Redwoods Lacrosse Club’s Top Draft Targets
By Jerome Taylor
May 9, 2023
Today's the day Drake immortalized in his lyrics: Draft Day. At 7pm ET on ESPNU, the most elite college lacrosse players will start the path to transform into the freshest batch of PLL stars.
The Redwoods have the second pick in this year’s draft, and like most teams in this defensively loaded draft, they’re expected to use their picks to pick up some high-level defensive talent. But that’s not all they can do, as there is also some undeniable offensive talent in this class.
Dive in as we explore the potential prospects soon to don the green and yellow at the start of the season.
Gavin Adler, Defenseman, Cornell
If he’s on the board at number 2, Adler seems like the most logical selection for the Redwoods. From a needs standpoint, he fulfills the role of a defenseman capable of playing both LSM and close defense – a priority for Redwoods head coach and general manager Nat St. Laurent.
Assessing his draft value, Adler also ticks that box; he's ranked as the #1 prospect on both iterations of Paul Carcaterra's big boards. At 5’8, his balance and strength might be his most captivating physical attributes, as he's adept at absorbing initial contact and displaying controlled explosive power to push opponents off their line. But additionally, and maybe more importantly at the pro level, he’s got top-tier speed and uses angles to stay with his opposition. His balance, speed, and agility may overshadow his most apparent shortcoming – his size.
PLL President Paul Rabil addressed the size vs. speed debate in modern lacrosse during his pre-draft press conference, remarking, “As the game gets more skilled, size is really relative in any discipline, the more undersized players are more nimble of feet… I think we’re seeing an evolution of speed and less of an emphasis on brute strength and size, and I think that’s what Adler has to his advantage.”
Outside of athletic attributes, Adler is almost always tasked with defending the opposition’s best player, and it’s usually worked out well for Cornell. In their regular-season finale against Princeton, he was the primary defender on Coulter Mackesy, whose 5.14 points per game rank 5th in the NCAA. Against Adler, however, Mackesy failed to register a single point. Adler has had numerous eraser-like performances, but even when he isn't entirely neutralizing an opposing team's offensive ace, his aggression stifles their offense – much like in his matchup against another player on this list.
Over the past two seasons, Adler has caused 55 turnovers, scooped up 134 groundballs, and was a 1st-Team All-American in 2022.
Sam Handley, Midfielder, Penn
From a fit perspective, there might be better choices than Handley for the Redwoods, as they'll likely focus on revamping their defense through the draft. But from a draft value standpoint, Handley’s talent is undeniable. He’s been the second player on both versions of Paul Carcaterra’s big board, and according to Carcaterra, he’s the best offensive player in the draft. The 6’5, 230lb midfielder is a walking mismatch whose got incredible range as a shooter and the strength to get wherever he wants on the field.
Furthermore, Handley possesses remarkable vision; once he starts drawing the defense’s attention (practically the moment he steps off the bus), he excels at locating open teammates – as evidenced by the 90 assists he's accumulated in his career.
Handley may not be the perfect fit for the Redwoods, considering their midfield unit is stacked. Myles Jones, Jules Heningburg, and Charlie Bertrand were all top 50 players last year, so if Handley were to join that group, it would likely mean one of those three would be getting traded.
Still, it will be difficult for Nat St. Laurent, the GM, to pass on a talent that scored 194 points (104 goals, 90 assists) in 46 college games, won the Donald J. MacLaughlin Jr. Award for the country’s best midfielder, and was a finalist for the Teewarton in 2022.
Will Bowen, Defenseman, Georgetown
The people’s choice. Bowen was the fans' selection in the May 4th mock draft. If Handley is as decorated as a Christmas tree, then Bowen is a holiday wonderland. Since 2021, Bowen’s been a first-team all-American defenseman; in 2022, he won the William C. Schmeisser Award, and he’s been nominated for the Teewarton three times.
And in what coaches are calling the deepest defensive draft in a decade, he’s Carcaterra’s second-ranked defenseman. Standing at 6'3", 230lbs, he has the reach to cover a lot of ground and isn't hesitant to challenge offensive players one-on-one – often emerging victorious, as evidenced by his 28 caused turnovers this season and 98 CTOs throughout his illustrious collegiate career.
Brian Tevlin, Midfielder, Notre Dame
Tevlin’s an interesting prospect due to the versatility he will offer any team that drafts him. For the Fighting Irish, he’s a stalwart two-way middie, who picks up a pole on their penalty kill unit.
So, it’s obvious why he would be appealing to the Redwoods, who are trying to add depth at the point of their defense following some departures during this offseason. Tevlin holds the top spot on Carcaterra’s board for two-way midfielders, and he carries the Notre Dame defensive acumen that several other Redwoods players already possess.
Xander Dickson, Attack, Virginia
Another fan pick, though it's unclear how he would fit with the Redwoods as currently constructed. But if the ‘Woods find a way to address some of their defensive needs via trade and move back in the draft, Dickson emerges as a compelling prospect.
At 6’1, 160lb, "The Slim Reaper" compensates for his lean build with impeccable off-ball cutting and turbo-like acceleration that allows him to create significant separation, particularly when pushing from X, a skill he's showcased more this season. After spending most of his career in the midfield, Dickson’s excelled in his new role as an attackman this season, tying UVA's single-season goal record with 56 goals.
Dickson's 74 points (averaging 5.29 ppg, fourth in the nation) have been crucial for Virginia to secure the 2-seed in this year's tournament. If the 'Woods' defensive needs are met, and Dickson remains on the board, he’d be an enticing prospect for the Redwoods.