Last week, Premier League Lacrosse and Major League Lacrosse merged, turning the Boston Cannons into Cannons Lacrosse Club as the eighth PLL outfit and casting tons of questions around the professional field lacrosse world.
There is plenty of dust to settle before the PLL can start its first season as the sole face of pro field lacrosse. An expansion draft has already been declared for 2021, and a plan is coming for how now-former MLL players can enter the PLL. How the PLL looked in 2020 is very different from how it will look in 2021 and beyond.
All this week, we will release our five-part series predicting how it will all shake out, from expansion protections to a mock merger draft and more. It’s every lacrosse’s nerd big opportunity – let’s play GM.
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Best MLL Players Available – Attack & Midfield
One has to assume that there will be a number of now ex-MLL guys who make the leap over to the PLL. But how will that talent be distributed?
We’re assuming it’s done with a draft that comes after Cannons LC makes its expansion selections. We’ll be sharing our mock of that draft later in the week, but first, let’s look at some of the best players presumably available, breaking it down by the top guys at each position.
The honest truth is some PLL players will lose their jobs to MLL guys. Not everybody will stay in the league. It’s going to come down to what positions teams feel they need to upgrade, so we’ll lay out the options at each here, and then discuss how they might settle onto PLL rosters. To break it down a little further, we’ll be covering attack and midfield today, with face-off, poles and goalies coming tomorrow.
Lyle Thompson is the crown jewel of the MLL player pool – an MVP-caliber player who could easily change the fortunes of a team. He’s one of the best in the world, a legitimate GOAT candidate, and a 99.999% lock for the top pick in the entry draft.
He’s a little bit hit or miss, but when Randy Staats is on, he’s one of the best attackmen in the world. Unlike a lot of the best attackmen in the PLL currently, he’s also huge, presenting an entirely different type of matchup nightmare for opponents, especially if he ends up in a thunder/lightning combo with a speedy dodger.
The MVP of 2020, Bryce Wasserman isn’t the most efficient player on the planet, but the man just scores goals. He was a unanimous pick for All-MLL by our staff this past summer and should be an early selection in the entry draft.
Ryan Lee had a huge breakout for the Outlaws this past summer, transitioning his dominant box game into being one of the most creative and effective finishers in the league over the summer. If anybody is going to be this year’s Zed Williams (off-ball wizard who leads his team in goals), Lee could be that guy.
A former MLL All-Star and Terps great, Colin Heacock is still a great dodger and solid finisher off the ball. He probably won’t be a team’s second attackmen in the PLL, but he’s still likely going to make an impact for any team looking to add some dynamism to its offense. He’s also capable of running some middie if needed.
Dylan Molloy, the former Tewaaraton winner out of Brown, had some of the MLL’s best highlights in recent years, mostly of him trucking over defenders. His game hasn’t transitioned perfectly to the pro level, but he adds a different element to a team, and he can still run over defenders and shoot the piss out of the ball.
Shayne Jackson, the reigning NLL MVP, isn’t the player in field that he is in box, but he’s still a 2019 All-Star and a tough, gritty offensive finisher. He was maybe asked to do too much solo in the MLL, but if a team is looking for a guy to create havoc off-ball and finish a ton of inside looks (sort of the Clarke Patterson role), Jackson is a great pickup.
Perhaps nobody improved their stock more over the course of the 2020 MLL series than Ben Martin, who broke out in a big way while leading the Hammerheads’ offense. He’s an extremely technically sound player capable of scoring in a variety of ways.
The former top-five pick in both the MLL and PLL, Michael Kraus was extremely quiet in his first pro action over the summer, but he still seems like a guy that someone will take a flier on. One week of play during a pandemic doesn’t mean that Kraus won’t eventually live up to what he was doing at UVA.
If I knew that Steele Stanwick was for sure going to be playing next year, I’d have him a lot higher. The former Tewaaraton winner is a fantastic player and an elite quarterback for any offense. He’s getting up there a bit and chose not to play in MLL’s 2020 season, but if he does choose to take his talents to the PLL, he’s absolutely worth a look.
The 2020 Rookie of the Year Daniel Bucaro has a ton of selling points: he’s a great player, he’s super young, he was already playing like one of the five best guys in MLL during his first action. Expect him to go early in the draft, possibly as high as second.
As a SSDM, Zach Goodrich won MLL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2020. He’s one of (if not) the best short-stick defenders in the world, a legit lockdown guy who can help eliminate a team’s top offensive option from the midfield. The former Towson star is gonna go early and seems like a lock for the PLL top 50 for years to come.
Mikie Schlosser easily has some of the best flow in the game, which is a selling point, but Schlosser has a lot more to bring to the table than his unending swag. The former Wolverine is an all-star midfielder, won the 2019 award as the league’s best teammate, and is good for at least one goal a game, having gone on a 12-game scoring streak in 2018.
Andrew Kew was one of our three picks for All-MLL in 2020. The Kew Ball is another guy who can play anywhere on offense and succeed. He was one of the highest scorers in 2020, and he’s only 24 years old. He could be getting even better over the next few seasons.
Isaiah Davis-Allen was one of the most recognizable players in the MLL and should make a quick transition over to the PLL. The former Terp is a fantastic defender, both 1v1 and as a team defender. He’s developed his offensive game in recent years to be a threat on both ends of the ball, and he’s great in the clearing game. For guys looking for a two-way middie, IDA is a great selection.
Colin Burke was responsible for a good chunk of the Lizards’ offense in 2020, and it feels like the rookie out of Utah could be a great pro middie for a long, long time. He’s young, scrappy, and athletic, reminding me a bit of Connor Buczek. He can make an impact now, but this is also about his long-term potential.
Nick Mariano was a 2019 All-Star and yet another two-way threat who can benefit a team in a multitude of ways. In 2019, the ‘Cuse grad scored 20 goals, tallied 7 assists, scooped 17 GBs, and threw in 3 caused turnovers, too. He plays hard, and he’s got a great feel for the game.
Bryan Cole is a tall, lanky dodger who was an all-star in MLL and also been a great player in the NLL. He’s got good skill, good athleticism, and a wonderful feeling for the game. Teams looking to add IQ should look here.
Originally an attackman, Brendan Sunday saw his best success as an all-star midfielder in 2019. He’s huge, he’s got a cannon of a shot that provides legit two-point range, and he should fit in great with a team like Redwoods or Whipsnakes that enjoys having those outside shooters. His positional flexibility is a plus.
A one-man clearing unit for the Barrage in 2020, Matt Whitcher is a big-bodied SSDM who can provide an instant spark on defense and in transition. His offensive game has also improved with each passing season. A team drafting Whitcher can expect immediate help in certain facets, with the potential for way more down the line if he keeps growing as a dodger.
PLL-MLL Merger Series
Monday – Protected Players
Tuesday – Cannons LC Expansion Draft
Wednesday – Top Ex-MLL Players Available, Part 1
Thursday – Top Ex-MLL Players Available, Part 2
Friday – PLL Mock Merger Draft