Who will faceoff for the Philadelphia Waterdogs?

By Wyatt Miller | Apr 23, 2024

With new rules preventing long poles from taking faceoffs, the Philadelphia Waterdogs have some adjustments to make at the stripe. Eli Gobrecht, who took the most faceoffs on the team last season, will no longer be able to play that role with a pole. Zach Currier will still be able to take some draws, but new head coach Bill Tierney doesn’t want to rely on him too heavily.  

“What you get out of Zach Currier is everything, but if he faces off 30 times in a game, I don’t care if he’s Superman, that’s going to have an effect on all the other things he does that he does so well,” Tierney said.

Philadelphia currently has one faceoff specialist on the roster, James Reilly, who played in two games for the ‘Dogs as a rookie last season, winning 14-of-37 faceoffs (38%). Squads typically roster two specialists come summertime, and that’s already true for most teams. 

That’s the only position the Waterdogs clearly need to address before Tierney’s inaugural pro season, and there are plenty of players to choose from. Here are four candidates that could bolster the Waterdogs’ faceoff unit:

Sign Max Adler

Signing Max Adler could add some immediate production to an established winning roster. Adler had a ton of success with the Denver Outlaws from 2017-2020, registering four-straight seasons with a 55% win rate or better. His crafty style and surprising strength at the stripe are his biggest advantages, and he knows how to use them.

In three PLL seasons, Adler never played all 10 games with the Carolina Chaos, and has also failed to eclipse the 50% mark each year. If the Waterdogs choose to bring him in, it’ll be because Tierney feels he can coax the Denver version of Adler back to the surface.

Connor Farrell is the only other free agent available at the position, but he doesn’t fit with the Waterdogs’ post-clamp play, leading the league in turnovers for a faceoff man (16). The Waterdogs have one of the best wing units in the league, so their specialist has to work well with Currier and company. 

Trade For Petey LaSalla

The Whipsnakes have an embarrassment of riches at the stripe with second-year star Petey LaSalla and veteran Joe Nardella returning from injury. It’s a good problem to have in a league that’s ridiculously talent-rich, because they can leverage one of those players to upgrade a position of need. 

The former Virginia Cavalier is relentless on and off the field, according to Lars Tiffany, and hates to rest. He wants as much volume as possible, which is exactly what he got in his rookie season, playing all 10 games for the Whipsnakes while winning at a 58% rate.

Maryland is starved for defensive depth, and the Waterdogs have a wealth of talent on that end. One person who could be worthy of a one-for-one swap is Jake Higgins, who was on the outside looking in on the SSDM unit when the ‘Dogs chose to dress three instead of four last year. With the addition of Jake Richard this offseason, Philly’s short stick depth is even more vast, so a straight swap here could make a lot of sense.

Draft Luke Wierman

Tierney said there were “three or four” college kids that could give the Waterdogs an immediate boost at the stripe, and Luke Wierman (Maryland) is certainly one of those impact players. As a four-year contributor and three-year starter at Maryland, the six-foot-two specialist has excelled using a massive size advantage over most opponents. 

Wierman exploded onto the scene as a sophomore in 2022, winning 66.1% of faceoffs while adding 15 points on eight goals in 18 games. He won the Big Ten Specialist of the Year Award, and hasn’t dipped below a 59% win rate in the two seasons since. 

The Terrapins’ all-time leader in faceoff wins has been a staple of their team, and has shown up on the biggest stage. He helped Maryland win the NCAA title in 2022, going 13-for-20 at midfield against Cornell, and won 14-of-30 against Virginia the prior year’s title game, although the team lost. He did give Maryland a chance to tie that game in the final seconds, going straight to goal after a faceoff win, but his shot was saved. The next year, he was redeemed.

Wierman is a proven winner who doesn’t shrink from the big stage, and that’s where the Waterdogs expect to be every season. This is the type of mindset Tierney wants in his players, so don’t be surprised if he pulls the trigger on Wierman in the middle rounds.

Draft Jake Naso

Standing at 5-foot-9 and 180 lbs, Jake Naso (Duke) has used elite quickness and sound stick work to succeed in a loaded ACC. He’s gone over 56% in each of his four seasons with the Blue Devils, including two over 62%. Naso also has a knack for clutch performance, as he went over 50% in three-of-four NCAA tournament games in 2023, but came out a bit flat in the final loss to Notre Dame (10-for-24). 

Either Naso or Wierman would create some youthful competition in the faceoff room, but Naso’s play style is fairly similar to Reilly’s. Wierman being the thunder to Reilly’s lightning seems like a good balance that could give the Waterdogs more versatility at the stripe, and that’s an attribute Tierney values highly.