Cannons Lacrosse Club’s 2023 Draft Needs
After a one-win campaign in 2022, the Cannons enter 2023 in need of remodeling and with a brand new coaching staff led by longtime college coach Brian Holman. Holman has wasted no time since taking the reins, as the Cannons were the most active team in free agency; adding eight new pieces to the roster across nearly every position.
That being said, an injection of young talent is still needed if the Cannons are to turn things around moving forward. With a little more than 24 hours until the 2023 PLL College Draft airs tomorrow night on ESPNU, it’s time to examine how Coach Holman might look to lay the bedrock of his new team.
The Cannons’ defensive woes have been well documented. Last season, they gave up a league-high 14 goals against average and 140 total. The year prior, the Cannons also surrendered the most goals per game (13.3). Since joining the PLL in 2021, the Cannons have the worst scoring differential in the league at -39.
Since the Cannons own just two picks in Tuesday night’s draft, the first pick of the second (#9 overall) and fourth rounds (#25 overall), Coach Holman will likely aim to build for the future on the defensive end with at least one of the two. The Cannons have two promising starting poles in Jack Kielty and Jake Pulver, but lacked a consistent third piece down low last season. Not to mention, this may very well be the last professional season for both Brodie Merrill and Kyle Hartzell.
In a perfect world, one of the top four defensemen (Gavin Adler, Will Bowen, Brett Makar, and Owen Grant) listed on ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra’s top 10 prospects list will still be available to the Cannons at nine. While that may seem unlikely, through four completed PLL drafts, never before have four close defenders been selected in the first round.
Fortunately for the Cannons, this year’s draft class is chock-full of defensive talent. Even if they miss out on one of those top four prospects, they’ll still have the opportunity to grab a foundational cover-guy at nine.
Alex Mazzone is a player to watch for the Cannons’ first pick. Mazzone, the Hopkins grad transfer by way of Georgetown, would add versatility to the Cannons defensive unit. The Stony Brook native started all 18 games for Georgetown at close defense as a freshman in 2019 before transitioning into a first line LSM role. He scooped up 67 GB this season for the Jays and is currently listed as the ninth best overall prospect by Carcaterra.
There are a number of potential defensive starters that the Cannons could also add to open up the fourth round. Notre Dame’s Chris Fake, Loyola’s Cam Wyers, and Albany’s Elijah Gash are names to keep in mind.
Defense should be the priority for the Cannons on Tuesday night, but the Boom Squad could also benefit greatly from adding another scoring option to their midfield unit. Holman didn’t give up any trade secrets in his pre-draft media availability, but he did make clear that he’s interested in adding some speed and explosiveness in the middle of the field.
Last season, Ryan Drenner was the most productive midfielder offensively for the Cannons (17 G, 3 A), and Drenner is a natural attackman. Their next highest point getter running out of the box was Stephen Rehfuss (6 G, 8 A), another attackman-turned-middie.
Jeff Trainor was a nice free agent pickup but he’s more of a solid two-way defensive midfielder than he is a true scoring threat. Considering Jonathan Donville is another hybrid type of player that can play attack or middie, Trainor and Chris Aslanian are the only two traditional midfielders on the roster.
As last season elucidated, even with Lyle Thompson doing Lyle Thompson things and playing at an MVP-caliber level and Asher Nolting being one of the best rookies in the league, the Cannons offense was far from perfect. According to Champion Data’s advanced tracking, the Cannons made the fewest passes per game (192.4) and fewest per possession (5.00) in 2022.
Help is on the way at attack à la Marcus Holman and Matt Kavanagh, but more scoring balance is needed in the midfield. If Tucker Dordevic or Matt Campbell fall out of the first round they could be options for the Cannons at nine. Depending on how the board falls, Levi Anderson would be a strong selection for the Cannons at the top of the fourth round.
HONORABLE MENTION: DRAFT CAPITAL
After finishing in last place in 2022, the Cannon’s roster holes heading into this year have been potentially exacerbated by past trades. The Cannons would own the #1 overall pick in Tuesday’s draft – the one advantage that comes from a one-win season – but the prior coaching regime traded away this year’s first rounder on draft night last year for two picks that turned into Bubba Fairman and Colin Kirst. They also traded away this year’s #17 overall pick to Chaos last January in exchange for Jake Froccaro, who is now retired. Since the start of 2021, the Cannons have traded away five of their draft picks.
I’d expect Holman to cling to his draft picks a bit more closely. In his pre-draft conversation with the media, Holman noted that he’d be open to trading back in the draft to acquire more picks. But, if I were a betting man, I’d throw the house on the Cannons keeping both of their picks Tuesday night. Still, there’s a chance Holman decides to move someone currently on the roster to acquire more picks.
While this may be Holman’s first taste of the professional ranks in his four decades of coaching experience, Cannon fans should find solace in the fact that this won’t be his first attempt at establishing a winning culture. Holman is a 3x NCAA national champion; he won as both a player and coach at Johns Hopkins in the ‘80s, and most recently helped the UNC Tar Heels hoist the 2016 championship trophy.