The PLL Draft has been announced. May 9th, broadcasted live on ESPNU, we’ll meet the 2023 draft class.. With that, this will be the final iteration of the Big Board. I’ve added some more names to watch, shuffled a bit, and we have a section at the end of players to watch for next year (it’s never too soon). Also, we now also have seen the first Big Board from Paul Carcaterra, who puts out a Top 10 every year. He and I are pretty similar, but by all means seek that out too. If you’re new to this, the concept of the Big Board is a listing/ranking of players who are current college seniors or grad students, making them eligible for the next Premier Lacrosse League College Draft. The draft is set, players look pro ready, we’re loving what we’re seeing. 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 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. 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. This is the last update for the Big Board this year, from here on out, it’ll just be features. But we have had some great movement. Garrett Leadmon stands out as a guy who really has played his way up lists this year. 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. Tye Kurtz has been a big riser for me as well, should he be available.
3. COVID and Grad eligibility are still monkey wrenching this whole show. Almost done with it, but not quite yet. 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 return to school, if they’re seniors that 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, which already has a few occupants. Expect that to grow. Players have forgone eligibility before, as recently as last year when Dobson went pro, and 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, meaning he can play college ball in 2024 as well even though he’s a senior. Several Princeton players entered the portal already for grad years as well, they’ll play outside the Ivy. Many names on the Players to Watch lists at each position are there because they may have eligibility remaining.
4. I watch a lot of lacrosse. Maybe too much. But the college lacrosse world is an enormous place, and 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” you can let me know which of those “Dan is clueless” situations apply via the Sticks In mailbag or on social media.
Without further ado, the final Big Board:
1. Sam Handley, Midfield, Penn
2. Will Bowen, Defense, UNC/Georgetown
3. Gavin Adler, Defense, Cornell
4. Owen Grant, Defense, Delaware
5. Brett Makar, Defense, Maryland
6. Kyle Long, Midfield, Maryland
7. Tucker Dordevic, Attack/Midfield, Syracuse/Georgetown
8. Matt Campbell, Midfield, Villanova
9. Mike Sisselberger, Faceoff Specialist, Lehigh
10. Zach Cole, Faceoff Specialist, Saint Joe’s
Notable Unavailable Seniors:
Matt Brandau, Yale Marcus Hudgins, Army/Ohio State Sam English, Princeton Jake Stevens, Princeton Beau Pederson, Princeton Graham Bundy, Georgetown Luke Wierman, Maryland Logan McNaney, Maryland Jack Boyden, Tufts Tommy Burke, UVM Pat Kavanagh, Notre Dame
Handley remains at one. I don’t want to overthink it. He’s a unicorn. His year hasn’t maybe been as dominant as some had expected, but I think the expectations for him were also something like “The Juggernaut Plays Lacrosse”. Carc has Adler at one, makes plenty of sense. Adler is the best cover defender in the draft, the best on ground balls in the draft, and because Cornell shows some zone with regularity, you know Adler can also be elite as a help defender. It’ll raise some eyebrows for Adler to be where he is, but only because of the regard we all hold Handley in. The list of players who can make Adler’s size a factor is very, very small. But Handley is it. He already did it this year. Adler has successfully erased Jack Myers, he’s successfully erased Matt Brandau. He’ll cover anyone. For now, I’m still taking Bowen as the top defender just with a slight edge because of size and athleticism. I’m probably higher than Long than many at this point, as he hasn’t been the offensive force that Maryland might need him to be at times this season. I still consider him to be the best passer, maybe regardless of position, in the entire draft. With a cast of pros around him, I think you’ll see him back to the form he had a year ago. A new addition to the top ten as a wild Matt Campbell appears. Jack Myers drops off for now for me. Campbell has really excelled this season, appearing at both midfield and attack for Villanova. The shooting percentage is still lower than where I’d want to see it as a PLL coach; Campbell has never had a 30% shooting season. But the assist total is what’s boosting his stock for me right now. He’s at 21, one off his career high of 22 last year, with several games left to go. He’ll likely be a 40+ goal scorer again. The turnover numbers are fairly low given just how much he drives the offense and again, drives the offense as a midfielder. Don’t be surprised if Campbell ends up being taken in the 1st round. Some players are almost better suited for the pro game than the college game, like Jack Hannah, and adapt quickly. Campbell looks like that. Carc has McConvey higher into the Top 10 than I do, which makes plenty of sense. If someone tells you they’d rather take McConvey, don’t be surprised. He’s already been the top pick in the NLL draft, and he’s a player who is as malleable as any in the draft. Whoever takes him, he fits. John Grant Jr is clearly adding some indoor elements and personnel to the Woods, he could take McConvey at two. Owen Grant also moves up the list as he has expanded his impact on both ends of the field drastically. Ultimately, the first round could see several defensemen taken early. It’s a special year for the position. Finally, my top two faceoff specialists now move to the bottom of the Top 10. They’re both pros, no doubt about it. Should be the first two faceoff specialists taken. But I think others have played their way into a positions where I think they’re safer bets as pros, particularly because faceoff is such a challenging adjustment to make at the pro level.
1. Tucker Dordevic, Syracuse/Georgetown
2. Jack Myers, Ohio State
3. Dylan Watson, Georgetown/Jacksonville
4. Tye Kurtz, Delaware
5. Brian Cameron, UNC/Rutgers
Players to watch: Logan McGovern, Dylan Pallonnetti, Xander Dickson, Max Waldbaum, Sean Goldsmith, Tim Ley, Cross Ferrera
Tye Kurtz should get drafted if he’s available. It’s possible he has eligibility remaining, but he’s earned the mention with his play this season. Kurtz is likely to end his Delaware career as the all time goal scoring, and possibly point scoring, leader at Delaware. Not a bad place to be given the names that have played in blue and yellow. In the past, Kurtz was thought of as just a shooter. An excellent one, but just a shooter. At the pro level, you need to do more than one thing at an elite level to stick on a roster every week. Kurtz has shown serious growth as a dodger this season, and if it continues, he’ll certainly be on PLL radars. He’s already been taken in the 1st round of the NLL Draft. He’s got a pro comp in Mac O’Keefe. Also joining the list is Brian Cameron, who has stood out on a Rutgers offense that really has several pros on it. Ross Scott, Shane Knobloch, these guys are all headed towards summer weekend lacrosse. But Cameron has distinguished himself as a critical piece of the offense. His physicality is a good fit for the pro game, and he can be dangerous with and without the ball. Not listed here, but added above, is Tufts star Jack Boyden. He’s over nine points per game this year and is running away with DIII Player of the Year in my opinion. This year the Jumbos offense became his show following the graduation of Mac Bredahl, and Boyden looks like lacrosse Luka Doncic. The word is that several DI programs, including programs currently in the Top 10, are very interested in Boyden’s services next year, and a grad year is likely, although where remains to be seen. Finally, an update at the top, Tucker Dordevic hasn’t done a lot this year for his PLL stock in my opinion. He was barely on any mid-season AA ballots, which doesn’t mean much, but tells you how he’s regarded a bit right now. He’s still playing attack for the Hoyas. He’s still an electric dodger, but attack just isn’t where he belongs, he needs to be in the midfield. That’s where he’ll be as a pro, and I expect him to return to that electric form from Cuse when he gets there. I list him at attack because it’s what he’s played for the past two years, but he’s a midfielder this summer.
Midfield, Sergio Perkovic Division (Offense first options):
1. Sam Handley, Penn
2. Kyle Long, Maryland
3. Matt Campbell, Villanova
4. Thomas McConvey, Vermont/UVA
5. Garrett Leadmon, Duke
Players to watch: Reese Burek, Levi Anderson, Garrett Degnon, Brandon Galloway, Patrick Skalniak, Brian Minicus, Cole Kirst, Alex Simmons, Jeff Conner
A big mover here could be Levi Anderson. He appears in Carc’s Top 10, which suggests he may be available in the draft. Anderson has a year of eligibility left if he wants it, which is why he’s been in Players to Watch all year. But if he comes out, he immediately is one of the best offensive weapons available. He’ll play at attack, he can run out of the box. His body type and style will remind you of Dhane Smith. A truly elite goal scorer and offensive player, as teams try more and more to incorporate players with box skills into the offense, Anderson will be a target for everyone. If he’s available. Some people close to the St Joseph’s program have said they expect Anderson to use another year of eligibility. Also added here is Reese Burek. Again, when I think about what makes guys successful at the next level, it’s the ability to be versatile and do lots of things well. Burek has excelled as the top option at Army this year following the graduation of Brendan Nichtern. He’s outstanding out of the invert, but also initiates well from both high and low wings. He’s a solid feeder and shooter. If he is able to play, he’s worth a look.
Midfield, Danny Logan Division (Two Way midfielders or true SSDMs):
1. Payton Rezanka, Loyola
2. Brian Tevlin, Yale/Notre Dame
3. Connor Maher, UNC
4. Piper Bond, Penn
5. Trevor Yeboah-Kodie, Brown
Players to watch: Evan Zinn, Chet Comizio, Quinn McCahon, James Shipley, Troy Hettinger, Grayson Sallade
Mostly unmoved. I think this is the group where the most movement could happen though. I still consider Rezanka a clear number one choice for me. Chet Comizio is impressing me more every week and could be headed towards a 1st Team All American season. He’s second the team in GBs among non-faceoff players and has ten caused turnovers as a shorty. He also never fouls. Two penalties all year. He’s a reliable, consistent defender who is thriving this year and can fit a pro defense right away. Evan Zinn also could get some looks just on pure athleticism. He went to Hopkins originally as an offensive weapon but has adjusted to the SSDM role since transferring to UVA. He’s got as much pure speed as any player in America. He should be considered right alongside teams that are looking at players like Maher, Tevlin, or McCahon. Grayson Sallade joins the list as a grad student from UVA who, along with Zinn, has been impressive at the SSDM spot. There’s a spot for him on wings and in a specialist role. TYK remains listed although it sounds like football is a strong possibility for him.
1. Will Bowen, UNC/Georgetown
2. Gavin Adler, Cornell
3. Owen Grant, Delaware
4. Brett Makar, Maryland
5. Kenny Brower, Duke
Players to watch: Eljiah Gash, Ethan Rall, Grant Ammann, Mike Grace, BJ Farrare, Alex Mazzone, Tyler Carpenter, Wilson Stephenson, John Geppert, Cam Wyers, Brad Apgar
We talked Bowen and Adler a bit already. They are 1A/1B to me, in any order you like. I give Bowen the most razor thin of edges right now, but both are guys that could be justifiably taken at any of the third three draft spots. I jumped Grant over Makar as we talked about above. A few other names join the list here. If Grant Ammann is available, he’s an interesting prospect. Historically, PLL coaches have loved defenders that do well in the caused turnover stat, and Ammann definitely stacks the CTs. Brad Apgar also joins the list as a long-time star in DIII before a few solid years with Rutgers. His physicality and size will get him considered. For the most part, this list will be about those first four guys. It would be something to behold, but there’s a chance all four get taken in the first round. After that, the consolation prizes are pretty great. Coming away with a guy like BJ Farrare or Kenny Brower might not get a ton of pub, but those are PLL players. Farrare in particular is a guy I’d target, as he can play basically anywhere with a pole, and has played SSDM for Penn as well. Alex Mazzone has also excelled, and can be versatile enough to play down low or as an LSM. He's played his way up draft boards with an exceptional season at Hopkins.
1. Matt Knote, UMass
2. Chayse Ierlan, Cornell
3. Matt Garber, BU
Players to Watch: Liam Entenmann, Will Mark
Goalie remains a thin position and I really don’t expect one to be drafted. Not because they aren’t good, but because there just aren’t many teams with a goalie need, and some clubs are already signing their third goalie for camp. Will Mark, who has been maybe the top goalie in the country this year, moves down to Players to Watch as it turns out he transferred to Cuse with two years of eligibility left. It’s not a lock he comes out. Goalie opportunities in the PLL don’t come along often, so he may stay another year to further boost his resume in hopes of sticking with a pro team long term. Logan McNaney joins the unavailable list as he will be taking another year with the Terps.
1. Mike Sisselberger, Lehigh
2. Zach Cole, Saint Joseph’s
3. Petey LaSalla, UVA
Players to watch: James Reilly, Nick Rowlett
Unmoved again. While I think Cole is having the better season, and likely is going to be the 1st team AA on my midseason ballot, I think Sisselberger is narrowly the better pro prospect. James Reilly has improved his stock this year a great deal as well.
The 2024 Class is only a year away! Better take a look. This is not meant to be anywhere near all encompassing, just a little sampler of some of the names that will be either seniors or grad students next year, meaning the draft will be available to them should they so desire. Many may even have eligibility after next year, but I have my rules, and I stick to them. You’re a senior or grad student, you’re on the radar for now.
Attack: Brennan O’Neill, Connor Shellenberger, Matt Brandau, Pat Kavanagh
Yes, we live in a world where all four of these players may be available in the next PLL draft. As much as this is the year of the defenseman, next year could be offensive players that reshape the league. Should they all declare, the PLL which have it’s version of the 2003 NBA Draft. The debate will rage about who to take number one as soon as this year’s draft ends. Ultimately, you are picking between the younger versions of guys like John Grant Jr, Ryan Boyle, Michael Watson, and other all-time greats. It’ll be a class that’s followed for their careers under a microscope. Even a step down from there, you could see players like Dylan Pallonneti, Jack Boyden, Josh Zawada, Vince D’Alto, Ross Scott, and others who are still capable pros look like late round steals.
Midfield: Graham Bundy, Eric Dobson, Jake Stevens, Beau Pederson, Shane Knobloch
Some serious weapons. Bundy next year hopefully bounces back from a bit of a down year this season. He’s been a mainstay All American teamer for most of his career and his game should fit the pros very well. Eric Dobson will, because of his stature, alma mater, and shooting range get plenty of comps to Sergio Perkovic coming out. Stevens and Pederson will be in new uniforms next year, but are among the best in the nation at their respective positions. Knobloch will be arguably the best on the run shooter/dodger at the position if he comes out.
Defense: Marcus Hudgins, Jake Piseno, Grant Ammann, Cade Saustad, Jackson Bonitz, Sam Cambere
Hudgins arrived at Ohio State with two years of eligibility, next year will be his second. He’s been projected as a top tier pro defender for years now, and that Ohio State having something of an underwhelming year this year won’t change that. His measurables are off the chart, and he and BVB form one of the best close defender pairings…maybe ever. Jake Piseno is a CT machine, as is Grant Ammann who may be available. Cade Saustad has, for me, been UVA’s top defender this year and he has eligibility remaining. Next year could be special for him. Jackson Bonitz has been Navy’s top defender and an All American for years, and drafting defenders from service academies usually works out for you.
Faceoff: Tommy Burke, Luke Wierman, Alex Stathakis
An outstanding faceoff class on the horizon. Burke is taking a grad year at Ohio State after this season, and Wierman returns to Maryland. Both would be highly regarded in this class, they’ll join next years as the top prospects.
Goalie: Logan McNaney, Liam Entenmann
McNaney will pursue a grad degree at Maryland after missing this year with injury. Entenmann has already been a Team USA goalie with the U-19 team. It's always a battle to crack the PLL as a goalie, this is a group that might do it.