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PLL Draft: Press Conference takeaways

Utah Archers

As defending champs, Utah picks last in round one. Given the mystery around what’s happening with the rest of the first round, it’s anyone’s guess who they select. 

“There’s unpredictability, the thing that I’ve learned through all these drafts is you never really know what’s going to happen. You have to be able to think on your feet a little bit. We have general sense of what we’re looking for and have mapped out, sort of pick by pick, but again, I think a strength of ours has been ‘Wow, there’s Matt Moore. We didn’t expect Matt Moore here.’” said Bates.

Utah have their own four picks, the last in each of the four rounds, and acquired the 13th overall pick. There are some needs for Archers despite being the defending champ, created by losses on the defense end. The deal for the 13th pick meant sending LSM Jared Conners to the Redwoods. Matt McMahon retired, and Bates said “Treezy [Latrell Harris] is out” so SSDM is a need. 

“Defensively, given our numbers, I think that’s an area we’ll strengthen. Whether it’s early or mid. We’re not going to compromise. We’re going to get the best value we can get. We did bring Patrick Shoemay, who is going to play for us,” said Bates. 

Given that SSDM and defense are not particularly deep in this draft, it feels like the Archers will go to that end of the field early. 

New York Atlas

New York has three of the first ten picks of the draft, with picks two and ten being their own, and five coming over from California in a deal that sent Chris Gray to the Redwoods. With those assets and the level of talent, New York is well positioned to address needs. 

Head Coach Mike Pressler said he anticipates Brennan O’Neill being the first player selected. The Atlas lefty attack spot is currently occupied by Jeff Teat, so the Atlas won’t be too bothered by missing out on O’Neill and instead getting their choice of righties to step into Chris Gray’s spot. If things don’t go that way, Pressler said he feels organized and prepared for a number of different scenarios last year, whereas last year at times it felt like they were scrambling. 

“We’ve done our homework. We talked to, you know, 50 coaches out there, talked to DII and DIII guys, just to overturn the rock and try to find somebody that maybe nobody else has thought about,” said Pressler. 

Atlas with three top ten picks should be well positioned to get exactly what they need to improve. Despite defensive losses to retirement in the form of Jack Concannon and Tucker Durkin, Pressler said they have some "captains in training" including Brett Makar and Bryan Costabile, and that Danny Logan has been named a team captain.

Boston Cannons

Head Coach and GM Brian Holman has already made a number of moves, acquiring Connor Kirst and Bryce Young via trade, while signing Garrett Epple in free agency. With 

Interesting for the Cannons, the changes in the rules for faceoffs won’t be changing the Cannons approach at the position.

“I spent a lot of time in the offseason trying to get somebody to convince me to do it otherwise, and then I just can’t. Our approach, you know, we’re going to run three or four guys out there and we’re going to see how it works,” said Holman, adding that he doesn’t know if there’s a player in the draft who can go 50%-plus against Trevor Baptiste, TD Ierlan, Mike Sisselberger, or Joe Nardella. 

Elsewhere, Holman wanted to add some depth and the middle of the field

“I still would like to be more explosive. It’s a fast league, a fast game, that’s won in the middle of the field. I think there’s areas to improve between the lines for us. Whether that’s short stick D middie, just midfield in general or even long stick. There’s guys in this draft that have the ability to get one from end of the field to the other and make really god decisions,” said Holman. 

The comment about even adding LSM, and being more explosive, was interesting. Kyle Hartzell joins the Cannons as the DC this year, and Holman said that Hartzell is a “film fanatic” and has a list of LSMs that fit. Cannons taking Jake Piseno, or starting a run on SSDMs and two way midfielders, could happen.

Carolina Chaos

Coach Andy Towers sent the signals in the offseason with some of the free agent signings. In pre-draft availability, he confirmed that the Chaos are shifting offensive philosophies. While in the past, they had more highly valued a box background and skill set, it’s not necessarily as important anymore. Towers gave two reasons for this, the first being that the rest of the league has caught up and uses more box players, giving them the opportunity to better prepare to play Chaos. The second has to do with the availability of certain players on his roster. Dhane Smith, Ryan Smith, and Chris Cloutier are all currently on the hold out list. As such, Towers said the Chaos have gone, “all in on a change in philosophy”. 

“We still value the players on our roster with those respective skill sets. They’re still among the very best players on the planet and they’re going to help us extensively. But we are going to play a different style of offense, and we made that decision before free agency,” Towers said, adding, “We feel very fortunate about who we were able to add in Jules, in Sergio, in Kevin Rogers. We are very clear on where we want to go and the type of players we need to have in order for us to get there,” said Towers. 

The change in philosophy opens a lot of doors for the Chaos in the draft. In past years, it was easy to assemble a sort of separate pool of draft talent with box skills the Chaos would target. Now, that’s all gone. Given the moves they’ve made, and the way Towers looks to be building the offense, players like Shane Knobloch and Matt Brandau suddenly look like excellent fits for Carolina.

Denver Outlaws

Head Coach Tim Soudan holds the first overall pick in the draft, and given the three players in contention for the spot, he’ll set the tone for the night. 

The discussion has come down to Brennan O’Neill vs Connor Shellenberger. O’Neill represents the best available player, and a person with physical gifts and skills that simply do not come along in pro drafts often, if ever. Shellenberger is the ideal QB attackman, at his best behind the cage distributing with both hands. As of 4pm when he met he media, Soudan said he still wasn’t sure where they were going.

“There’s a strong pull from Brennan O’Neill, and then there’s a strong pull from others that might suit our needs a little bit better. We’re still weighing those out,” said Soudan. 

Soudan said two other clubs approached him about acquiring the first pick in the draft, but the price tag was too high. “I asked for the world, and didn’t get it” Soudan said. Other trade scenarios also still exist, with Soudan saying that the possibility of trading up from the ninth pick back into the first round “is still on the table”. 

Outlaws pick at one, nine, and eleven. Soudan said they expect to get dynamic offensive weapons to round out their offense. It’s no secret which side the ball the Outlaws will look to improve on, the only question left is, can they pass on Brennan O’Neill?

California Redwoods

Coach Nat St Laurent’s group has undergone some major changes. On the defense end, Eddy Glazener and John Sexton retired, while reigning Defenseman of the Year Garrett Epple signed a free agent deal with Boston. On the offense end, Jules Heningburg, Sergio Perkovic, and Kevin Rogers all signed free agent deals with Carolina. The Redwoods are being remade. Part of that included a pair of trades made this offseason, as the Woods acquired Chris Gray and Jared Conners from New York and Utah respectively. The deals saw Redwoods picks going back, so California won’t have a selection until the third round. 

Coach St Laurent said the team had initially tried to trade up into the top two in the draft, but it didn’t come together. Then when the Chris Gray deal came along, they jumped at it. “If Chris Gray was available at five in any draft ever, you’d take him and run,” said St Laurent.

In terms of positions of need, St Laurent mentioned a few spots.

“Midfield a bit more, we do have a goalie spot that we want to fill and this is a great draft for that position. So midfield, goalie, and then we’re always looking. Potentially a defender as well,” he said. At midfield, St Laurent mentioned Jake Stevens specifically, and said he would be in favor of trying to move up to get him.

St Laurent, as all PLL coaches did on the day, remarked on depth. He said the team aspires to go 10 deep at each position on their draft board, and this year, they really did it.

Redwoods picking late might seem like it means they’ll miss out on stars, but in this draft, they’ll get bonafide 19 man players on offense. 

Philadelphia Waterdogs

It was the first PLL press conference for new Waterdogs Head Coach and GM Bill Tierney. Hardly his first interaction with the media however, as Tierney is a legend in the college coaching ranks. Turning to the pro level, Tierney was clear about the types of players he is looking for. He also spoke about the age at the defensive end of the field, signaling that the Waterdogs could be targeting that end to get younger and better. Tierney’s defenses are built on outstanding help defense and slide packages, and smart, savvy defenders who can do more than just cover would fit his style.

“We’ve got a great group especially at the defensive end of older guys, who have been around the block together, and if we go in that direction, some of the younger defensive guys will be mentored by the older guys,” Tierney said, noting that the Waterdogs starting defense is near or over the age of 30. 

Tierney made it clear the Waterdogs didn’t want to upset what was already built. “I can tell you after 42 years of coaching college lacrosse, there are many young men who came into my office that you knew right away were not a fit. It’s the same here, we’re not going to sacrifice the culture and the good group of guys for a great player. It’s just not worth it,” he said.

Tierney’s comments seemed to suggest two things. Culture would be paramount, and no level of talent would be worth a bad culture fit. And that getting younger on the defensive end was part of the strategy. 

Maryland Whipsnakes

Coach Jim Stagnitta was asked quickly about the top of the draft class. The Whipsnakes haven’t always had selections at the top of the draft; this year, they’ll pick third overall. With a “big three” of Brennan O’Neill, Connor Shellenberger, and Pat Kavanagh, the Whips could come away with a serious offensive weapon. But for the Whips, it’s not that easy. Bryce Young and Connor Kirst were traded, and Michael Ehrhardt retired, leaving some holes to fill on the defensive end. The Whipsnakes also have no second round pick, and won’t make a selection between third overall and seventeenth overall. With that gap, how critical is it to get the pick at three right for the team?

“What we're looking at is, can we fulfill one of those needs at 17, as compared to having to fill it at 3. A couple positions, there's much more depth. You can interpret that however you'd like,” said Stagnitta. 

Attack has plenty of depth in this draft, while close defense was not, and Stagnitta was very much sending a signal that he wants to be sure to lock up a defender early.

Further making that point, Stagnitta operates a consulting business as well, and his network includes leaders in other major pro sports. In talking to members of that network, Stagnitta said the advice he got was, draft to your needs. Not what the public or experts say should be done, but draft to what is in the team’s best interest.


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