering the player pool. Then in April, a collegiate draft will take place with all seven clubs having the opportunity to select talent from the graduating college class — one of the deepest in years.

The PLL explained the procedure that will be followed leading up to the expansion draft. Team active rosters for 2020 will have 25 players, with 18 dressing for games. On January 13, PLL clubs must submit a list of 11 protected players from their current roster, one goalie and ten position players. These protected players will be exempt from the player pool for the expansion draft. 

Tough roster decisions are looming

With a lacrosse starting lineup in the PLL really consisting of 14 players (goalie, three defense, three midfield, three attack, one LSM, two SSDM, one faceoff specialist), teams will be faced with difficult choices about who they make available for the draft.

A team like the Archers will be forced to make either of their strong goalies, Adam Ghitelman or Drew Adams, available; the Redwoods will have to use several slots to keep their stalwart defensive grouping and two-way midfielders together, and so forth. Needless to say, there will be serious impact players available in the expansion draft.

New coaches will be hired soon

With three teams currently in need of a head coach, it’s safe to assume that all three of those vacancies will be filled rather soon so that the coaches can submit their 11 protected player list. Paul Rabil was seen sitting with PLL investor Joe Tsai and current Yale head coach Andy Shay in courtside seats at a Brooklyn Nets game, leading to some speculation that Shay is under consideration for one of the vacancies.

Pro Lacrosse Talk’s Hutton Jackson speculated about some other potential coaching candidates (though Bear Davis has confirmed that he is not being considered.)

Exceptions to the draft rules

Any player who does not receive protected status is eligible to be drafted to the 7th PLL club. There are a few exceptions to this. No more than four players can be drafted from any existing PLL club. Any players remaining players in the pool from one particular club are removed once the seventh team has selected four players.

So, for example, once four Whipsnakes are selected, any Whipsnakes players still in the pool are removed and go back to the Whipsnakes roster. Active military players are not eligible to be drafted and do not require protected status. The same is true for Rookie Holdouts.

A rookie holdout is any rookie player who did not appear on the travel roster for their club in 2019. This means the Archers retain 2019 first overall pick Pat Spencer without using a protected slot on him, as Spencer is currently playing basketball for Northwestern. There are other players who were drafted by the PLL and did not appear on their clubs roster because, in some cases, they chose to play in the MLL instead.

For a player who chose to play in the MLL but decides to, and is contractually able to, join the PLL in 2020, they are still covered as a rookie holdout and do not require a protected slot, according to PLL representatives. Players in this category include:

M Zach Goodrich (drafted by Chrome)
FO Alex Woodall (drafted by Whipsnakes)
M/A Brad Smith (drafted by Whipsnakes, appeared in neither league)
A Colton Jackson (drafted by Archers)
M Brendan Gleason (drafted by Redwoods)
M John Dannigellis (drafted by Whipsnakes). 

PLL clubs retain the rights to players drafted for two seasons. The above players’ rights still belong to the team that drafted them, and since they didn’t appear on the travel roster at all for their PLL club, they are considered rookie holdouts. 

The language used by the PLL does have some ambiguity about other protection status players.  The league stated that “certain players will be excluded from the eligible pool of players during the expansion draft, and who will not need to be protected by their existing lacrosse club.” It gives active military (such as Johnny Surdick, Matt Rees and Greyson Torain) and rookie holdouts as included in the list, but does not explicitly say they are the entire list.

Following the expansion draft

Following the expansion draft, all seven clubs must submit their 25-player active roster to the league, with all other players not on an active roster going to the player pool. 

Not mentioned at all are other players who would be part of this that come from places other than current PLL rosters. Recent reports suggest that Rob Pannell is still deciding whether to return to the MLL or join the PLL in 2020. MLL contracts expire on March 1, so if Pannell joins the PLL, he would be placed into the separate player pool entry draft along with any other MLL player who is not a rookie holdout and is coming off an expired MLL contract. 

This entry draft will occur in March after the expansion draft and all seven lacrosse clubs will participate. The selection order will be determined by a random lottery drawing weighted by teams’ 2019 finish. How much weight teams’ records will be given is unknown, but this will likely benefit the seventh club and Chrome LC’s chances to win the Rob Pannell sweepstakes if he decides to join. Since this draft follows the expansion draft, teams will also be able to address their needs and replace players they lost to the expansion team.

With the addition of a seventh club, potential MLL defectors, three drafts, and three new head coaches, the PLL’s competitive landscape is already undergoing serious seismic shifts.

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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