Introduction to the list
The Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) is still in its infancy, coming out of only its second season and a shortened one at that. However, one thing the PLL has been able to provide is the best lacrosse players in the world. There is absolutely no shortage of talent within the league.
With so many legends in the PLL, it makes it hard to even fathom coming up with a top ten best players list. The way I am going to approach this is by considering if every team had to redraft to win one championship, what would my board look like? Specifically, what are the top ten talents in the league based on their performances these past two seasons?
#10 Grant Ament
Attack – Archers LC – Penn State
Ament is coming off his first season in the PLL. The #1 overall pick in the rookie draft did not disappoint in the shortened season. In just 6 games, he came away tied for the third-highest point total at 20 and second in assists at 14. This is, of course, no surprise as we are used to Ament being an elite feeder setting up so many goals for fellow Penn State star Mac O’Keefe.
I will admit, I was not sure if Ament could be as dominant in the PLL with such a high pace and so many elite defensive players. I was wrong. There was not a single player this season who looked better passing the ball. The amount of nonchalant skip passes for easy goals was insane. It was no longer a surprise for Ament to set up an easy goal on the doorstep with five seconds left on the shot clock due to his vision.
All this, and I have not even touched on the fact that he was an elite dodger. In his first two games, he made his defenders literally fall over themselves 3-4 times. He can easily create his own shot whenever need be. He did slow down a bit after the first two games scoring-wise, but that is when he started setting up everyone else for goals. Ament is a leader at attack, and any PLL team would love to have him.
#9 Zach Currier
Midfield – Waterdogs LC – Princeton
Moving on from the #1 overall pick in the rookie draft to the #1 pick in the entry draft, former MLL star Zach Currier comes in at #9. It was difficult justifying putting Currier on this list after only playing 4 games in the PLL. He missed out on a few due to a concussion he received on his very first ever PLL play. (Where he dodged from the top of the two-point arch, finessed his way through the D, and made an insane crease dive for a disallowed goal.) However, Currier is one of the two elite offensive midfielders in the game.
Through those 4 games, he had 4 goals, 3 assists, and shot 50% from the field. He also scooped up a whopping 20 ground balls. (The most by any player not on the faceoff x, or playing LSM and in just 4 games!) His statistics would look pretty good if he had played 6-7 games, and he barely got half of that.
Currier is the complete package. If you need him to play D in transition, he can. If you need him to grab GBs during the FO, he can. If you need him to score, there is only one other midfield option to put above him. He has an innate ability to create his own shot and create easy shots for himself i.e. the 50% shot percentage.
#8 Joseph Nardella
Faceoff – Whipsnakes – Rutgers
Nardella has played a full two seasons in the PLL now. After these two seasons, I think it is safe to say that he is the best all-around faceoff player in the league. In 2019 he was tied for second-best faceoff percentage at 55%. However, he crushed the competition at the x when it came to offensive production with 12 points, 6 goals, and 6 assists. Then in 2020, he had an elite 72% win percentage, 10 points higher than the next FO man, and another 6 points from FO with 3 goals and 3 assists.
There is a huge argument to be made that he should win MVP of the shortened season. Without Nardella, there is a good chance that the Whipsnakes slip up against the Redwoods or do not go on the historic 4th quarter 9-0 run against Chaos in the ship. He allowed the Whipsnakes to simply have the ball so much more than their opponents and allowed them to keep that ball when they go on runs of scoring 2, 3, or as we saw, 9 unanswered goals.
Nardella is the premier faceoff man in this league. Not only can he dominate, winning the draw, but he is also the biggest threat in transition. That kind of play is insanely valuable in the PLL.
#7 Kyle Bernlohr
Goalie – Whipsnakes – Maryland
Bernlohr is a shining light of consistency between the pipes. Two years now in the PLL and two championships under his belt, it is easy to see why he is on the top ten list. You do not win back-to-back championships without elite goalie play. But if you do not believe me, simply look at his save percentage the past two seasons, 55% and 63% both best for #1 in the league for goalies who played at least 70% of their team’s games.
Bernlohr does not let the easy shots go in. I would argue that there are one or two other goalies in the league that might be better than him at the incredible, low percentage chance saves. However, no one will give you the consistency of saving the easy ones like Bernlohr. He is a leader for the back-to-back champion’s defense and has to be on this list.
#6 Conner Fields
Attack – Chaos – Albany
One of, if not the best pure scoring attackmen in the league comes in at #6. Fields had a weird 2020, but let us first discuss his dominating 2019. In 10 games, he scored 22 goals, had 11 assists, and shot 36%, which was second-best among the top ten point leaders in the league. When you needed a goal from attack in 2019, Conner Fields was simply the best to do it. His flair for the dramatic with behind-the-back fakes, behind-the-back goals, shooting from all angles, and maintaining the high shot percentage is a big reason why everyone views him as the best.
However, his 2020 season somewhat derailed as he was benched for the entirety of the playoffs by his coach Andy Towers. This was due to Field’s hogging of the ball and oftentimes going into one-one or two-man games instead of keeping the offense flowing. He did not look as comfortable or in control out there as he usually does.
2021 will be a mystery for Fields, though I think he is still the premier scoring option in the PLL at attack. It will be interesting to see if a team like the Redwoods or Atlas, who play more one-on-one and two-man games, will look to trade for him if Towers no longer sees him fit for the squad.
#5 Zed Williams
Attack – Whipsnakes – Virginia
The #5 overall draft pick of the entry draft, turned champion and MVP of the 2020 finals. Zed Williams is an amazing lacrosse player; however, I think it is obvious by the fact that he lasted until the Whips at #5 that teams did not realize just how special he was. He led the 2020 season with 20 goals, 7 more than the next best player, and added 3 assists to that total. If there was any player in this league to give Fields, our #6 player, a run for their money as the best scorer in attack, it is Williams.
Williams did have the benefit of former MVP Matt Rambo feeding him the ball, but it was Williams’ elite shooting that allowed him to score those 20 goals. Oftentimes receiving the feed and the ball being in the back of the net before the viewer even realized what happened.
He is the type of attackman that can change a game when he gets hot. We saw his 6 goals in the championship while shooting 43%. There was literally no stopping him in that game, and it is another huge piece to the puzzle as to how the Whipsnakes retained the belt while losing so many players in the expansion draft.
#4 Blaze Riorden
Goalie – Chaos – Albany
The best goalie over the first two seasons needed to be high on this list. I have said it before in my breakdown of the PLL, but Riorden is the entire defense for this Chaos team.
His save percentages were second this year at 61% and tied for first at 55% among players who started 70% of their team’s games last year. However, the sheer amount of shots that he faces versus other elite keepers is what makes him stand out. 153 saves, 22 more than the next most in 2019. Then this year, he had 119 saves, 36 more than the next most in the league.
If it was not for Blaze Riorden and you put almost any other goalie in there for Chaos, I would argue that they may only have a handful of wins through these first two seasons. Instead, they have finished #3 and #2 in the league, and that is off of the back of Riorden’s insane shot-stopping ability.
He often makes the saves you just do not see other goalies make. He is physical and will let you know he is there. On top of all this, it is clear that he is the leader of that Chaos team. With PLL’s media access oftentimes giving you an insight into team dynamics, Riorden is always the one leading the huddles, the team meetings, and he is the face of that franchise.
#3 Matt Rambo
Attack – Whipsnakes – Maryland
The 2019 MVP of the PLL and the now back-to-back champion Matt Rambo comes in at #3. Matt Rambo won the 2019 championship game with a late goal to tie and the game-winner in OT. He led the 2019 season in points at 42 points (19 goals and 23 assists), he then came back to once again lead the 2020 season with 25 points (7 goals and 18 assists). The accolades and stats just keep adding up.
There is almost no way to argue that there is a better all-around attackman in the league than Rambo. He scores in clutch moments, as he can quarterback the offense and dish out assist after assist. He is an experienced player who has literally only placed 1st in his two seasons in the PLL.
It is hard to put him at #3, but he is, without a doubt, the best attackman. However, the next two players have a greater distance between them and the next best talent at their said position, in my opinion.
#2 Garrett Epple
Defense – Redwoods – Notre Dame
The best defenseman in the PLL, and it is not even close. Epple was robbed of the 2019 defensive player of the year award in favor of a more offensive-minded player in Jarrod Newman. To me, it was mind-boggling. Epple is the premier shutdown defenseman in this league. He does it all, ground balls, causes turnovers, shut down defense, enforces, and has a pretty good transition game.
Let us go over some stats to show this. In 2019 he had 23 caused turnovers, 10 more than any other player in the PLL. He also had 40 GBs, leading all defensemen in that category. In 2020, even with his suspension, he came in tied for 4th in CTs with 9. He also had a whopping 17 GBs, second only to Cade Van Raaphorst (who often played on the wings during faceoffs). He has by far the best stats out of any defenseman.
However, his best and most important attribute is shutting down the opponents’ best player. In the 2020 elimination game, he held former MVP Matt Rambo to 0 points in the game. In 2019 he held Conner Fields to 0 points in their postseason matchup. Epple has the ability to take away the other team’s best player, and that is something that no other defenseman in the PLL has been able to consistently do.
#1 Tom Shcreiber
Midfield – Archers – Princeton
Schreiber is the best pure offensive weapon at the midfield position. He has the ability to sub on to the field, demand the ball, make one move, and score. This is something you simply do not see from other players. I have yet to see a true defensive plan to stop him, and he can take over a game whenever he wants.
In 2019, as the only midfielder in the top 10 in point totals, he came in second at 37 with 15G, 2 two-point goals, and 18 assists. He is providing totals on par with the very best attackmen without being on the field nearly as much. His efficiency is off the charts. In 2020 he had another great season. Again, he was the only midfield player in the top 10 in points at number 7. He scored 16 points off of 12G and 4A.
Tom Schreiber would be any coach’s first pick. He is on a level that no other midfield player can touch. He creates mismatches and opportunities for his attackmen to face easier matchups and score at will. Whenever he touches the ball and makes his signature dodge to his left hand, the whole defense holds their breath, just hoping he misses the cage as his shots are so hard to stop. (He shot 41% in 2020, the highest of any top ten point scorer).
Tom Schreiber is my number one player in the PLL.