10 Man Ride: Cannons LC Expansion Preview

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Mar 11, 2021

CLEAR! The ride is on. Cannons LC will select 18 players tonight at 6PM ET on YouTube.

64 unprotected players are available for head coach Sean Quirk and his staff. Let’s highlight 10 – in no particular order – and the role they could play in the Cannons’ first PLL season.

1. Connor Buczek, M, Atlas

Since 2015, only 13 players have attempted 50 or more shots from 2-point range. Seven of them have managed to maintain that volume while staying above the league average (14.2%):

Buczek brings the heat from beyond the arc. Heavy shooters like him open up the rest of the offense – especially on the powerplay. Did you see the way the Whipsnakes’ penalty kill played Perkovic and Jones? They conceded skips to Clarke Petterson on the doorstep.

The Cannons can create that gravitational pull by reuniting Buczek with Paul Rabil. Buczek’s been even better from deep on the powerplay (25.0% during his career). Defenses have to respect his and Rabil’s range, which will leave them thin on the pipes.

2. Brodie Merrill, D, Waterdogs

The GOAT LSM has moved down low toward the end of his career. He’s an organizer. Put Brodie on the third attackman, and he’ll completely erase him from the box score – all while coordinating second and third slides along the way.

Brodie’s a real sidler, too. You need to put Tic Tacs in his pocket to hear him coming. Post up or roll back when he’s adjacent, and he’ll hunt you down for a possession-ending double team.

Chaos misses Brodie. Their settled assist rate allowed (i.e. the percent of shots against that were assisted) skyrocketed from 35.1% in 2019 with Brodie to 45.7% in 2020 without him. They allowed one more settled “big chance” (a quality shot from the doorstep or hole) per game without him.

3. Reece Eddy, LSM, Chrome 

Speaking of Brodie Merrill… Reece Eddy was a finalist for the Brodie Merrill LSM of the Championship Series Award. As a rookie.

Eddy is a complete LSM. He defends on-ball, has his head on a swivel off-ball, can score, and makes the right play in transition. This play is perfect: Eddy hits the point, continues his cut, and seals the defender trying to close out to Justin Guterding.

4. Jake Pulver, D, Chrome

Like Eddy, Pulver was part of the Extreme Makeover: Chrome Edition. Head coach Tim Soudan had to revamp his roster prior to Utah, adding 11 new players (half of his roster!) via trade, waivers, and the drafts.

The “downside” to those players like Pulver, Eddy, Sam Duggan, and James Barclay meshing so well together: Soudan couldn’t protect them all this time around.

Pulver is a tough defender. He’s alert. This Crease Collapse of the Week is the best advertisement for shoulder pads I’ve seen in years. Pulver and Mike Manley sandwiched Josh Byrne before he could control the pass.

5. Brent Adams, M, Redwoods

Brent Adams is one of the best two-way players on the planet. He was out of position in 2020 after being asked to play attack as injuries depleted the Redwoods offense. His expected shooting percentage rose (from 17.5% to 23.4%) thanks to more assisted, close-range shots – but his shooting percentage dropped (from 31.8% to 18.5%).

Let that be a reminder that a “good shot” for one player is not a good shot for every player. Adams is at his best in space, sweeping during the five-on-five substitution phase, and stinging the net from 14 yards out. His speed was contained on attack. If the Cannons take him, bet on Coach Quirk to unleash him between the arcs.

6. Miles Thompson, A, Chaos

Thompson played a major role in Chaos’s postseason run. When he was slotted into the starting lineup, the trips offense became unstoppable. Thompson took on an Eric Law-esque role – occupying X, swinging the ball from the righty side to the lefty side, sneaking at the right times, and screening recovering defenders inside at every turn.

Plus, the Cannons hold the first overall pick in the March 25th Entry Draft – and that pick may have some pre-existing chemistry with Miles Thompson.

7. Ryan Drenner, A/M, Waterdogs

Drenner’s malleability makes him a no-brainer for Coach Quirk. An X attackman at Towson and with the Florida Launch, Drenner played inside more for the Whipsnakes in 2019 then on the righty wing for the Waterdogs in 2020. He’s a shapeshifter.

Expect Drenner to be used as an invert specialist if selected. He would likely draw a short-stick out of the box, and then bring those mismatches to his native environment at X for an iso. The Whipsnakes saw a ton of success with inverts and double inverts – expect more across the league in 2021.

Drenner’s dodges lead to high quality looks. His box score passing numbers don’t do justice to his vision. While he only has two assists in the past two seasons, Drenner has 23 assist opportunities. He had 18 assists and 56 assists opportunities from 2017-18. He’ll keep setting up his teammates (whether they’re wearing purple-and-light-purple or red-white-and-blue). Those teammates just need to start burying.

8. Ben Reeves, A, Waterdogs

The 2018 Tewaaraton winner has shown flashes of brilliance as a pro. He can explode past defenders, glide topside for a sweep, or send his man tumbling over the net.

Can he play off-ball alongside Lyle Thompson? Reeves never really settled into a role with the Whipsnakes. It was unclear whether he was best as a finisher for Matt Rambo or a secondary initiator. That uncertainty – combined with the fact that Quirk can only select three Waterdogs – might mean the Cannons pass on Reeves. His athleticism is intriguing, though.

9. Rookie defensemen

Only four 2020 College Draft picks were protected (Grant Ament, Bryan Costabile, Tom Rigney, and Matt DeLuca).

There are several unprotected – and unproved – young defensemen. Chris Price (High Point) and Sean New (Holy Cross) were drafted by the Redwoods and Whipsnakes, respectively. If the Woods and Whips saw something in these prospects, it’s worth diving into their college film.

A couple others: Aidan Hynes (Yale) who hasn’t dressed for Atlas yet, and Jack Rapine (Johns Hopkins) who saw limited time for the Archers in the bubble.

10. Joe Walters, M, Redwoods

Paul Rabil’s best years were playing alongside left-handed midfielders like Walters, Dave Lawson, and JoJo Marasco. Since 2015, only Rob Pannell has finished more feeds (13) from Rabil than Walters (10) – and Walters has done it in less than half as many games.

There aren’t many lefties available via Expansion; there are more in the Entry Draft and College Draft. Will the Cannons take Walters? Or roll the dice on address this need later in the offseason?

Thanks for reading!

Spread the word, submit any questions you want to see answered in this space to me on Twitter (@joekeegs), and I’ll talk to you next week!

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