Every Team’s Biggest Need in the College Draft

By PLL | May 7, 2024

Boston Cannons: Faceoff athlete

It was a successful offseason for the Boston Cannons. They re-signed all their free agents, traded for Garrett Epple, Connor Kirst, and Bryce Young, and signed free agent faceoff specialist Zac Tucci

Now the rich will look to get richer as Boston looks to grow on their breakout 2023 season. The Cannons were the top-scoring offense last season, and you can never have too much offensive star-power - especially in this draft class. 

With the sixth overall pick, I expect the Cannons to focus in on expanding their arsenal in the midfield. Adding someone like Rutgers’ Shane Knobloch, a pro-ready dodger who can muscle his way through a defense and create scoring chances both for himself and his teammates would make this group that much more complete.

Also expect head coach and general manager Brian Holman to take another faceoff specialist to compete with Tucci. Holman said while he and his coaching staff don’t have an established plan yet for the faceoff, they’re envisioning a more athletic and speedy guy at the stripe for them to address the 32-second shot clock off the faceoff.

I’d keep my eye on either Jake Naso (Duke) or Luke Wierman (Maryland) to be the guy for the Cannons. 

Potential Fits: Shane Knobloch (Rutgers), Jake Naso (Duke), Luke Wierman (Maryland)

Sarah Griffin

California Redwoods: Depth

After losing Garrett Epple to the Cannons, and John Sexton, and Eddy Glazener to retirement, finding an LSM and a close defender had to be at the top of the list of needs heading into the 2024 draft. 

But then, Nat St. Laurent used his second-round draft pick to trade for an established top-tier LSM in Jared Conners. Now, either Ryan Kennedy or last year’s first-round pick Owen Grant will bump down and pair with Arden Cohen and Chris Fake or Holden Garlent.

With that need addressed, the ‘Woods can focus on adding a second goalie (to replace Tim Troutner) and adding depth to their midfield (to replace Jules Heningburg and Sergio Perkovic).  

With the top-end talent in this year’s draft getting so much attention, it can be easy to forget that this will also be one of the deepest drafts.

As such, depending on how things shake out in the first two rounds, the Redwoods could be in a position to snag a generational goalie prospect like Liam Entenmann. If not, John Hopkins’ Chayse Ierlan (TD’s younger brother) or Syracuse’s Will Mark would be a welcomed constellation. 

The range of players who could bolster the Redwoods midfield unit includes all-time goal scorers who can add some more range and finishers to the ‘Woods offense or big, athletic SSDMs that can sure up the point on a new-look defense, 

Potential Fits: Chayse Ierlan (John Hopkins) Will Mark (Syracuse) | Grant Haus (Penn State) Garrett Degnon (John Hopkins)

Jerome Taylor

Carolina Chaos: Bolstering the midfield group

Three-time All-Pro midfielder Dhane Smith and Chaos veteran midfielder Ryan Smith entered the holdout list during the offseason, leaving holes needing a replenishment via the fountain of the youth – the 2024 PLL College Draft. Dhane Smith is one of the league's best creators on offense. His ability to draw doubles or force slides off a dodge allowed him to pick defenses apart as a feeder, making Josh Byrne’s and the rest of the attacks' lives more exciting. 

Ryan Smith provided steady scoring throughout his three seasons with the Chaos. It will be important to replace his workload with a high-IQ midfielder or attackman who is converted to midfield. 

Carolina has pick No. 4 and and pick No. 12 early in the upcoming draft filled with a horde of midfielders. In the fourth slot, either Jake Stevens or Shane Knobloch would be an excellent selection. Stevens has a similar play style to All-Pro midfielder Zach Currier and Shane Knobloch has Kyrie Irving-like shot-creating ability. At 12 neither will be available so players like Graham Bundy Jr. will be an excellent second option.

Potential Fits: Jake Stevens (Syracuse), Shane Knobloch (Rutgers), Graham Bundy Jr. (Georgetown)

Hayden Lewis

Denver Outlaws: An offensive engine

The Outlaws ranked last in every offensive category last season. Former Rookie of the Year Brendan Nichtern was limited last year due to military commitments and is on the holdout list. Denver needs a fresh spark offensively.

Logan Wisnauskas is a good finisher on the left side, but Denver needs a true offensive force to drive play. Either Brennan O’Neill or Connor Shellenberger would be the alpha the Outlaws’ offense needs to take the next step.

Shellenberger is the natural Nichtern replacement at X. He’s an elite feeder who elevates everyone around him. O’Neill is a more awkward fit on the left wing with Wisnauskas, but he’s a dominant presence who can attack any matchup.

Potential Fits: Brennan O’Neill (Duke), Connor Shellenberger (Virginia)

Topher Adams

Maryland Whipsnakes: LSM or close defense

There are two schools of thought for the Whipsnakes here.

The first is taking an LSM. Future First Ballot HOF’er Michael Ehrhardt retired at the beginning of April, but lucky for the Whipsnakes, the LSM position is one of the most talented and deepest positions in the draft. The Whipsnakes should take Pat Kavanagh at #3 overall, and while I expect Jake Piseno (UAlbany) and Mason Woodward (Marquette) to be gone by the time the Whipsnakes pick next at #17 overall, there still should be quality options left on the board  like Roy Meyer (Boston University) or Tyler Carpenter (Duke). Taking an LSM would leave a crowded room, which already includes Matt Rees, Colin Squires, Brett Kennedy, and Elijah Gash. In this scenario, I think one of Squires or Kennedy slides down low, leaving the other four to battle it out for a roster spot.

The second school of thought is taking a close defender. The Whipsnakes traded Bryce Young to the Boston Cannons this off-season, leaving Matt Dunn and Tim Muller as the only ‘true’ close defenders. Both Squires and Kennedy played close defense in college, but have been playing LSM at the next level. If the Whipsnakes took a close defender in the 3rd round, the assumption is that player would start as the third close defender.

I lied. There are three schools of thought. The third school of thought is taking both an LSM and a defender in the 3rd round. The Whipsnakes hold #17 and #20 overall in the 3rd round, but no 2nd round pick as a result of the Jackson Morrill trade towards the end of last season. I think the biggest thing for the Whipsnakes is lack of talent, and while taking both an LSM and close defender would lead to battles for roster spots in training camp, it would be for the best as the Whipsnakes bolster their backline.

Potential Fits: Roy Meyer (Boston University), Tyler Carpenter (Duke), Scott Smith (Johns Hopkins)

Adam Lamberti

New York Atlas: Chris Gray’s replacement

There is a Chris Gray-sized hole on the Atlas roster that needs patching. Luckily, the 2024 PLL College Draft resembles that of the 2003 NBA Draft class. You know, the one that saw LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade selected in the top five.

Point being: There are plenty of options to choose from with New York’s pick at No. 2. Talking with the Atlas head coach and general manager Mike Pressler, he’s looking for the best available player with his top picks (Nos. 2, 5 and 10), the first of which is sure to fill the void on attack.

That’s where Brennan O’Neill, Connor Shellenberger and Pat Kavanagh come in. With Jeff Teat as a facilitator and Gray gone, New York needs another off-ball mover and goal scorer to slot in alongside Eric Law. O’Neill, Shellenberger and Kavanagh can all score, obviously, but Teat and the 6-2, 250-pound O’Neill could wreak havoc together on the left side.

If the Outlaws draft their needed X-man in Shellenberger, O’Neill is New York’s for the taking.

Potential Fits: Brennan O’Neill (Duke), Matt Brandau (Yale), Connor Shellenberger (Virginia), Pat Kavanagh (Notre Dame)

Lauren Merola

Philadelphia Waterdogs: Faceoff athlete(s)

The Philadelphia Waterdogs currently roster zero faceoff athletes. With long poles now banned at the stripe, Eli Gobrecht can no longer man that role, and new head coach Bill Tierney doesn’t want to lean too heavily on Zach Currier to pick up the slack. The ‘Dogs need at least one faceoff specialist, and this draft holds a few intriguing candidates in the middle rounds. With only two faceoff free agents left on the market, the draft is the most likely avenue for the Waterdogs to address their biggest need. 

Luke Wierman, the hulking faceoff man from Maryland who helped the Terps to two national championship appearances, is the top faceoff prospect, and for good reason. Wierman and Duke’s Jake Naso would likely both be under consideration in the middle rounds; yet, the Denver connection with Alec Stathakis can’t be overlooked. Tierney will surely conference with his new assistant coaches and wing players, including Currier, to get their take on the selection.

Potential Fits: Luke Wierman (Maryland), Jake Naso (Duke), Alec Stathakis (Denver)

Wyatt Miller

Utah Archers: A lockdown cover defender of the future

Who takes Matt McMahon's starting spot at close is the biggest unknown for Utah. In a defense with a slew of elite defenders, McMahon was the maestro commanding where each instrument fit into the ensemble. His retirement leaves a gaping hole down low. It's one that the club should take multiple shots at filling. 

The Archers won’t expect a new starter to fill McMahon’s shoes as the voice of the defense. They'll look for that from club stalwarts like Graeme Hossack and Latrell Harris or their cast of blooming young stars including Brett Dobson and Warren Jeffrey. Instead, Utah needs to find the best possible option to start at close in 2024 and into the future. Hossack is 31, in his ninth professional season, and the last year of his contract. So there’s no guarantee the club doesn’t have another close spot to fill next offseason. 

2023 rookies Cam Wyers and Patrick Shoemay will compete for McMahon’s job. Both have upside, and Shoemay is a dark horse to be a major contributor. Yet an offensively-stacked draft class means Utah could have its pick of poles at eighth overall. If the board falls another way, Utah should still prioritize an option to compete at close. With just six roster locks at pole, there's room to add depth.

Potential Fits: Ajax Zappitello (Maryland), Kenny Brower (Duke), Scott Smith (Johns Hopkins)

Zach Carey