Atlas have a new man at the helm in Head Coach/GM Mike Pressler. Coach Pressler was in a unique position. Two of the first three picks, but with a roster that already looks built for a championship run. Players that are big impact players, future franchise cornerstones, and fill needs, but don’t throw the current group of the trajectory they are on. It’s a difficult needle to thread, but the Atlas nailed it. The picks:
Selections: Gavin Adler, Brett Makar, Xander Dickson, Payton Rezanka, Kyle Long
Best Pick: Xander Dickson
Biggest Risk: None, this was off the charts.
With the first pick they go Gavin Adler, and then two picks later Brett Makar. With Owen Grant going to the Woods in between, this is a savvy move from Pressler. You have completely cut off the rest of the league from the top defensive poles. Anyone who held out hope they might get one of the big four is left adjusting their board in the opening minutes of the draft. Outside of the strategy and GM chess of it all, the two picks are also just really good. Adler is the best defender in the class, and can guard anyone. He has locked up players like Jack Myers, who try to win physically, and he has locked up speedier players like Matt Brandau. He overlapped with Jeff Teat at Cornell, and the word was at practice, Adler locked him up too. He’s also a monster on ground balls, he does it all. He won’t be the transition offensive weapon of others, but that’s not why you’re taking a defenseman at one either. Makar would be the top pole taken in just about any other year. He is a slight step below Adler in coverage and off the ground, but still at absolutely ready to guard PLL attackmen. As you build the defense of the future, Makar will be the leader of it. The question is, who’s out? Tucker Durkin is probably getting ready to start his three year wait for the Hall of Fame, Makar is an obvious heir apparent there. Craig Chick and Koby Smith are rock solid at the LSM spot. That leaves where you put Adler. I consider Cade Van Raaphorst the league’s best help defender, and one of the smartest players in the league. I’d look at Adler to win the spot over Rexrode, and join Makar and CVR on a defense that could stay together for years.
The real steal here for Atlas is Xander Dickson. Pressler was clear about wanting a complimentary offensive player. Someone who is dangerous without the ball, is smart, and can pressure a defense that way, as Atlas has plenty of initiators. Dickson is the best in the draft at that role. Anyone who has watched UVA in the past few years knows. Dickson plays in what is basically a pro offense at UVA as well, so you can count on the adjustment being straightforward. While the immediate reaction was about putting him on attack with Gray and Teat, I will not tolerate that sort of Eric Law erasure. The real scary thing is handling Dickson coming out of the box to be on the field with Law together. There will be dunks. The other offensive option taken was Kyle Long, one of the better passers in the draft. Bonus that he’s a midfielder. To get a handle on what Kyle Long is capable of, watch Maryland’s Final Four tape from last season. He can separate against poles, then he is immediately eyes up, throwing passes through defenses with pinpoint accuracy. His skips to Logan Wisnauskas in that game were things that not many college players can do. He’s been down this year, but surrounded by pros, he can return to form.
Rezanka was a steal when Atlas got him in round three. His a first round level SSDM talent. He missed the cut for Team USA, but to do that, you need to be a college player in the mix to make Team USA. At SSDM that’s not easy. Rezanka next to Logan will present a pair of strong, physical SSDMs that will be brutal to deal with. Rezanka can also get his share of CTs.
This draft really couldn’t have gone better for Atlas. Great pick after great pick. They may want to add another faceoff specialist for camp for depth behind Baptiste, and Mercer’s Ashton Wood is a good name for them.