MAY 25, 2019 PHILADELPHIA, PA; Penn State Lacrosse vs Yale in the Final Four at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday, May 25, 2019. PHOTOS BY: Jay Gorodetzer ©2019

2020 Draft: Winners and Losers

By Joe Keegan | May 13, 2020

Winners: Will Manny and Marcus Holman

Last summer Will Manny and Marcus Holman caught passes from the best feeder on the planet. This summer Manny and Holman will be catching passes from the two best feeders on the planet.

Grant Ament (Penn State) gives the league’s most unselfish offense a passing presence from behind the cage. The Archers were strong at X last year with Christian Cuccinello operating. But he’s a shoot-first dodger. Cuccinello had seven assist opportunities to Holman and four to Manny all season; Ament might average that many per game.

Losers: Anyone trying to dodge from X against the Chrome

Head coach Tim Soudan’s defenses have historically been dominant at X. They hold slides, daring opponents to beat them off the dodge. It’s a frustrating strategy for quarterbacking attackmen. Most of those players want to draw double teams; when the doubles don’t come, they force difficult dodge-to-shoot attempts and disrupt the offense’s flow.

That defensive strategy starts with a dominant defender at X. Soudan has had Mike Manley and Matt Dunn play that role in the past – bet on Tom Rigney (Army) to be that on-ball bully below GLE this summer.

Chrome opponents shot 25.8% unassisted from X last year. Meh. That’s not terrible. League average was 24.6%. But that metric will matter more this summer with more X attackmen like Rob Pannell and Ament in the league. Containing Pannell one-on-one is the first rule to beating the Atlas. It sounds cliché, but if Rigney can hold those X attackmen to a couple goals rather than a few assists, it’ll be a win for the defense.

Winner: Connor Fields

Teammates shot 23.2% off passes from Connor Fields last summer. Well, now Fields will be playing with the best finisher in this class in righty Matt Gaudet (Yale). And if Jeff Teat (Cornell) turns pro, Fields will be flanked by a deceptive lefty.

Goalies saved 39.6% of Gaudet’s shots during his collegiate career; they were even worse against Teat (33.7%).

If Teat returns to school, then the Chaos won’t retain his rights. It’s a risk – but it’s worth it. Teat played with Josh Byrne, Curtis Dickson, Tyson Bell, Jason Noble, and Dillon Ward on Team Canada. With the 12th pick, why not take Teat and hope that his Canadian pals can persuade him to play in the Championship Series?

Losers: Any Atlas midfielders who don’t get in the hole

Head coach Ben Rubeor has hammered home this point: His team will be better at defending transition. The Atlas bled points in transition last summer. Opponents shot a league-high 40.9% on fast breaks. It starts with offensive midfielders getting back into the hole. This unit runs deep enough – Paul Rabil, Connor Buczek, John Crawley, Joel Tinney, Romar Dennis, and now Costabile – that anyone who doesn’t get into the hole will have trouble getting onto the field.

Bryan Costabile earned playing time as a freshman at Notre Dame by taking SSDM shifts. He might not do that by design in the pros, but he can survive when he’s trapped on that end. That flexibility in the midfield might be the single most important component of a championship team in this league.

Winner: Nat St. Laurent

Redwoods head coach Nat St. Laurent played his cards right this offseason. He dealt for Myles Jones back in March. There was no way – even at the time of the trade, when this draft class was deeper – that he’d find a passing midfielder like Jones on draft day. After adding Jones, the Redwoods’ biggest draft day need was at the faceoff X.

This draft class dwindled as TD Ierlan – a transfer with remaining semesters at Yale – announced his return to school. Then Kyle Gallagher enrolled in grad school at Notre Dame for a fifth-year. Suddenly, two teams (Waterdogs and Redwoods) were left fighting over one faceoff specialist.

St. Laurent was in a tricky spot drafting behind the Waterdogs, but he called their bluff. When the Waterdogs took attackman Michael Kraus (Virginia), the Redwoods were able to land Greg Gurenlian’s latest disciple, Peyton Smith (Marist).

Smith won 63.2% of his faceoffs as an upperclassman. Who knows what that number will be in the pros. Faceoff percentages are tough to predict from one level to the next. Here are the knowns: He’s a technician, he’s committed to the position, and Greg Gurenlian believes in him. That’s enough reason to take him in the first round. We’ll find out in July how he stacks up against professional opponents with the PLL’s rules.

Also – keep an eye on Chris Price (High Point). St. Laurent has found diamonds in the rough from under-the-radar conferences in the past. Don’t be surprised if he has done it again.

Winners: Whipsnakes’ depth

Entering the draft, some thought the reigning champs still needed to reload on offense. Check again. Matt Rambo, Mike Chanenchuk, and John Haus return. Zed Williams, Max Tuttle, and Brad Smith provide versatility between attack and midfield. Jay Carlson and Dylan Maltz can cause problems on the crease. And the midfield depth – Joe LoCascio, Jeremy Sieverts, and (if asked to play offense) Jake Bernhardt – rivals any unit in the league.

Adding Sean New (Holy Cross) and Matt Hubler (Johns Hopkins) gives the defense similar depth. Despite being hit hard by the expansion draft, the Whips will head into July ready to repeat.

Losers: Waterdogs goalies

The Waterdogs scooped the best goalie in this class, Matt DeLuca (Delaware). Head coach Andy Copelan competed against DeLuca in the CAA; spending the eighth overall pick on him seems like an invite to the Championship Series. So, which goalies are left out?

The Waterdogs already had Charlie Cipriano, Tate Boyce, and Reed Junkin on the roster. It’s unfortunate that Copelan will likely need to make a decision on who travels before seeing his four goalies compete for their jobs. It’s a crowded position in a crowded league. After adding fourteen pros last night in this offseason’s third (!!) draft, the league is as deep as it’s ever been.

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