As the PLL College Draft rapidly approaches, now is a good time to take stock of what the Redwoods will be looking for.
Redwoods LC Head Coach and General Manager, Nat St. Laurent, has already called this one of the best defensive drafts he’s seen a professional coach. And with an abundance of talent at their fingertips, considering they have the second pick in all four rounds, the Redwoods are in a prime position to secure players capable of addressing their needs.
When you look at the defensive side of the ball, the ‘Woods have two stalwarts that pop off the page: Garrett Epple and Eddy Glazener. But behind those two players, the ‘Woods are thinner than they’ve been in years past, thanks to Kyle Hartzell and Finn Sullivan leaving in free agency.
Throw in SSDM Patrick Harbeson’s retirement, and there’s no question why defensive depth is the Redwoods’ top priority in the draft. Not to mention, except for last year’s first-round pick, Arden Cohen, the Woods’ backline has a good deal of mileage on their tires.
But that experience presents an opportunity for whatever pole the ‘Woods take, as they’ll be able to soak up a ton of game from two all-stars in Glazener and Epple.
“The person that we bring in is going to come into a situation where there will not be a ton of pressure on them to have to perform right away,” St. Laurent said.
“We’ve got some guys that can support them, and they can fill a specific role and really adjust to the PLL… we’ve got guys like, [John] Sexton, Glazener and Epple, that are veterans on that side of the field, that whoever we bring in, they’re going to be able to bring along just like they did with Arden.”
It’s no secret Cornell’s Gavin Adler seems like he’d fit the bill, but there’s a possibility he’s not there once the Redwoods are on the clock, considering he is the #1 player on Paul Carcaterra’s Big Board. Luckily this draft is stocked with high-level poles that the Redwoods can find later.
One position St. Laurent explicitly emphasized he was looking at in the draft was improving the LSM position. And that primarily is because Hartzell’s departure left John Sexton as the lone LSM on the roster. And having one of anything exposes the team to the injury bug, which can bite at any time.
Additionally, let’s face it, youthful, spry legs don’t last forever, and St. Laurent knows that all too well. And he’s considering that when looking at his current roster and potential roster down the road.
“The defenseman that we look at in that position, we want to make sure that that person’s dynamic enough to be able to play up top [at LSM], especially early in his career,” St. Laurent said. “Then be able to move him down [to close Defense] later, if need be, as guys move into retirement.”
As the Redwoods strategize for the draft, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that a player like Jacksonville’s Troy Hettinger would come up in conversation as a later pick. Hettinger’s versatility and experience across all defensive positions make him an exciting prospect for the ‘Woods, perfectly fitting St. Laurent’s vision for a dynamic and adaptable LSM.
St. Laurent also specifically mentioned the SSDM position as a place where he wants to add some young blood.
“We just need to get younger, and we feel like there’s four or five really good short stick d-mids [in this draft], and there’s two or three that we really like,” St. Laurent said.
With Harbeson retiring this offseason, recency bias may have accelerated the ‘Woods’ need for younger SSDM. But as St. Laurent said, this is an excellent year to be in the market for defensive midfielders coming out of college.
The ‘Woods might be eying Brian Tevlin, who found his way on top of Carcaterra’s Big Board for two-way midfielders, and for good reason. For starters, Tevlin’s prowess as a defender is probably best exemplified by the fact that he picks up pole when Notre Dame goes man-down. Not to mention he’s currently second on his team in caused turnovers with 12. And despite being a Grad transfer, if the ‘Woods pick him, he’d be joining a gang of Notre Dame alumni currently playing defense on the roster (Cohen, Epple, Sexton and Glazener).