This offseason for the Premier Lacrosse League has been nothing less of a soap opera. With the announcement of the league’s new documentary “Fate of a Sport” with Executive Producer LeBron James, the league is being put on worldwide notice. After a very controversial 2022 PLL Draft and some of the most influential players in Lacrosse history retiring, the lacrosse world eagerly awaits as opening day approaches.
With all of that in mind, in the world of sports, there’s winners, and there’s losers. Only one team can win the gold, and I’m here to tell you who that is.
Prepare for the Worst…
8th, Cannons, 2-8
Last year’s transition to the PLL was already a major disappointment, and now with arguably the best player in Lacrosse history Paul Rabil retiring, things aren’t looking up for the Cannons. The games they’ll find a way to win will be carried by Lyle Thompson on offense, who was fourth in points scored last season, and Jake Pulver manning the defense.
If Stephen Rehfuss can step up and make up for the loss in Rabil, there’s a possibility things go differently. But for now, regardless of my personal love for the team, I’m not hopeful.
7th, Chrome, 2-8 (ranked by score differential)
With possibly the worst draft fumble in recent sports memory, Chrome passed up on the all time NCAA Lacrosse leading scorer Chris Gray with the first pick for a guy who was projected to go in the double digits.
With the worst record in the league last year and question marks surrounding your team, this season could easily put management in the hot seat. However, having Connor Farrell on your team never hurts, but with no other player even close to leading in any major statistical category last season, Chrome fans are lucky I didn’t put them dead last.
6th, Waterdogs, 4-6
After a surprise season last year leading the league in wins following an abysmal 2020, things were looking up for the Waterdogs. After making the most out of their only 3 selections in the draft, you may think that the team will follow up on its success once more.
However, I am more worried about their longevity and their maintenance of this success. The Whipsnakes went on a tear in 2020, going undefeated in the regular and post seasons, causing the PLL world to start worrying about a future dynasty.
2021 gave us a different story, placing them in the bottom half of the league’s teams, with a record barely over .500. Although the Waterdogs were formidable on defense, with much left to be desired on the offensive side of the field, this team may struggle to keep the ball rolling and see nearly as much success this season.
5th, Whipsnakes, 5-5
The team drafted for depth, and succeeded in doing so. With more help on the defensive side of the ball, specifically with the choice of Roman Puglise out of Maryland, there’s hope for a glimpse of 2020 in this team.
My main concern is that I just can’t get over their close defense. As a team, they ranked second to last in caused turnovers, and dead last in save percentage by a goalie.
Regardless, this team has a great coaching staff and has a variety of playmakers on their roster, and will find a way to get the ball in the net. This prediction could go either way, so keeping them at an even .500 makes the most sense.
4th, Redwoods, 5-5 (ranked by point differential)
The Redwoods, even with only 3 picks in the draft, came out as one of the absolute winners. With arguably the best defenseman in the draft Arden Cohen joining the squad alongside a steal in the third round with speedy midfielder Nakeie Montgomery, they filled some needs at positions that were looking shallow in depth.
The Cohen selection is huge for them after being a middle-of-the-pack defensive team, as he anchored a defense that was ranked third in the NCAA in goals allowed per game. The guy’s film is great, he isn’t afraid to put a shoulder down, and this may elevate the Redwoods defense to the upper echelon and a possible surprise playoff run.
3rd, Chaos, 6-4
Although they are the reigning champs, this may surprise some, as the Chaos finished with the third worst record last year. With this in mind, I still see big changes coming.
Last year, this team was carried by the best goalie in lacrosse and league MVP, Blaze Riorden. Although Riorden lit the PLL on fire with his league leading 149 saves, to save that many shots, that many shots need to be taken. His defense was not supporting him nearly enough, and without him, they may have been one of the worst defenses in the game.
This is what makes their draft so special. A team, who on paper, has a decent defense already, spent 2 first round draft picks on defensive players. This shows how important watching the games is. There comes a point where stats don’t tell the whole story, and you need to use the eye test.
This team needed to help Riorden, and they did. If this team can hold up on defense and catch fire on the other end of the field with Josh Byrne and company, I see a leap in regular season success for the Chaos.
2nd, Archers, 7-3
A fair contender for number 1 on this list, the Archers have some of the highest potential in the PLL. They were above average on almost every part of the field, with their defense being the most prominent. They had two defensive players in the top 10 for caused turnovers, and were first in the league in shots allowed per game. They had a save percentage of 60%, second only to the reigning MVP of the Chaos.
This team has a bright future ahead of them, especially with attackman Grant Ament leading the charge. However, with all-star goalie Adam Ghitelman nearing the end of his career, drafting a goalie in the second round may seem enticing, but I don’t like the pick myself. This team will see lots of success in the upcoming years, with title contention on the horizon.
1st, Atlas, 9-1
This team is unstoppable. Their offense was first in the league in scores last year. Their FOGO, Trevor Baptiste, is the best at his position, leading the league in faceoff wins and faceoff percentage. Their defense even squeaked out first place in caused turnovers. This club has the recipe for success, finding ways to flourish in almost all departments of the game.
You would think this would be where my praise ends, but you would be incredibly mistaken. Somehow, this team managed to steal one of the most surefire prospects in professional Lacrosse HISTORY at the second overall pick. A player who holds the NCAA Lacrosse points scored record, beating out legend Lyle Thompson of the Cannons.
Him, paired with Jeff Teat, may be one of the most exciting young duos we’ve seen in Lacrosse since Lyle Thompson and Connor Fields at Albany. This club should be marked off on every team’s schedule, and the Atlas will undoubtedly win the 2022 PLL championship.