Updated: 5 days ago
Never too early. We are now firmly entrenched in fall ball, with teams starting to scrimmage each other. More and more images, notes, and info is coming out of these scrimmages, which means it’s time to start thinking about who is ready to make a leap to the PLL. And so, here we are, the first edition of the PLL Big Board for 2024.
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 what I consider the top 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. We’ve had back to back years of Sam Handley and Chris Gray staying at the top of the board basically the entire year before not going first overall. This isn’t a prediction, it’s just a list.
We are just about done with all the COVID years and all that jazz. There will always be transfers and grad years, the portal is what it is, but hopefully we are much more easily able to say this is year five, that’s it, for players. Maybe year six. Maybe we hit football territory and get to year eight. A guy can dream. Either way, I try to be as consistent as I can from year to year. My approach is simple. The PLL says current college seniors and grad students can declare and be drafted. While some of the seniors can still decide to return to school, being seniors makes them draft eligible and worthy of consideration. Once I hear otherwise about a player (returning to school, not declaring, whatever the case may be), I take them off the rankings and move them to “Notable Unavailable Players” section. Players have forgone eligibility before. Brett Dobson went pro with a year of eligibility left, as did Grant Ament before him, 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, so he is able to get an extra “year” in the Ivy that way. In quite a few cases, if a player is known to have eligibility remaining, I put them in the Players to Watch section and not in the top five in their position group.
I watch a lot of lacrosse. Maybe too much. But the college lacrosse world is an enormous place, and it’s still just Fall Ball now. An awful lot can happen between Halloween and Valentine’s Day. One of the best parts of doing this is, come spring time, when players prove to be risers and fallers on the board as the season goes on. I absolutely love getting this stuff wrong and looking back at it later. This isn’t the final be all and end all list, it’s a work in progress and that progress rolls from now until draft day. If you read this and think “Dan is clueless, he still has that guy too high/too low on the list” or “Dan is clueless and doesn’t have this guy on the list” you can let me know which of those “Dan is clueless” situations apply via the Sticks In mailbag or on social media.
Once we get into the actual spring season, this will get updated on a regular basis to reflect players rising, falling, or being added to the list. It’ll likely also get reduced in size.
Without further ado, the 2024 Big Board, 1.0:
Brennan O’Neill, Attack, Duke
Connor Shellenberger, Attack, UVA
Pat Kavanagh, Attack, Notre Dame
Levi Anderson, Attack/Midfield, St Joseph’s
Jake Stevens, Midfield, Princeton/Syracuse
Liam Entenmann, Goalie, Notre Dame
Dyson Williams, Attack, Duke
Matt Brandau, Attack, Yale
Graham Bundy, Midfield, Georgetown
Eric Dobson, Midfield, Notre Dame
2023 was the year of the long pole. This year it’s all about the offensive firepower. The top of the board is going to get billing as one of the most stacked classes in history. I have called it the lacrosse version of the 2003 NBA Draft, and it will get that type of hype. You have Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh level prospects and depth at the top.
Brennan O’Neill is a combination of strength, size, speed and skill that is exceedingly rare in lacrosse. If there was a college lacrosse video game and you made a create-a-player with all the sliders to max, what you’d get is Brennan O’Neill. He stands 6’2, 225 lbs, and his skill and size are incredibly difficult to match up with. He’s been known to the lacrosse world since he committed to Penn State as an 8th grader, ultimately switching to Duke. He was the lone collegiate player on Team USA, won gold in San Diego, and was the title game MVP. For a player like O’Neill, in my opinion, you don’t even consider what else is on your roster. You take him and figure it out. He ran out of the box for Team USA and has started every game of his career at attack on the left side at Duke. He’ll enter the college season as a Tewaaraton favorite, and should he win it, it’ll be his second. There was quite a bit of talk about him not producing enough Championship Weekend. I’d imagine he heard everyone, and would like to change that narrative this year.
Connor Shellenberger will be discussed as a number one overall pick candidate and rightfully so. There are coaches of the opinion that Shellenberger is the better overall player. Shellenberger was the top overall recruit in his class, and redshirted his freshman year at UVA before it was canceled by COVID. In his time as a starter, which was every year since, he’s been a USILA First Team AA three times. All ACC three times, and a Tewaaraton Finalist twice (lost to O’Neill and Logan Wisnauskas). He can play anywhere, do anything. Need a facilitator? He led DI in assists per game in 2023. Scorer? He holds an NCAA tournament single game record with six goals, doing it twice, most recently against Georgetown. If his matchup is the one to attack, he wins it. If the weakness is somewhere else, he finds it and attacks it. He’ll understand your defense, identify a soft spot, and carve you up with lethal precision. He doesn’t have the same physical stature of O’Neill, but that’s hardly a knock given his body of work.
Pat Kavanagh is the toughest player in the group. Shellenberger and O’Neill might be slightly higher regarded as prospects, but Kavanagh is better at riding than they are. He’s better at ground balls. In three full seasons at Notre Dame, he’s been a Tewaaraton finalist twice, First Team All American twice (and 2nd team once). He already is the Notre Dame all time leader in assists; this year he’ll just grow the gap. He set the single season record for assists at Notre Dame in each full season he’s had (set it in 2021, broke his own record in 2022, then did it again 2023). Kavanagh plays with a unique balance of aggression and intelligence. It’s unusual to describe someone’s style of play as “violent”, but Kavanagh plays violent. Sometimes that’s in the form of soaking checks and abuse on his way to the goal. Sometimes that’s an aggressive but precise pass through a defense to unlock a great look at goal. He’s incredibly difficult to match up with, because a bigger defender trying to be physical with him is playing into his strengths, but a quicker and smaller defender is going to struggle to match what Kavanagh brings physically. Something to watch will be his health. Kavanagh is recovering from a labrum injury, and those typically do not have short recovery times. It’s also a fairly common thing to reinjure once you have hurt it once. On talent and toughness alone, Kavanagh is a top three pick. But a coach with concerns about injuries and availability may wait to see how he holds up this spring before drafting him this high.
That first trio will be the top of the board for just about everyone coming into the draft, but the drop off after them isn’t all that big. Levi Anderson had first round talent last season. The Chaos even drafted him, hoping to convince him to go pro and not return to school. Anderson went in the first round of the NLL draft this year. His physical build and play style will give you Dhane Smith vibes. At 6’4, 205 lbs, Anderson is outstanding at using his lean frame and size to get what he wants on the field. He can play attack or midfield, and always dodges with his head up. He can be a scorer, in 2022 he had a nearly perfectly balanced 33 goals and 31 assists, while last he skewed much more towards being a score first player. The Hawks played 15 games, Anderson had at least a hat trick in ten of them. He’ll almost certainly finish his career as the all time scoring leader at St Joe’s. A plug and play pro both indoors and outdoors, midfield or attack, for any team. A question will be if Anderson wants to play PLL or pursue a Mann Cup, as he won’t be able to do both.
I may end up being higher on Jake Stevens than most, but I look at what midfielders are being asked to do in the PLL now, and I see a perfect fit in Stevens. A midfielder who only plays offense and can do just one or two things, or has to have the ball to be dangerous, is a dying breed. The PLL 19 man roster just doesn’t have enough spots for guys that specialized. You have to bring more to the table. Effective on both ends, efficient shooter, smart without the ball, if you can’t be impactful in all of those ways, you’ll get replaced by someone who can. Like Stevens. A two way midfielder with a box background, Stevens is a special combination of smart and gritty. Tough and precise. This year, he’ll play on a Cuse offense loaded with ball distributors and get to show off his shooting stroke. He’s also had multiple 60 ground ball seasons. Nobody is Zach Currier, but if you’re looking for the guy who touches as many stat categories as Currier does, it’s Stevens.
Next, a goalie in the top ten. Uncharted territory as long as I’ve been making these as far as I can remember. Liam Entenmann’s performance in the national championship game was Tillman Johnson level legendary. He was stopping shots like Neo stopping bullets in The Matrix, and doing it on the biggest stage in lacrosse (at any level). The number one goalie coming out of high school, a safe bet to be the preseason 1st team All American, and the backstop of Notre Dame for four years, starting every game in his career. We’ve had as many PLL drafts (5) as goalies drafted at this point, so to see one taken early in the draft would be unusual. In 2022, three goalies were taken, the earliest was Brett Dobson in the middle of round two. In the last three years, Entenmann hasn’t had a season save percentage worse than 57%, and has never had a GAA of more than 10.5 By far the top goalie on the board as of the fall.
Dyson Williams will head to Durham for his final year at Duke having started just about every game of his career there. 25 goals as a freshman, 60 last season, 151 for his career. Shooting 47% for his Duke career. All that said, and I mean this in the best way possible, you could make a case that Williams underproduced in his time at Duke. He’s been a secondary option or off ball threat for basically his entire career (he has 21 assists in four years). And he’ll get high praise for his skills as a lefty finisher. But make no mistake, Williams can be a dodger, he can distribute, he can do anything an offense needs. A natural lefty, he actually scored some right handed goals for Team Canada at World Championships as a dodger from X and running out of the box, something that has not happened much at all at Duke. Williams is already the #1 overall pick in the NLL draft. A team who can look beyond just his usage at Duke will see a truly special player.
Matt Brandau brings versatility to the attack spot, able to play at X or on wings. He does his best work attacking from X and that’s been his role at Yale since he became the primary weapon there, but early in his career he was effective as a wing player too. He has two 50+ goal seasons at Yale. He’s at 259 career points, split between 154 goals and 105 assists. He’s been a first team All American, earning the honor in 2022 with a 99 point season. Brandau has already played on an attack line that shares the ball incredibly well. Last year he, Chris Lyons, and Leo Johnson each had 60+ points. Brandau and Lyons both were over 70. The trio led the team by a wide margin in scoring. Brandau plays well with others, you don’t need to worry about finding a way to make him fit with your stars and current pieces. Like Shellenberger, he’s malleable and can do whatever your offense needs at a pro level.
The best natural offensive midfielder in the group, Graham Bundy somehow doesn’t get enough pub. Captain of the gold medal winning U-21 National Team. Multiple time first team All American. Unanimous Big East Midfielder of the Year. Unanimous first team All Big East twice. The St Louis native has started every game of his career, and in the last three full seasons, has never had less than 32 goals in a season. This year he’ll likely surpass players like Scott Urick and Andy Flick on the all time Hoya points list. With a 60+ point season, he’ll move all the way to 2nd all time in Hoya history, only behind Jake Carraway. Georgetown has been active in the portal in recent years, but Bundy remained steadily their best midfielder, an offensive leader and primary weapon. The team looking for this year’s Matt Campbell needs to take Graham Bundy.
Rounding out the Top 10, another midfielder, Eric Dobson. He is going to draw Sergio Perkovic comparisons just because of their stature and playstyle, and that they both went to Notre Dame. At 6’5, 235 lbs, Dobson is the biggest midfielder available and an absolute freight train of a dodger with a hammer of a righty shot. He’ll be a day one two point threat in the PLL. His shooting has also improved every year in college. As a freshman starter, he shot 20%. Last year, he took 30 more shots than he did as a freshman but shot just under 33%. That percentage and that volume from the midfield is pro ready. Dobson is also an interesting barometer for what pro coaches may be looking for. With all his physical tools and ability, Dobson is still primarily an offensive weapon, and hasn’t played a ton of two way lacrosse for the Irish. The pro game can be won and lost in transition, with effective subbing and play from one end to the other. If Dobson is a factor on both ends this spring, his stock skyrockets.
NOTABLE UNAVAILABLE PLAYERS:
CJ Kirst (Listed as a ‘25 by Cornell)
Cole Kastner (Expected to take a grad year for Basketball)
Sam English (Has two years of eligibility post transfer to Syracuse)
Jake Taylor (Returning to Notre Dame in 2025)
Brennan O’Neill, Duke
Connor Shellenberger, Virginia
Pat Kavanagh, Notre Dame
Levi Anderson, St Joseph’s
Dyson Williams, Duke
Players to Watch: Matt Brandau, TJ Malone, Ross Scott, Mike Robinson, Grayden Hogg, Josh Zawada, Payton Cormier, Garrett Degnon, Russell Melendez, Devon McLane, JJ Sillstrop, Michael Long, Christian Mule, Kyle Playsted, Matt Bohmer, Vince D’Alto, Jack Boyden, Toron Eccelston, Dylan Pallonetti, Jacob Greiner, Alex Slusher, Logan McGovern, Kurt Bruun, Jordan Hyde, Michael Boehm, Richie Connell, Devon Cowan
Holy weapons. As noted above, last year was the year of the defender. 2024 has enough offensive talent in it that it feels safe to say this year’s Ethan Rall, an undrafted player who is picked up post draft and dominates, could come from the above group. As with the defense last year, in the first edition of the board, I’m deliberately including a very large list, much larger than a feasible number of draftees. In fact, just listed there at attack, is nearly an entire draft worth of talent. The purpose here is to put all these players on your radar as fall ball continues and the spring approaches. The second is to make it clear that there is a stunning amount of pro level talent worth watching this year from all over the country. Outside of that first five, all of whom can be franchise cornerstone level players, the next group is deeply talented. Dyson Williams just went first overall in the NLL draft. His role at Duke has been as a lefty scorer and finisher, playing off guys like O’Neill and Andrew McAdorey. With Team Canada, Williams showed off his ability as a dodger both from the wing and from X, and even scored some righty goals as a dodger. Matt Brandau had a down spring last year by his standards, but is a 1st team All American level attackman. He is a jack of all trades at attack most comfortable playing from X, but has done it all for Yale since his freshman year. TJ Malone was picked up last year, but returned to school, so presumably he is back in the draft this year. With remarkable speed and explosiveness, Malone could be this year’s Brian Minicus. Ross Scott is gifted X attackman who is one of the best in the draft at getting separation from his man with elite elusiveness. You want shooters with ridiculous hands? Cormier is pro ready on the right side, and Grayden Hogg is already on the Team Canada radar with him. Garrett Degnon has a cannon from the left side. Michael Long has been a QB and star at Cornell for years, noticeably lifting the offense when he’s prominently involved. Jack Boyden, the Tufts transfer and DIII Player of the Year, is a walking highlight reel. Toron Eccelston brings physicality and incredible hands and dodging skills to St Joseph’s from DII National Champ Lenoir-Rhyne. The list here goes on and on, all of these players are good enough to be at PLL camp, some are already NLL draftees, and the fact that some will go undrafted is evidence to the depth in the 2024 draft. Many can return to school for another year, and will be on the board in 2025.
MIDFIELD, TUCKER DORDEVIC DIVISION
Graham Bundy, Georgetown
Eric Dobson, Notre Dame
Adam Poitras, Loyola
Reese Burek, Army
Noah Armitage, Stony Brook
Players to watch: Alex Vardaro, Brock Haley, Scott Cole, Griffin King, Thomas Bragg, Hugh Kelleher, Thomas Greenblatt, Christian Ronda, Shane Knobloch
This group is offense first options, purely on the field to put the ball in the net. They’ll have the athleticism to play on both ends but you’d rather sub them off for a defensive midfielder when possible. Graham Bundy and Eric Dobson were covered above, so let’s look at the rest of the midfield. Adam Poitras was taken second overall in the NLL draft, and has been a four year starter at Loyola. He’s played both attack and midfield for the Hounds, more midfield so I list him there even though he easily could be with the attackmen. Poitras is 6’2 and 180 lbs, the lefty is a great physical dodger, and can play both above and behind the goal. The Hill Academy product also has a very athletic family, his brother Matt Poitras plays for the Boston Bruins in the NHL. Reese Burek became the leader of the Army offense following the graduation of Brendan Nichtern, and immediately excelled as the top option. He started every game for the Black Knights over the last two years. Burek excels as an initiator and distributor. He also is comfortable in multiple spots, playing a lot of invert offense for Army while also playing above the goal. He’s comfortable enough behind the goal to even play as an attackman if needed. Finally, another player I am definitely going to be higher on than others, Noah Armitage. He’s another big midfielder, and plenty of PLL clubs have shown they like to bring in big bodies. At 6’4, 210, Armitage is just that. A second round pick in the NLL draft, Armitage is a tremendous shooter and finisher. He’s the guy you’re afraid of on extra man. Armitage hits the net with his shot 75% of the time, and has shot over 35% in each of the last two years; excellent accuracy from the midfield. He’s got great hands in front of the net, a classic “just put it near him and he’ll catch it” type Canadian player. While those typically come at attack, Armitage does it from the midfield with a body type that’s very hard to handle. Hugh Kelleher and Shane Knobloch have eligibility remaining if they want to use it, so for now they are in the player to watch list. But make no mistake, both of them project as PLL draft picks this year. Knobloch is maybe the best pure dodger in the group, and Kelleher has all the physical tools that Dobson has. Brock Haley and Thomas Greenblatt are both players that can shoot up the list. Haley is another Canadian who moves seamlessly between attack and midfield. He spent two years as a first line midfielder and another starting at attack for UVM. As with other midfielders on the pro radar, he has both position and skill set versatility. Greenblatt has been playing under the radar at Binghamton, but he is a standout passer. He’s had more assists than goals in each of the last two years, and holds the single season record for assists at Binghamton. This year, he’ll play for Ohio State, and playing in the Big Ten will afford him a stage to really show off what he can do. Scott Cole is another name to watch, as he’ll likely be the top option for Lehigh this year with Christian Mule gone to Cuse. Cole was the Offensive Player of the Year in the Patriot League a year ago, he racked up five points per game which was top five in the country. Cole has played both attack and midfield for Lehigh, and is very much a candidate to be a rapid riser.
MIDFIELD, LATRELL HARRIS DIVISION
Jake Stevens, Princeton/Syracuse
Beau Pederson, Princeton/Michigan
Patrick Hackler, Yale
Chase Yager, Harvard/UVA
Jake Titus, Union/Syracuse
Players to Watch: Brandon Aviles, Grant Haus, Tucker Garrity, Ricky Miezan
This group is more two way options or pure short stick defenders. Stevens we covered in the opener with the Top 10 overall. If you are looking for a pure SSDM, Beau Pederson is the pick of the class. 6’3, 205 lbs, the Park City native has been a force for Princeton. Originally recruited as an offensive midfielder, and playing there as a freshman, he moved to the other side of the ball and was immediately an impact player. He is this year’s Piper Bond. Defenses can trust him to cover on day one, and he has the skills to start transition and play wings. Patrick Hackler is good at everything. He’s been a top pair SSDM at Yale, he could be a first line midfielder on offense, he takes wings, he’ll play man down, he’s Yale’s new Brian Tevlin. Hackler holds the record for TD passes in a high school season in NY. He’s been a Team USA guy with the U-19 team and a gold medal winner as a U-21. Yale will use him to do just about everything, and that versatility makes him incredibly valuable at the pro level where rosters are short. He can take another year if he wants it. Chase Yager makes the move from Harvard to UVA for a grad year. He’s had quite the academic career, going from Amherst to Harvard to UVA. Athletically, Yager can run with anyone. He caused 14 turnovers a year ago, and had at least one ground ball in every game, racking up 27 on the season. His footspeed and lateral quickness are what jump out most about him. Finally Jake Titus will be at Syracuse this season after an outstanding DIII career at Union. A case could be made that Titus was the best SSDM in all of DIII lacrosse the last two years. He had fifth pole status at that level, a matchup eraser. Like the other midfielders in this group, he has the skill to get the ball going from defense to offense. As the PLL accelerates the game, a premium is put on players who don’t need to sub. Titus can run the clear and be a threat, he doesn’t have to just run right off. Brandon Aviles transfers from Cuse to Hopkins for a grad year. Aviles was a top short stick defensive middie when he stepped on campus for Cuse as a freshman, starting immediately. He has an insanely high motor, and flies around freely doubling even as a shorty. The one concern is that he’s missed time with injuries, and coaches will want someone who can handle the physical play at the PLL level. Grant Haus had an outstanding year for Penn State a year ago, and will be their top SSDM this year. And yes, it’s the same Haus. PLL coaches will know the caliber of player and person they are getting because of how many Haus’s have been successful at the pro level. Grant is good enough to be there without the name, make no mistake about it. He picked up 35 ground balls a year ago. Tucker Garrity out of Jacksonville has emerged as a top SSDM over the past few years for the Dolphins. Garrity had a whopping 26 caused turnovers a season ago, just one behind now Chrome defenseman Troy Hettinger. He’s a ground ball machine who also can have an impact on wings. Finally, there’s Ricky Miezan. You know the story by now. Miezan was a top lacrosse recruit in the nation, but opted to play linebacker for Stanford instead. After a football career he transferred to UVA for a grad year back on the lacrosse field, spending most of the year as a second line midfielder. Athletically, he blows everyone away. Listed at 6’2, 235 lbs, Miezan got to UVA and actually had to LOSE weight to get the body and speed he needed to be a dodger. His pure athletic ability will have him on PLL draft boards. That is, if he’s there. Rumors were abound that there was an effort to get Miezan another year at UVA eligibility. I had heard it was a serious long shot, but if he’s back for another year of lax, look out.
Kenny Brower, Duke
Marcus Hudgins, Army/Ohio State
Jake Piseno, Albany
Mason Woodward, Marquette
Ajax Zapitello, Maryland
Players to Watch: Jackson Bonitz, Pat Morrison, Jack Stuzin, Roy Meyer, Greg Campisi, Nick Alviti, Mitchell Dunham, Tyler Carpenter, Matt Wright, AJ Mercurio, Michael Grace, Jackson Canfield, Ryan Shriber, Jack Follows, Scott Smith
It won’t get the same hype as last year’s class, but this is hardly a weak position group. Kenny Brower has been an every game starter for Duke for his career, guarding the top matchup in every game for the last two, and most of his sophomore season. Brower is outstanding off the ground, better than almost anyone at the position this year. He’s already been a gold medalist with the Team USA U-21 team. He isn’t nearly the transition threat as others in the group however. Marcus Hudgins is back at Ohio State this year for a final season, and is part of what might be the most purely athletic defense in the sport. Hudgins Has been an All American and was Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year at Army before transferring. He led Ohio State in CTs a year ago, and is the most athletic defender in the class. He’s malleable, can approach and play anyone. Big attackman, small attackman, change of direction or straight line speed, Hudgins can handle it all. Jake Piseno’s star has been rising since he was the Most Outstanding Defender at World Championships last year, where he was a force for the Haudenosaunee. He has also risen in the box lacrosse world, and was taken in the NLL draft this year. Piseno will be a target for teams looking for their own Ethan Rall. He’s a monster between the lines, and is aggressive with checks to win the ball. In 2023 he had 50 CTs, a number that some defensive players approach for their career. Being undersized may have hurt his stock in the past, but given the success smaller guys like Rall are having in the the PLL in that role, Piseno’s stock is continuing to rise. Mason Woodward has been lost in the shuffle a bit because he’s at Marquette, a team casual fans don’t watch as much as some of the blue bloods. Make no mistake, Woodward could start for anyone in the nation. At 6’2, 210 lbs, he’s got the body to guard physical attackmen and win a leverage battle, but he also has excellent footwork to play angles against quicker attackmen. A Garrett Epple comp for him isn’t outrageous. He had 70 GBs last season, and added some offensive skills to his arsenal scoring five goals. Zapitello will be the top defender at Maryland this year and has won matchups with Connor Shellenberger, he’s pro ready. It’s a group full of players ready to come to a pro camp and compete The rest of the poles all are solid players to teams will be happy to get if they miss out on the top five. Miss out on Piseno? Roy Meyer, Matt Wright, Tyler Carpenter, and Mitchell Dunham are all great options. Meyer has been a first team All American and a CT machine for BU, and now his DC is Jack Rowlett so expect those numbers to climb even further. Dunham is the best LSM you haven’t watched yet. The reigning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year for Mount St Mary’s, he’s a Team Canada level pole. 6’5, 210 lbs, led the team in ground balls and caused turnovers with 75 and 32, respectively. He has eligibility left after this year. Miss out on Woodward? You’ve got Bonitz and Canfield there. And win. Some of the players on the watch list are just there because they can technically return for another year of school. Jack Stuzin is a terror between the lines that PLL teams love, but he has another year of eligibility should he decide to take it after his Yale career ends.
Liam Entenmann, Notre Dame
Logan McNaney, Maryland
Will Mark, LIU/Syracuse
Players to watch: Chayse Ierlan, Jared Paquette, Caleb Creasor, Seamus Fagan
Liam Entenmann enters the year as the clear #1. McNaney is very athletic, and is the closest goalie in this draft to a player like Colin Kirst. He’s already got a ring and a NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player award to his name. He missed last year with a knee injury but if he returns to his form from 2022, he’ll be a candidate to be the second goalie drafted. Will Mark has one more year at Syracuse. On the season, you can go look at the numbers and maybe not be blown away. Save percentage just under 52%, 13.6 GAA. Not stunning by any means. But most of that is the result of the defense getting torched in front of him by ACC opponents late in the season. Mark had one of his best games of the year in March against Duke, going over 60%. Ierlan can be streaky, but when he’s hot, he is RED HOT. If he plays consistently well for Hopkins this year, he’ll gain a lot of steam towards a pro roster spot. Jared Paquette will have another year outside the Ivy if he wants it, but he’s already been a Team USA U-19 goalie, and has been a starter for his career, unseating a goalie who won a national championship. He was under fire a lot last season as Yale’s defense wasn’t great, and Paquette made 216 regular season saves in 17 games, nearly 13 a game, despite being hung out to dry several times per game. Caleb Creasor can be a big riser this season, as he has been a backup at Lehigh for the past four years but now is at Marquette. Creasor is a Team Canada goalie, the talent is undeniable, but he’s been behind netminders like Colin Kirst and James Spence. Finally, Seamus Fagan has been a DIII goalie of the year, and is at Rutgers this year. He regressed a bit in his final year at Hamilton, but if he wins the starting job with Rutgers he’ll have an opportunity to shine.
Luke Wierman, Maryland
Alec Stathakis, Denver
Jake Naso, Duke
Players to watch: Tommy Burke, Mason Kohn, Angelo Petrakis, Justin Wietfeldt, Justin Coppola, Luke Williams
Faceoff is a position of serious interest because…no one knows what’s happening. As of now, the PLL rule adjustment to a 32 second shot clock after a faceoff win remains in place. This change resulted in the Waterdogs and Cannons going entirely without faceoff specialists most of the last season, and the Chrome trying it as well for a pair of games. If the status quo remains, it’s possible no faceoff men are drafted. Mike Sisselberger handled the prevent well, and may become the player that teams look to as the prototype specialist going forward. Regardless, if a team wants a specialist, they need to know that player can do more than win faceoffs; he also needs to have strong stick skills, absorb contact and pressure, and protect the ball. At 6’1, 211 lbs, Luke Wierman has the physical build to be PLL ready, with or without the 32 second clock. He committed multiple turnovers in a game, as in more than one, just a single time in 2023. 16 games, eight turnovers, committed two in the opener and then never had more than one in a game. In 2022 he was an offensive threat with 15 points in 18 games. He’s the best on the board for the PLL. Stathakis is the most gifted physically in this group. He’s built like Sisselberger but a bit taller, coming in at 5’11 and 220 lbs. He also has very low turnover rates, and absorbs contact and abuse as well as anyone. Stathakis had Trevor Baptiste comps coming out of high school. He isn’t quite the offensive threat that Wierman would be. Jake Naso had an outstanding 2023, and was a 1st team All American. His turnover numbers are a decent tick up from Wierman and Stathakis, and that’s now a critical stat for faceoff specialists. In the next group, Tommy Burke could be a major riser with a big year at Ohio State after dominating for UVM. Justin Wietfeldt was half a dynamic duo with Nick Rowlett last season, and will get the chance to shine with the full spotlight this spring. If the rule gets reverted in the PLL, this will become a very interesting group to watch, as suddenly at least two teams will have a very strong need at the position.