Welcome to the Lax All Stars 2021 PLL Rookie Spotlights series!
The PLL College Draft was held April 26, introducing 32 players into the PLL fold. The league’s training camp is set for May 28 through June 3 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, to determine the final rosters of the eight teams for the 2021 campaign.
Not all 32 of these players will make a team, but right now, the dream is alive for them all. We’re counting down the days until the PLL opens up its training camp by delving deep into every player selected in the 2021 PLL College Draft, with two players included in each post, with help from Ryder Cochrane, Ryan Conwell, Nick Zoroya, and Nick Pietras.
Next up: Dox Aitken and Connor Kirst.
2021 PLL Rookie Spotlights: Dox Aitken & Connor Kirst
Who drafted him & when: Dox Aitken was selected No. 8 overall by Atlas LC.
Is this about where he was expected to go: Based on Dox Aitken’s 2021 season alone, he could have easily fallen to the second or even the third round. He currently has 15 goals this season, which is an abysmal amount when compared to years past. Aitken had 29 goals in his freshman year, 39 in his sophomore season, and 44 in his junior campaign. His production level has certainly dropped as he is recording career-low numbers during his time as a Cavalier. Aitken definitely can play lacrosse at a high level, which has been shown in the past. It seemed like a stretch to take him in the first round, but I don’t want that to take anything away from his ability as a lacrosse player, because he is still one of the top offensive midfielders in this class.
What are the main skills he brings to the team: Dox Aitken is a phenomenal offensive midfielder who can truly score from anywhere on the field. He may not be the flashiest player, but he certainly understands how to manipulate a defense, especially in one-on-one scenarios. Aitken sticks to the fundamentals while keeping his eyes upfield and will not hesitate to capitalize on defensive errors. You never know if he will take a big step-down shot or shift past a defender toward the goal and shoot the second he has his hands free. He isn’t reliant on fake shots or even fancy footwork. His shot placement is impeccable as he truly doesn’t have a preference with where he puts the ball in the net. Everything he does on the field comes from intention and is rarely reactionary, which may hurt or help him in the league. His low numbers this season definitely raise some concerns, but he absolutely has the potential to go back to his old scoring ways.
How’s the fit: The Atlas certainly had the most interesting approach to the entry draft as they looked to completely rebuild after trading away Paul Rabil and Rob Pannell just a few months ago. With the intention of bringing in an entirely new squad with their plethora of draft picks, the Atlas did just that as they filled virtually every hole the team had/created. Dox Aitken’s play style very much resembles Bryan Costabile’s, which is very intriguing considering how much potential Costabile showed last year. Aitken is in an interesting position as the Atlas are going through a rebuild, meaning the team currently doesn’t have an identity, which is rarely a good thing for incoming rookies. My gut reaction says Aitken will struggle in his first year, not due to his ability as a lacrosse player, but because of the current state of the team.
Who’s the competition & what are the odds he makes the team: Dox Aitken will certainly make the team as the Atlas really need the depth at the midfield and he can provide that. Costabile and Aitken will play a similar role on the field, but I have faith that head coach Ben Rubeor will figure that situation out on his own.
Who drafted him & when: Connor Kirst was selected No. 7 overall by Whipsnakes LC.
Is this about where he was expected to go: There was no real question that Connor Kirst was one of the top offensive midfielders in this class. He had a great career at Villanova and has been playing lights out at Rutgers this season. He could have fallen to the second round, but based on his performance with the Scarlet Knights alone, he has earned his spot as a first-round draft pick.
What are the main skills he brings to the team: Connor Kirst has been known at the collegiate level for his big step-down shots. He has had no issue finding the back of the cage from 15 yards out, which will carry over well to the two-point line in the PLL. Kirst has the physical size to excel at the next level, too. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, he shouldn’t have a problem competing toe-to-toe with any SSDM in the league. He definitely has the ability to carry the ball over in transition, which will be crucial to his play style as I see a lot of his goals coming in transition. While he may excel on the offensive side of the ball, he has the athleticism to compete on defense as well.
How’s the fit: While Connor Kirst would have been a major contributor on any PLL roster, he is put in the best position to succeed with the Whipsnakes for obvious reasons. For starters, the Whipsnakes are the best team in the league with no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Kirst may play a pivotal factor from day one as the team is currently missing a two-point shooter and definitely could use some more assists from its midfield. While Connor never has been known as an assists man, being surrounded by so many goal scorers may create a lot of opportunities for him to move the ball in situations where he may have felt it necessary to shoot at the collegiate level. His ability to score from the top of the box will definitely draw some early slides and create opportunities for him to cycle the sphere. While the Whipsnakes don’t need him to put up astonishing numbers, his skillset and presence on the field will certainly be felt immediately.
Who’s the competition & what are the odds he makes the team: Mike Chanenchuk had a phenomenal 2019 season from beyond the two-point line, racking up seven two-pointers. But his 2020 season only consisted of two two-point goals, and he really lost his presence on this Whipsnakes squad. Connor Kirst has the opportunity to come in and take the reins from the 30-year-old seasoned veteran, but Chanenchuk can still play and might find his way back to his old habits this season. Kirst will definitely make this Whipsnakes roster, but his first year will really show if he can compete in the league as he has to excel at more than just big step-down shots at the pro level.
More PLL Rookie Spotlights
There will be plenty of PLL Rookie Spotlights to check out between now and the start of training camp. You can find information about the incoming rookie class here.