Leading up to the PLL Entry Draft and the College Draft, the teams around the league have looked to tinker with their roster to set themselves up for success, be it in the present or the future. The Chaos, Archers, Redwoods, and Waterdogs all looked to find missing links for their current roster, while the Cannons traded for Paul Rabil and added players around him via the PLL Expansion Draft. The Atlas, on the other hand, have gone all-in on the rebuild, selling off multiple veteran pieces for upcoming draft picks.
While we don’t yet know what sort of fruit these trades will bear for the Atlas, we can come up with an idea of how the players that were moved will fit in with their new teams. Here’s a brief breakdown of what we can expect to see from these players in new homes. We begin with the only one-for-one player swap…
The Connor Fields-Ian MacKay trade
The Chaos LC sent their 2019 leading scorer in Connor Fields to the Archers LC in exchange for Ian MacKay, the Canadian lefty with the heavy outside shot. This trade, at least for now, looks like a win-win, with both teams getting a player with upside for their system.
Ian MacKay, Chaos LC
We’re one more Chaos LC trade away from the team coming out wearing box helmets and bicep pads.
The Chaos made a mini-Cinderella run in last summer’s PLL Championship Series when they went all in on a box-esque style of play. On an episode of Takeaways with Ric Beardsley, Coach Andy Towers discussed how the Chaos found success by adding a crease presence with Miles Thompson and the overall transition their offensive system underwent last year. Ian MacKay is a perfect addition to that new system. Used primarily for his outside shot with the Archers, MacKay will have the opportunity to really show off his talent in the Chaos offense.
Coach Andy Towers really played up Mackay’s versatility and his ability to impact both ends. MacKay is a transition player in box and Towers might look to get some offense-from-defense with him leading the break from the other end.
That said, I would be shocked if MacKay didn’t eventually slot in alongside Dhane Smith and Austin Staats on the midfield. As a lefty, MacKay can work two-man games with Staats and star attackman Josh Byrne, setting crafty screens, finishing nifty pick-and-roll actions and even operating as the lead ball carrier when needed. His outside shooting will be an asset as well, as much of the Chaos’ best looks came from the off-ball action opposite the pick-and-rolls. If the 2019 NLL Rookie of the Year can get open on the other side of a Dhane Smith-Curtis Dickson pick-and-roll for example, then look out. He will be bringing more thunder than a humid day in Tampa.
Connor Fields, Archers LC
The Archers LC’s explosive offense just got more firepower. I’m not sure that Connor Fields’ fit with the Archers is as clean as Mackay’s is with the Chaos, but I’m also not sure that it matters very much. In his excellent 2019 year, much of Fields’ offense came from dodging from behind the net. With Grant Ament occupying that role for the Archers, Fields will have a different role, becoming more of a cog in the machine than the engine that makes it go. Yet, as Playing From Behind explained in his article on Fields, that’s a role Fields has thrived in during his earlier UAlbany days and tiem with the San Diego Seals.
With Ament locked into his spot, plus Marcus Holmann and Will Manny’s excellent chemistry around the net, Fields will almost certainly get runs at midfield – a sentiment shared by coach Chris Bates.
While midfield is not Fields’ natural position, the Archers system operates using two-man games on the wings. With Tom Schreiber quarterbacking an offense via sweeps and skip passes, Connor Fields should have plenty of opportunities to be a finisher. Schreiber’s presence at the midfield also means Fields will have a chance to feast on plenty of short stick matchups after making a career of taking on poles.
With Fields, the Archers can create a shot from virtually anywhere over the midline – Bates referred to himself as “a kid in a candy store” when discussing his arsenal of weapons. Defenses in the PLL should be very, very concerned with the sheer firepower.
Rob Pannell, Redwoods LC
The Redwoods already had a deadly unit of snipers ready to pull the trigger at any open opportunity. They now have one of the best passers in lacrosse to make life that much easier and make those opportunities all the more plentiful. If the Redwoods were lacking one thing, it was that offensive hub that everything flows through. Pannell provides that from the X position.
Coach Nat St. Laurent noted that Pannell was there to “take pressure off guys on our team that we were asking to do more than they should have been asked to do.”
Pannell’s addition allows the pieces of the Redwoods offense to do what they do best as the talented attackman from Cornell conducts the symphony. Even in a subpar Atlas offense, Pannell finished behind only Grant Ament and Matt Rambo in assists last season.
Now, teamed up with crafty attackmen Ryder Garnsey and Matt Kavanagh, Jules Heningburg out of the box and Myles Jones and Sergio Perkovic bombing them from up top, Pannell has a Cheesecake Factory-sized menu of options to receive his preternatural passing, and the Woods will benefit immensely from it.
Ryan Brown, Waterdogs LC
It cannot be stressed enough that Ryan Brown is by far the best shooter in the world. Any hand, any angle, any release, any distance, Brown can do it. That he can line up anywhere on the field and be a threat allows him to be a chameleon – a fit for any team at any spot offensively. That’s not hyperbole either. A natural righty, Brown spent time in the lefty shooter spot on Team USA’s powerplay in the 2018 World Championships.
His versatility and firepower will help finish possessions with an exclamation point for a Waterdogs LC offense that struggled in that area for long stretches in the PLL Championship Series. Though Brown won’t be the one creating the opportunities, his presence will open up lanes and he will be able to finish with just a shred of space. Coach Andy Copelan evidently loves Brown’s versatility and does not want to wait for the pass to come to him – he wants to get Brown on the move to free up that twine-seeking missile.
This is a great pickup for the Dogs, filling an obvious need, especially now with Ryan Drenner departing via the PLL Expansion Draft.
Paul Rabil, Cannons LC
In a bit of storybook circularity, Paul Rabil is back (kind of) with the team that he started his professional lacrosse career with. Coach Sean Quirk is excited to get the veteran leadership that Rabil brings, and though a rocky performance in the PLL Championship Series may suggest that Rabil is in the twilight of his illustrious career, I think there is far more than just sentimentality and intangibles to this acquisition by the Cannons LC. With the truncated schedule of the PLL Championship Series, as well as the fact that he had a hand in running the damn thing, it is not shocking that Rabil was not at his best at age 34.
Although reinforcements will be on the way soon via the college draft and the entry draft, Rabil is already in a good position to be a playmaker once again thanks to the additions of his Atlas LC teammate Connor Buczek and former Boston Cannons teammate Brent Adams via the PLL Expansion Draft.
Even as his athleticism dips, he can still attack, make smart reads, and move the ball to set up his teammates. Just a year removed from a 21-point, 11-assist season, I’d expect Rabil’s swan song to be an impressive one as he tries to put the Cannons on the map in the PLL and remind the lacrosse world why he’s one of the best to ever do it.
Only time will tell how these trades shake out for all these teams, but as it stands right now, it appears each team got pieces that fit with their system and their organizational direction.
What are your thoughts on the major PLL trades this offseason? Let us know in the comments or on social media.