The calendar has flipped to 2023. We've seen fall ball practices, some scrimmages, and preseason rankings are being assembled for the college season. That means it’s time for the return of one of my favorite annual things to write, my PLL Big Board. If you’re new to this, the concept of the Big Board is a ranking of players who are current college seniors or grad students, making them eligible for the next Premier Lacrosse League College Draft. The draft usually takes place in April sometime, which is while these players are still in the midst of their season and likely wrangling for postseason position. A few rules about the Big Board:
1. This is NOT a mock draft. I don’t expect players to be drafted in this order and frankly if they are, it would shock me. This is just my personal ranking, both overall and by position, of the best PLL prospects. These are the guys I think have shown they can play at the next level, ranked based on how likely I believe it is that they have success. I’ve been right before and wrong before, that won’t change. Last year Chris Gray spent the whole season at number one for just about every expert out there, and then didn’t go first in the draft.
2. Once the season hits, this board gets updated on a roughly weekly basis to reflect players stock rising, falling, and allow new players who have excellent years to play their way into the list. Last year Brett Dobson wasn’t on the list at the start of the season and became the top goalie. There’s almost always a big mover coming from “nowhere” to shoot up the list and catch eyes.
3. COVID and Grad eligibility are still monkey wrenching this whole show. I try to be as consistent as I can from year to year. So here’s how I approach this. The PLL says current college seniors and grad students can be drafted. While some of the seniors can return to school, if they’re seniors that makes them draft eligible. Once I hear otherwise about a player (returning to school, not declaring, whatever), I take them off the rankings and move them to “Notable Unavailable Players” section, which already has a few occupants. Expect that to grow as the season goes on. Players have forgone eligibility before, as recently as last year when Dobson went pro, although many are finding ways to maximize their college years. Matt Brandau, for example, is one of a few Yale players who withdrew from Yale for the fall to preserve two spring semesters of eligibility, meaning he can play college ball in 2024 as well even though he’s a senior. A number of Princeton players entered the portal already for grad years as well; they’ll play outside the Ivy. For now, the list includes these Ivy cases and Ohio State defenseman Marcus Hudgins, who transferred from Army with two years of eligibility left. But this list will adjust as the college season rolls on. Many names on the Players To Watch lists are there because they have eligibility remaining. Plenty of guys listed here will not be pros next summer.
4. This list is particularly robust right now. Once games start, it will shrink, both for reasons stated above or it looks like players might not necessarily be worthy of inclusion on a particular week. For now, this is just about everyone I’ve got an eye on as a player of potential interest for the PLL.
5. I watch a lot of lacrosse. Maybe too much. But the college lacrosse world is an enormous place, and it only takes a couple weekends until my backlog of games/possessions to watch is enormous. If you read this and think “Dan is clueless, he still has that guy on the list” or “Dan is clueless and doesn’t have this guy on the list”, I’m easy to find, and you can let me know which of those “Dan is clueless” situations applies.
Without further ado, my board.
1. Sam Handley, Midfield, Penn
2. Will Bowen, Defense, UNC/Georgetown
3. Tucker Dordevic, Attack/Midfield, Syracuse/Georgetown
4. Mike Sisselberger, Faceoff Specialist, Lehigh
5. Gavin Adler, Defense, Cornell
6. Graham Bundy, Midfield, Georgetown
7. Brett Makar, Defense, Maryland
8. Kyle Long, Midfield, Maryland
9. Owen Grant, Defense, Delaware
10. Payton Rezanka, Loyola
Starting with the obvious, Sam Handley is the best prospect in the draft. 6’5, 230 lbs, with enough agility to play attack if asked (and he did at Penn for a few games). A 1st team All American as a freshman. Handley’s biggest, and really only, knock is that he can at times run himself into trouble and be responsible for too many turnovers. His decision making last year was improved, even though the TO total was a bit high. He’ll enter the year as a Tewaaraton favorite, with the highest ceiling and the most physical talent in the class. After that, what should immediately jump out here is the fact that there is only one attackman on the list, and that attackman is a converted midfielder, Tucker Dordevic. Dordevic is the most explosive dodger in the draft, and has already shown the ability to separate from PLL level defenders, even poles. Mike Sisselberger’s career at Lehigh likely ends with him holding several NCAA faceoff records. He currently owns the best winning percentage for a season in history at 79.5%. Depending on this season, he’ll finish somewhere in the Top 5 (he’s currently 5th) ever for faceoff percentage in a career. He did this despite 2020 being a shortened season. He’s already on the Team USA radar. He also wrestles for Lehigh. His physical talent and technical dominance in college make him, in my eyes, the best faceoff prospect since some guy named Baptiste. Bundy has spent years as a dominant 1st option for Georgetown, and this year should be no different. Even with the arrival of Dordevic, I’m expecting a 40 goal season from the former Team USA U-21 Captain. The number of defenseman on the list is also noteworthy. All are, in my eyes, immediate PLL starter caliber poles. Will Bowen is my 2nd overall prospect, both for his ability on the defensive end and just pure athleticism. He is 6’3, 220, and already a Schmeisser winner. He is remarkably agile, and was the best defender on the best team defense in America. He covers extremely well, is a smart and impactful help defender, and has the skills to run transition. Gavin Adler is a close second, landing where he does because of the size he gives up to Bowen. Adler is listed at 5’8, 180 lbs. This isn’t a huge concern for me though. He has shown he can handle matchups with big attackmen, erasing Jack Myers in a game last year. He’ll be a Schmeisser candidate again this season. Next is Brett Makar, top pole for Maryland. Makar could have come out of school years ago and been a first round pick, as he’s as good a cover defender as there is in lacrosse. I’d give Adler and Bowen an edge on him off ball, and in transition, but he’s very much pro ready. Owen Grant is already playing defense for Team Canada. That experience, and returning for a grad year in 2022, will allow him to hone his skills on the defensive end a bit further. He’s probably the best of the pole groups when it comes to being a threat in transition, and he’s also a smart and aggressive doubler of the ball. Looking back at the offensive options, Kyle Long is an excellent passing midfielder. Rewatch the championship game from a year ago, and you’ll see Long on alley dodges whipping passes back across the field through a defense, on multiple occasions, for goals, and making it look easy. It’s not something many midfielders in the country can do at all, and he made it seem effortless. Rounding out the top 10 is Payton Rezanka, the best SSDM on the board, who is already getting run at Team USA workouts. He’s a sturdy 5’11, 200 lbs, and caused 27 turnovers a year ago, more than some of the nation’s top close defenders.
Notable Unavailable Seniors:
Matt Brandau, Yale Marcus Hudgins, Army Sam English, Princeton Jake Stevens, Princeton Beau Pederson, Princeton
1. Tucker Dordevic, Syracuse/Georgetown
2. Dylan Watson, Georgetown/Jacksonville
3. Jack Myers, Ohio State
4. Payton Cormier, UVA
5. Dyson Williams, Duke
Players to watch: Griffin Westlin, Logan McGovern, Nicky Solomon, Jakob Kelly, Dylan Pallonnetti, Colby Smith, Brandon Dodd, Xander Dickson, Max Waldbaum, Sean Goldsmith, Nick Demaio, David Closterman
While not necessarily a vintage PLL attack draft class, there’s still some solid talent here. Dordevic was covered in the Top 10. Dylan Watson is an incredibly potent offball weapon and finisher. The Canadian racked up 58 goals last year at Georgetown, and will be at Jacksonville this year as a grad transfer. The lefty is an excellent fit because he doesn’t need the ball to be dangerous, and he needs virtually no space to be considered open. More and more PLL teams are loaded with players who will need the ball several times a game, Watson doesn’t but will still appear on the score sheet in bunches. Jack Myers is the most physically gifted attackman on the list. A starter at Ohio State since his freshman year, Myers is a 6’4 210 lb quarterback. He shoots about 38%, and has a nearly perfect point split (101 goals and 93 assists) for his career. The questions for Myers become what team needs righty attackman, and can he adjust to a pro offense and possibly running out of the box. That’s a large adjustment that isn’t easy. On the right team, with enough touches, he’s a solid pro, and I’ll add the caveat that I like him more than some others I’ve spoken to. Payton Cormier can still return to school, but he’s pro ready. The lefty that Quint calls the Oakville Ox is a 6’2, 230lb wrecking ball. His hands and skills are that of someone usually much smaller. He’s shooting 42% and has committed 51 turnovers for his CAREER with Virginia. He’ll give you Chris Cloutier vibes. Elsewhere in the ACC is Dyson Williams, who is likely headed to a top of the 1st round selection in the NLL draft. Williams, like Cormier, has eligibility remaining and likely takes advantage of it, but when he comes out, he’s as good a pure goal scorer as you’ll find. He won’t be blowing by PLL defenders off the dodge, but he’s smart and an excellent shooter who knows how to apply pressure to a defense with and without the ball. His hands are some of the best in lacrosse. Sean Goldsmith transferred to UNC this year after years as a fan favorite at Mercer. Goldsmith was actually the nation’s leader in goals in 2020 before the season was cancelled with a ridiculous 34 in seven games. At 6’4, 214lbs, his draft stock could skyrocket if he can maintain his production at a program like UNC this spring. Max Waldbaum is a similar player to Cormier on the other side. Physically dominant and skilled, although there will be questions about his speed and quickness at the pro level. Xander Dickson, Cormier’s teammate at UVA, could become a sort of Matt Moore Lite for them this year, playing multiple spots with an attack background as a dodger and feeder. That sort of versatility usually catches the eyes of PLL coaches. Brandon Dodd from Air Force is another watch for team’s looking for physical presences at attack. He’s been a star since exploding onto the scene with an 8 point game against Duke in 2020.
Midfield, Matt Moore Division (Offense first options):
1. Sam Handley, Penn
2. Graham Bundy, Georgetown
3. Kyle Long, Maryland
4. Thomas McConvey, Vermont/UVA
5. Matt Campbell, Villanova
Players to watch: Levi Anderson, Patrick Skalniak, Garrett Degnon, Harry Wellford, Reese Burek, Brian Minicus
We covered some of these guys already in the Top 10, and to reiterate, I consider Handley the best player in the draft. Bundy and Long are both exceptional. Bundy has another year if he wants. Long probably projects as the best passing midfielder available this year. His vision and precision off the dodge with maybe the best in America, at any position. McConvey is already a top NLL draft pick. While for most prospects, the first thing you think of is shooting ability and great hands, in McConvey’s case he’s also a very capable dodger. Charlie Bertrand transferred from Merrimack to UVA and had an incredible season, and McConvey could do the same following his transfer from UVM. Matt Campbell is an excellent athlete, with 77 goals over the past two seasons and 107 points. Campbell is a volume shooter and is at 27% for his career, which is a bit low, but his athleticism is exceptional. It would be reasonable to put Skalniak or Degnon ahead of him on this list, and by year’s end it very much could end up that way. In fairness, I’m probably lower on Campbell and higher on McConvey than most others. Skalniak in particular has the makings of a potential 1st team AA midfielder in 2023. Minicus has a malleable game and can move between attack and midfield. How he fits in at Georgetown this year after four productive years at Colgate should have an impact on his draft stock. Degnon will be a focal point for every team that plays Hopkins this year, as he is a 40 goal scorer and their best offensive weapon. At 6’4, 200 lbs, he’s got what is becoming a prototypical midfielder build in the PLL. He also rarely turns the ball over, which is arguably the most attractive part of his game. Levi Anderson is a grad student at St Joseph’s, but my understanding is he still has one year left should he want it. He’s a 6’4 205lb Calgary native who announced himself to lacrosse fans last year in the NCAA tournament against Yale. Looking unstoppable at times, Anderson has the skill and physicality that you can be sure will have Chaos fans ready to print the jerseys before draft day.
Midfield, Danny Logan Division (Two Way midfielders or true SSDMs):
1. Payton Rezanka, Loyola
2. Connor Maher, UNC
3. Brian Tevlin, Yale/Notre Dame
4. Piper Bond, Penn
5. Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, Brown
Players to watch: Cole Daninger, Evan Zinn, Chet Comizio, Quinn McCahon, James Shipley
Rezanka is a Top 10 overall prospect in my eyes, the top SSDM in the class. He’s already been part of the Team USA tryout process, one of a handful of college players to join the pros there. Connor Maher has been a mainstay on the All American list for the past few years at UNC. His 2021 season has one stat that raises eyebrows: he picked up 65 ground balls. As an SSDM that’s an incredibly high number, many don’t pick up that many in two seasons. He’s not as solidly built as Rezanka as Maher is listed at 187 lbs, so bigger middies like the PLL has could present problems. Tevlin is a midfielder who gets up and down as well as anyone in the class. He keeps himself in phenomenal shape, played on the offensive for Yale in their national championship season, improved and added defensive skills to his game as his career when on, and he should be everywhere for Notre Dame this spring. The last two are Ivy standouts who could pursue another year outside the conference, but should be highly regarded. Bond in particular is built like Danny Logan, and is a very smart defender. Trevor Yeboah-Kodie has been excellent for Brown, particular going from defense to offense. At 6’2, 205 lbs, TYK had 13 points, 27 GBs, and 5 CTs on a senior heavy defensive unit. He’ll be a leader on that unit this spring. Like Skalniak in the offensive group, Quinn McCahon is poised to possibly make a big move up the list. McCahon is a four year starter at Notre Dame, playing both ends in 2022. He and Tevlin could form a duo of middies that cause all sorts of sub problems for team as they rarely have to actually come off the field. His further development on the defensive end this year could make him an attractive two way middie option in the pros. He came to Notre Dame as an offense first option but took to the two way role extremely well. Similarly, Zinn was a very highly touted recruit coming out of high school on the offensive end, with tremendous athleticism and physical talent. He’s become more of a wing and SSDM player since transferring as a grad student from Hopkins to UVA. Further growth this year on that end, and some improved decision making as part of the clearing game, could make him an interesting prospect. Daninger is another transfer to Jacksonville, who depending on his role could see his stock go up. Comizio made a name for himself last year appearing on the All American list, causing 17 turnovers on the season. He’s slightly undersized but if shows an ability to win matchups against bigger middies this year, he’ll help his case and shoot up the list. Shipley can take another year, but he’s got the dodging ability on the offensive end and defensive ability on the defensive to be worth a look for PLL teams. If there’s a need in any midfield role, he can fill it.
1. Will Bowen, UNC/Georgetown
2. Gavin Adler, Cornell
3. Brett Makar, Maryland
4. Owen Grant, Delaware
5. Cam Wyers, Loyola
Players to watch: Eljiah Gash, Ethan Rall, Mike Grace, Chris Fake, BJ Farrare, Wilson Stephenson, Kenny Brower, Jose Boyer, Andrew Geppert, Evan Egan, Alex Mazzone, Tyler Carpenter, Jake Piseno
Quite a few names there, but that’s to make a point. There could be even more. If you need defensemen, up top or down low, or just depth adds of a caliber you might not see again any time soon, this is the year to do it. I just kept piling up the names because there are just so many. This is a year where a PLL team can find an every week regular defender in the third or fourth round, which is not something that historically happens a lot. As covered in the top 10 overall, Bowen is the top of my list to start the year. The combination of size and athleticism is unmatched in this class. Adler and Makar are both as solid and safe a bet at the position as you’ve been able to make in years. Adler is probably a bit better on ground balls than Makar, though both are outstanding in coverage. Grant is a Team Canada player already who may take a few more defensive risks than the others. He’s excellent when doubling and in transition, which is a skillset necessary in the PLL. Wyers is a decent step down from that top four in my eyes, but still a quality defenseman who should be an All American this year. The players to watch list is packed, with Rall likely being a multiple time All American who’s only know might be being a little on the smaller side at the next level. Elijah Gash could be the first player from the list to push into the top five, as his physical tools are absolutely off the charts. Chris Fake could be a riser if he really impresses at Notre Dame this year; he got out to an excellent start to his career at Yale but regressed slightly in recent years. At LSM, BJ Farrare is an exceptional talent. He could play both SSDM and/or pole in the PLL, as he already has Penn, giving him a unique edge over others at the position. Wilson Stephenson has all the tools needed to be a pro but some clubs might have questions due to his injury history. Mike Grace out of RIT could be a DIII option that makes the leap this year. He already has a silver medal to his name with Team Canada at the U-21 Championships, is a physical monster that can play down low or at LSM, and has the skills to score in transition. He’s an early pick for DIII Defenseman of the Year.
1. Daniel Hincks, Dartmouth/Georgetown
2. Chayse Ierlan, Cornell
3. Matt Garber, BU
Players to Watch: Liam Entenmann, Logan McNany, Matt Knote
I fully expect Liam Entenmann and Logan McNaney to use another year of eligibility, but absolutely will be higher should they declare an intention to go pro this summer. Daniel Hincks and Will Mark were the two biggest goalie moves in the transfer market since last year, and I think Hincks is the best of them. He’ll have an excellent defense in front of him at Georgetown, and an opportunity to shine in a way he might not have been able to at Dartmouth. Chayse Ierlan and Matt Garber are two other goalies who could get PLL attention. Ierlan, brother of Redwoods faceoff specialist TD Ierlan, is back at Cornell this year who could be a national championship contender. A strong year in net and run through the postseason would help his case a great deal. Garber was the Patriot League goalie of the year in 2022, and is a solid 6’2, 215 lbs. He made 200 saves a year ago, putting him in the top 10 in the nation along with Ierlan (212).
1. Mike Sisselberger, Lehigh
2. Zach Cole, Saint Joseph’s
3. Petey LaSalla, UVA
Players to watch: James Reilly, Luke Wierman, Jamie Zusi, Nick Rowlett
We covered Sisselberger in the open. Zach Cole will hardly be a consolation prize though. He likely also will finish in the Top 5 in NCAA history in faceoff winning percentage. In 2022, Cole was a 2nd team All American, while Sisselberger was 3rd. Cole also represents an immediate starting option for almost every team in the PLL at the faceoff spot. LaSalla will get Joe Nardella comps because of his ability to be dangerous with the ball after winning a draw. He had two goals in 2019…in the national championship game. He’s also a menace on the squat rack. Puts up well over 400 lbs. He was a running back and linebacker in high school. He has adapted from motorcycle grip with a knee down to SNG as the college rules changed without losing anything in terms of impact and ability. That’s a testament to his technical skill and ability to work on his craft. These three will be the top three to start the year, but the players to watch all could end up in the Top 3 options. Reilly in particular could emerge as a high level option facing off. Wierman can take another year at Maryland, which puts him in my players to watch for now, but the first team All American from a year ago has worked tremendously hard and saw it pay off in 2022.