The Whips, as Head Coach/GM Jim Stagnitta himself said, were really in uncharted territory. Having played in the title game in each of the first three PLL seasons, the Whipsnakes always found themselves at the end of the first round, and other clubs not exactly in a hurry to let them trade up. This year, they picked sixth in a defensive heavy draft, meaning they’d have their chance to grab one of the top three offensive players available. Coach Stagnitta stressed the need for a dynamic, dangerous midfielder. Someone who can take pressure of Matt Rambo, Brad Smith, and Zed Williams to create all the time. The ability to consistently draw slides is what the ask is there, more so than the ability to score even. Players who can unsettled a defense were the target for the Whips. On top of that, Joe Nardella, will miss most, if not all, of the summer as he recovers from a knee injury. With only Bailey Savio on the roster facing off, the Whipsnakes had a need at the faceoff dot as well. The picks:
Selections: Tucker Dordevic, Petey LaSalla, Garrett Leadmon, Elijah Gash
Best Pick: Tucker Dordevic
Biggest Risk: Garrett Leadmon
Like most teams in the first round, they got their guy. When it comes to a midfielder who can draw a slide and be dangerous off the dodge, this draft had no one better. Purely separating, freeing hands, and getting to space, it’s Dordevic and then everyone else. He’s been playing attack for the past two years; he’s a midfielder. A return to his natural position will showcase what makes him so special. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the top overall player on Coach Stagnitta’s board given the need. In round two, he addressed the other need in perfect fashion. Nardella stands out not just because he wins so many draws, but what he causes afterwards. He stays on as an offensive threat, either holding the opponents faceoff man on with him, or just downright being a threat himself. His skills on that end are better than everyone else in the PLL (Baptiste is catching up). That’s also Petey LaSalla. A tremendous technician who also never saw a squat rack he didn’t crush, LaSalla is a very skilled offensive player. He was the closest thing in the draft to Joe Nardella, and makes perfect sense for the Whips.
Garrett Leadmon played his way up draft boards, and the culture fit there is great. Stagnitta wants team first guys who aren’t afraid to move outside of the role they’ve always had to play the one that makes the team better. He called them the “Connor Kirsts” of the world, offensive maven in college who became a two way guy as a pro. Leadmon is that, he’s already done it all at Duke. Defensive midfielder, offensive midfielder, two way threat, he’s embraced all roles. That’s the attitude that wins in a Whips locker room. I’m not sure he’ll be a massive impact guy right away, but as the Whips midfield ages, Leadmon’s role will grow and he should acclimate to the PLL well.
Finally, Elijah Gash. In other sports, you’d call this a project pick. Gash, in terms of athletic ability and just natural physical gifts, is off the chart. Measurables like you read about. Pop on the tape and just watch him run in transition. As a lacrosse player, he’s still raw. Definitely some work to do to develop stick skills and things like that. But in the 4th round, as you get ready for some of your aging defenders to move on, he’s perfect. There is no better group of defenders to learn under than the crew on the Whipsnakes. Gash probably won’t see a ton of time this year, but keep watching. The ceiling is insane.
Whips really hit a lot of what they needed. A few more two way midfielders might help them, another pole, and another dodging threat for sure. Jeff Conner, BJ Farrare, and Jack Traynor could make sense here.