Premier Lacrosse League Intro
The Premier Lacrosse League is one of two professional field lacrosse leagues in North America. It was started in 2019 by founder and player Paul Rabil and is run by his brother, CEO, Mike Rabil. The PLL started off with six teams and was expanded to seven in 2020. In their first season, they used a tour-based model playing three games a week at ten different locations throughout the United States.
The PLL partnered with NBC to not only bring a level of production never seen in pro lacrosse but to also reach more households than ever before. The PLL simply offers the best product for pro lacrosse currently. The slightly smaller field, quicker shot clock, and faceoff changes have all been implemented to create a superior product to their competition. This is also coupled with the fact that they now have the best players in the world. The PLL’s model of blowing up social media, partnering with a national TV sponsor, paying players more, and giving them full benefits has seen decent results through two seasons.
Following the 2020 shortened championship season due to Covid-19, the seven current teams are already looking forward to a full 2021 season. Each team, even the back-to-back champion Whipsnakes, have their faults. They all will be looking to the 2021 entry and rookie drafts to use the assets they have accumulated to bring on enough talent to fix those holes. With the current rosters in mind and those assets they currently hold, let us go ahead and rank the seven lacrosse clubs worst to best.
#7 Atlas LC
Ironically, the founder of the PLL, Paul Rabil, finds himself in the worst lacrosse club at the moment. To be fair Rabil is a big part of the issue on this team, as he has simply not performed well the first two years of the PLL.
Trevor Baptiste is a great FOGO and new addition Rob Panel at attack gives them the advantage over most teams at these two spots. However, it is at the defensive midfield and defense where Atlas is extremely far behind the curve. If it was not for Jack Concannon being a great keeper, this team could easily be giving up twenty goals a game.
The defensive talent at D, LSM, and SSDM are all lacking. It will be hard for Atlas to fix this in one offseason and that is a big part as to why I rate them last in the power rankings. On top of all those additions, it would really help to get Bryan Costabile, rookie out of Notre Dame, some help at offensive mitty. If somehow Atlas manages to get a solid D-pole, SSDM, and offensive mitty, maybe I could see them competing in 2021.
#6 Waterdogs LC
The expansion team for 2020 had a bit of a rough season. While they led most of their games, they simply could not compete in the second half. Oftentimes getting stuffed on offense and worn down on defense. The Waterdogs are filled with tier-two talent in the PLL. A great comparison would be the Las Vegas Golden Knights in hockey their first year. However, in lacrosse, it is important to get some of that tier-one talent and help out star midfielder Zach Currier with the load.
The Waterdogs will have the #1 rookie pick in what is most likely going to be the most talented graduating class in the history of lacrosse. I think it would be hard for them to miss getting a superstar at any position. They will also have the best chance of getting #1 in the entry draft, which could also give them access to a superstar depending on who makes the jump for the MLL.
There is also the fact that the Waterdogs have only ever spent two weeks together. A full season for Andy Copelan would do wonders for getting more out of their stacked attack. Figuring out how to unlock Ben Reeves’ talent to give you similar production that he brought to Yale in college would also instantly make this team scary to play.
#5 Chrome LC
Chrome had an amazing first four games to the season. However, their problems from last year came up again in the first round of the playoffs when they gave up 19 goals to Chaos. They attempted to fix the defense in the offseason by drafting a defense-heavy, headlined by the entry draft pick of Jesse Bernhardt at LSM. It remains to be seen if those 19 goals were a fluke or if Chrome needs to keep attacking defense in the drafts and through trades.
Another place where Chrome could get a lot better is at their midfield. Both offensively and defensively they need help with the midfield. However, it is the extreme lack of any kind of solid two-way mitty with the PLL’s fast-paced game that I think is hurting them the most. A Bryan Costabile-like player would be the perfect fit for this Chrome team.
Chrome is probably the biggest unknown as they had such extremes in the 2020 mini-season. They could easily rise up to a top #3 team and easily fall to #7 depending on how the team looks early in the 2021 season.
#4 Chaos LC
While Chaos did make it to the championship, and without their star attackman Conner Fields who was benched, the team is still very much an unknown. They can be extremely good when their midfield is hitting their shots and can be extremely bad when they are not. Andy Towers needs to figure out what adjustments he needs to make sure that they are not so dependent on those offensive midfield players going off.
Chaos’s defense is really headed by Blaze Riorden, he is one of two elite goalies in this league next to Kyle Bernlohr of the Whipsnakes. While they do have Jarrod Neumann (the most overrated defensive player in the league), and Jack Rowlett, I would take the Archers, Redwoods, and Whipsnakes over their set of defensive players any day. If they can strengthen this set of players in the offseason I would have no problem moving them up past the Archers next to the big two of Redwoods and Whips.
Another position they might look at addressing would be FO. Thomas Kelly did not have a good year, and arguably cost them the game against the Whips when he could not win a faceoff to stop the momentum of that fourth quarter. However, any strengthening to the team is going to be hard as they have the second to last pick in the rookie draft, and low chances of a decent pick in the entry draft.
#3 Archers LC
Archers had a pretty decent 2020 season, though they will be kicking themselves for falling short to Chaos in the semi-finals. Headed by the two-offensive masterminds in Tom Schreiber at midfield and Grant Ament at attack, the Archers have a deadly and efficient offensive side to their game. They could look to add one more offensive midfield player to help support Schreiber, and one attackman to add depth behind the solid starting three of Ament, Manny, and Holman that they already have. However, it seems that the offense is not really too much of a problem.
The Archers are also extremely solid at defensive mitty both LSM and SSDM; however, adding another elite D-pole, someone that could take away the other team’s best player, is what the Archers need to push their team into title contention. They simply do not have a standout guy like that currently.
The other two facets of the game in Faceoff and Goalie are both slightly below average. These are both places that would be hard to fill as there is simply less talent, but if they could, it might also give them a huge boost.
#2 Redwoods LC
The Redwoods struggled early on in the group stage but put together a great four-game run to end their season. Again, they fell behind the Whips early in the semi-finals similar to the 2019 championship, and again they battled back to bring it to OT and lost in heartbreaking fashion. However, this season’s battle brings even more positives. The Redwoods were missing their star attackman Jules Heningburg due to Covid as well as star defense player Matt Landis to Military service. Despite these absences, they really were the only team all season that showed that they could handle the current Whipsnakes Roster.
Where the Redwoods need to get better is at the Faceoff position. The Woods drafted Peyton Smith and Greg Puskuldjian in the rookie and entry draft. Both of them had sub 40% win rates at the Faceoff X. While the Redwoods’ D is the best in the league, and Tim Troutner is a solid goalie, no team can go week in and week out consistently winning with such a low amount of possessions. Look for the Redwoods to trade everything and the kitchen sink to draft Yale’s stud FO man TD Ierlan.
Depth at an offensive mitty is also another place that needs strengthening. Someone a bit more agile to play alongside the big-bodied two-point threats of Perkovic and Myles Jones would be perfect. Veterans Joe Walters, Kyle Harrison, and Brent Adams were not quite getting the job done in 2020.
The Woods will not rise above the Whips until they can beat them in the playoffs. However, their defense showed that they can handle the offensive standouts of the Whips holding Rambo and Zed Williams to zero points. I would put money that they can win that game if they can answer both these question marks of FO and offensive mitty, in the offseason.
#1 Whipsnakes LC
Back to back champions. There is not much to say that has not already been said about the Whipsnakes. An extremely solid defensive unit, only second to the Redwoods, the best goalie in the league, and a potent attack. The Whips have it all and will only get better as they continue to make great rookie and entry draft picks.
Their entire offense besides MVP Matt Rambo was poached in the expansion draft by the Waterdogs, and somehow the selection of Zed Williams in the entry draft made up for that entire unit. The Whips essentially have two MVP candidates at attack now. This is probably the only place alongside two-way mitty that the Whips could bolster. Adding another great shooter for Rambo to feed and play off of Zed’s dodging would make this attack unstoppable.
Joe Nardella was the best FO man in the league in 2020. This was the only place someone could maybe worry about going into the 2020 season and it turned into one of their biggest strengths. The Whips are simply dominant. They will need to keep adding depth and attacking options to keep up with the Redwoods, but as long as they keep hitting in the draft, not much can stop Jim Stagnitta’s team.
Q: What does each position mean and what do they do?
A: D: These are long pole defensive players who stick on the defensive side of the field and rarely sub off. Defending primarily the attack players for the other team
LSM: Long-stick midfielder, this is the 4th and final long stick allowed on the field, he subs in while the team is playing defense.
SSDM: Short stick D mitty, these are the short stick defensive players who also sub into the game when their team is on defense.
Two-way Mitty: Short stick midfield players who excel at both the offensive and defensive side of the game. Extremely useful in fast paced PLL and can be deadly in the transition game.
Offensive Mittys: Short stick players with an offensive skill set, usually fast players who are good at dodging. These players sub in when the team is on offense.
Attack: Short stick offensive players who stick on the attacking side of the field and rarely sub off. These are your best pure offensive players, often great disruptors of the ball
FO of FOGO: Faceoff or faceoff and go, players, these are the men who fight at the faceoff x for possession.
G: Goalie, the keeper in lacrosse who is very similar to a hockey goalkeeper, though lacrosse keepers can cross the midfield line and often do to transition the ball to offense.
Q: What is the entry, rookie, and expansion draft?
A: The entry draft is for already pro players who are playing in the other pro lacrosse leagues, NLL (Indoor), MLL (Field similar to PLL). The players who decide to make the jump and come to the PLL full time enter this draft every year.
The rookie draft is for graduating players from college who wish to play for the PLL.
The expansion draft was for the Waterdogs exclusively, to build their roster and take from the original six. It is still up in the air when the 8th team will come into the PLL and the expansion draft will be utilized again.
Q: Are the teams privately owned?
A: Currently no, the teams are owned by the league, though this is something the league has discussed and will be open to in the coming years. Sponsorships, even during Covid, more than doubled in 2020 so it is not out of the question.
Q: Where to watch the PLL?
A:NBC Sports Gold is a subscription that has every game. However, about 50+% of games are aired on NBSCN and NBC where anyone with cable can enjoy watching lacrosse