The PLL Winter Classic is less than one month away.
Keep an eye on these names.
Grant Ament – Archers
Last summer was unkind to the 2021 PLL attackman of the year who was injured in training camp and never returned to form. Perhaps he returned from injury earlier than he should have, nonetheless his timing was noticeably off and the signature burst was missing.
Now, he’ll be two months removed from not making the USA roster which would have seemed unfathomable at the end of 2021 PLL season. Does a successful turn at the Championship Series signify the Penn Stater is all the way back? Or, will we need to wait until the summer so he can covered by a pole again to prove that he was fully regained his powers?
The Archers are nearly fully loaded on the offensive side of the ball for this event. We’ll assume that a motivated Ament puts up a ton of numbers.
Gibson Smith – Chrome
The former Georgetown Hoya was a third team All American in 2022 and a second team member in 2021. Despite these accolades, Smith was not selected in the college draft. He was picked up in the player pool by the Whipsnakes then by the Chrome on August 23. He has yet to play in the PLL.
According to his Linkedin, he left a position with Imperial Capital in December. Now, he works with Smith Management LLC. Perhaps, he has ventured out on his own which would explain midweek availability to compete for the Chrome. Will he be trying to earn a roster as a short stick defensive middie or simply showcase enough athleticism and IQ to earn playing time this coming summer at his natural position as a pole?
Jake Carraway – Atlas
Carraway Watch captured a segment of LaxTwitter during the 2022 season. After a 21 point rookie campaign, Chris Gray was interested into the line up and Carraway only appeared twice scoring once on eight shots.
In their losses, the Bulls allowed 15.8 goals per game. The first three losses were by three goals and one goal twice. Then, they were blown out 16-8 and 19-14. Carraway might not have changed things had he played but by not trading him during the season the Atlas lost an asset they could have used to upgrade a weakness.
Carraway is now a free agent. Even if he goes off at the Championship Series, will he be interested in returning to the Atlas? Interim head coach Steven Brooks was the offensive coordinator last year. He had an opportunity to mention Carraway by name in a recent PLL article but choose not to or the quote was cut by the reporter.
Carraway was playing in the now suspended PBLA so we can assume he’s preparing for an opportunity to return to his 2021 usage rate.
Justin Guterding – Whipsnakes
Guterding, like Carraway, returns to the team that gave up on him during the 2022 season. Guterding, however, was a top contributor for his squad before they stopped dressing him after his seventh appearance.
This roster decision remains extremely perplexing because the lefty was having a great campaign averaging over 2.2 points per game for a team that struggled to score goals despite the presence of Joe Nardella at the face off.
Perhaps, it was easier to move away from him during the season, because Guterding is a natural attackman and may not have given them as much as they wanted defensively. Still, he’s one of the few lefties on the team, was contributing offensively in every game he played in, and managed to finish with the fifth most points on the team in the regular season despite not dressing for the final three games of the season.
How will he be deployed? Matt Rambo and Zed Williams are missing for NLL commitments. Mike Chanenchuk is busy with Stony Brook coaching responsibilities.
Brad Smith is the top returning point scorer with 22 regular season points. Guterding had 16. Guterding and Smith both played for the US sixes team at the World Games this summer.
Will the Whipsnakes use the event as a bonus preseason training camp to further evaluate and develop their younger players or will they load up with Guterding in an attempt to win the event?
Guterding is a free agent. If the Whipsnakes ask him to return in the role that he had for the majority of the 2022 regular season, will he even want to? The Nardella injury dents the Whipsnakes mystique for 2023.