In case you missed it, the PLL Championship Series has been set for February 14-19 at The St James, just outside Washington DC. As covered in another post, all four teams will likely be dealing with some players being unavailable, either due to NLL obligations or other reasons. Last year, teams were permitted to sign players from the pool to Championship Series deals, effectively a one week deal that keeps the player with the team for the tournament. These are a special opportunity because it gives teams the chance to add a player in a legitimate competitive setting and evaluate.
There are, of course, a few names that are reasonable expectations to add. They’ve been on and off rosters already, and are safe bets to be adds here. Look for guys like Harrison Bardwell, Gibson Smith, Tommy Palasek, Christian Mazzone, and others will some PLL experience to get a call and possibly a spot for the week. I’d like to call out a few names that might be PLL ready, but just haven’t gotten the opportunity quite yet to earn a PLL spot. Players in these formats can play their way into regular spots in the summer. Marc O’Rourke and Brendan Krebs did it last year. Who will be this year’s breakout? A few players I’d be interested in:
Tough to call out just one, because multiple teams will need one. Brett Dobson and Dillon Ward both will have NLL duties, so the Archers and Waterdogs are without their starters. Colin Kirst, should be a gameday regular for the Desert Dogs, would be unavailable for the Cannons. There could be, at a minimum, three goalie positions open at the Championship Series, and they’d be on the top three teams from a year ago. It’s a very special opportunity. Last Championship Series, Brendan Krebs had yet to play a PLL minute. He performed well for Archers and caught the eye of Whipsnakes coach Jim Stagnitta. He was brought to Whips camp, and made the roster as a third goalie. Now with the retirement of Brian Phipps, Krebs is firmly the Whips goalie of the future. That all started at the Championship Series. There’s a few ways to go with filling the spot.
Waterdogs had Jason Rose with them last season when Ward was unavailable. As a known commodity, the Waterdogs know what they’re getting, Rose knows the Dogs personnel, it’s a little bit easier than bringing in a totally new face. In a format that players will still be getting used to, finding even that little bit of trust and recognition is valuable. The path of adding the player you already know and trusting them for the week, along with Matt DeLuca, is a reasonable one.
Teams may opt for a player that knows the format if they can. Last year, Reed Junkin joined the Whips after an injury to Kyle Bernlohr. Junkin has experience in the Championship Series and the pace of the game. The PLL’s version of Sixes is its own animal, and someone who’s played it and is more prepared is a solid option.
Finally, teams can go with a total unknown. Find a college player who hasn’t gotten an opportunity yet, likely because of just how limited goalie spots are in the PLL, and try them out. A few names I’d think might get a call are Ryan Cornell, Erik Peters, and Matt Kilkeary. Cornell is a known to Nick Washuta and the Archers as a UVM alum. Coach Brian Kavanagh coached Cornell during his time with the Catamounts. He graduated in 2022 after winning America East Defensive Player of the Year. Cornell is an exceptionally athletic goalie out of the cage and great on outlets. He plays angles well. Prime traits for a Sixes goalie. Matt Kilkeary went to camp with the Redwoods this past year. Unless Jack Kelly or Tim Troutner can’t make it, the Woods won’t need a goalie, but Kilkeary impressed in training camp by all accounts and showed PLL ability. Kilkeary is a Delaware alum, and overlapped with Deluca for a season with the Hens. He had three straight years with a save percentage of at least 53%. Finally, a bit of a dark horse, but there’s Erik Peters. He finished at Princeton in 2022, and if his career hadn’t been severely truncated by COVID (he started five games in 2020 before the season was canceled, and then all of 2021 was canceled by the Ivy League), he’d likely have had much more publicity and be more known as a pro level prospect. He made a whopping 217 saves in 2022, and finished with a 55.5% save percentage. Teams looking to go away from the knowns and really evaluate new goalies that haven’t seen pro action should be checking in on him.
I was very puzzled at what seemed like a lack of interest in Farrare as a prospect out of Penn. A freakishly athletic LSM, Ferrare appeared in basically every game in his Penn career. His 2022 season saw him notch eight points, including six assists, and picking 55 ground balls while causing 16 turnovers. Only one LSM makes All American teams, and because the position has been stacked at the college level, Farrare ended up honorable mention twice, but never better. Farrare has also dropped his pole and played SSDM at times for Penn. His skillset could not be better suited for clubs looking to add a bit more on the defensive and defense-to-offense transition part of the roster. As I type this, the name “Farrare” autocorrects to “Ferrari” and that makes sense. Farrare wins GBs, covers well, has the skills to handle the ball, and has pro level speed and footwork. If he’s available, everyone with openings should be interested.
McCormack was a stud at Middlebury for four years before finishing his career at UVM in 2022. That season in Burlington, he tallied 40 goals, one of the ten most prolific scoring seasons in UVM history. With McCormack, it’s the stat sheet that tells you he’d fit the format. Shoots 34% from the midfield, can play either at attack or midfield, only 16 turnovers, and hits the net over 60% of the time. Combine that with his 6’2, 215 lb frame, and you’ve got yourself a Sixes player. The trick here will be availability. McCormack works in lacrosse, as part of the Denver lacrosse staff. The Championship Series overlaps with the very opening of the college lacrosse season, and it’s difficult to imagine Denver missing their Director of Lacrosse Operations for a weekend. But if he can play, he’s a name of interest.
Zinn played a game with the Chaos last summer, but didn’t stick on the roster once the NLL stars game back. Still, Zinn’s skillset is a good match for Sixes. Originally recruited as an offensive midfielder to Hopkins, he was a 2nd line midfielder his first year with the Jays. He ultimately transferred to UVA, and became part of their top SSDM pairing. That alone is a testament to his athleticism. His speed in particular is eyepopping. Watching him run in the open field, in transition, it’s clear he has a gear that most others just don’t have. The knock has been the decision making, sometimes in the clearing game, but that honestly gets diminished in Sixes. A clear in this format is that Zinn runs about 10 steps, that’s it. There’s no set pressure rides to navigate, he can just do what he does best. Because of his movement between spots at midfield and his athleticism, he’s an interesting Sixes prospect.
Borda spent a large chunk of the year on the Waterdogs roster, and impressed a great deal in camp, but the glut of talent at the midfield spot for Waterdogs meant Borda didn’t make the 19 man roster much. But he’s very much a PLL level midfielder. He has the size at 6’4, 210 lbs, and the athleticism to get up and down in this format. He shot 34% at Ohio State as a grad student. For his college career, he committed 30 turnovers. In five years. Ball security and is massive in this Sixes, and Borda takes good care of it. His SOG% could probably be higher, but all the other stats could make him a fit.
In case you can’t tell, when I’m looking for players for my Sixes roster, I’m looking for speed, athleticism, and shooting in some good combination. Naturally we arrive at Jeremy Winston. Everyone first took note of him his freshman year at Jacksonville when he hung four goals on Ohio State. Winston, like Zinn above, just has a different level of speed than everyone else on the field. While at Jacksonville, coach John Galloway said he believed Winston had the ability to play running back in college; Winston also ran track in high school. He is a flash of a midfielder. The shooting percentage is a bit lower than some others on the list at 28%. Again, in Sixes, a missed shot is a turnover, there’s no backup, so you want as high a number as you can get there. But he puts it on net 56% of the time in five years at Jacksonville, and that’s a good mark. He also is an exceptional character guy; he’s a foundational part of the Jacksonville program and was a team captain his last year as a Dolphin.