PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Cornell's Jeff Teat was taken by Chaos LC head coach Andy Towers with the No. 12 overall pick.

PLL Draft Recap: Chaos LC Makes Most Intriguing Selection


The strategy sounds straightforward enough. You’ve no doubt heard NFL GMs and insiders alike spout it over the last decade. Draft the best available player. That’s easier in concept than reality, especially when faced with a hole at a certain position. Luckily for Chaos fans, Andy Towers faced no such restrictions. 

“I'm fortunate in that we have no glaring positional needs, so I can go after whoever I want,” Towers said last week. 

He did. Last year, Towers focused his first two picks on the defensive end with Johnny Surdick (No. 6 overall) and Jack Rowlett (No. 7). This year he went in the other direction. Despite fielding the second-highest scoring offense during the 2019 regular season, the Chaos were the only team to use both picks in the 2020 college draft on that side of the ball. 

In the first round, Towers took Matt Gaudet (No. 5 overall) from Yale, whose 142 career goals rank third in program history. The selection adds another scoring threat to an already deep and box-centric attack unit that featured Connor Fields, Josh Byrne and Miles Thompson last summer. They accounted for two of the flashier plays in 2019: Thompson’s behind-the-back near-side goal against Atlas in Week 2 or Fields to Byrne’s double-behind-the-back connection in Hamilton, Ontario, which is Gaudet’s hometown. 

Towers’ second pick hails from less than an hour’s drive away from Hamilton and is another Ivy League product. He’s also arguably the most intriguing pick and emblematic of the challenges that the PLL head coaches faced while planning for this year’s draft.

If Jeff Teat’s status regarding his plans for next year was certain, he would have been off the board long before Towers selected him with the No. 12 pick. 

“My only concern, is there enough playing time to go around?” analyst Ryan Boyle said on the broadcast after the selection. 

The three-time USILA All-American and two-time captain at Cornell looked like he was poised to lead the undefeated Big Red (5-0) to a playoff run before the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We really have an appreciation for dodgers, and not necessarily passers and finishers in the Americanized Division I game,” Towers said in an interview earlier this spring. “I think because of that, Jeff Teat isn't adequately appreciated. Look at the success he had at the World Games when he played with guys that could consistently break down their defenders with quickness and acceleration. He was an All-World attackman at 20 years old. That shows you just how dominant he is. I would almost be willing to say that he is more dominant at what he does well than what anybody else [in the college game] is dominant at what they do well.”

Unlike Princeton and Yale, Cornell has not announced officially whether the university will allow 2020 seniors to take advantage of the NCAA’s eligibility relief. 

The pick also poses an added risk because if a player drafted decides to return to school, he would re-enter the draft pool for 2021. With the wealth of options already at his disposal, Towers sounded as comfortable with the decision as Fields looks when he throws a behind-the-back pass. 

“Someone that is as talented as Jeff is worth the risk,” Towers said on the broadcast. 

The Chaos were not the only team to add depth to an area of strength. The Whipsnakes bolstered the league’s second-stingiest defense in 2019 by adding Sean New (No. 7 overall) out of Holy Cross and short stick defensive midfielder Matt Hubler (No. 14) from Johns Hopkins. 

“There are some special positions that you need to have additional depth for something like this,” Stagnitta said last week, referring to the fanless and fully quarantined PLL Championship Series that will include 20 games in 16 days in lieu of the league’s regular touring model. “We're evaluating where we feel like it's important that we have extra quality of depth that maybe we wouldn't have if it's just a regular one game a week.”

Despite selecting Charlie Cipriano fourth in the expansion draft and signing two goalies (Tate Boyce and Reed Junkin) from the player pool in March, Waterdogs head coach Andy Copelan added another goalie when he took Matt DeLuca (No. 8 overall) from Delaware with the first pick in the second round. 

“It's going to be a long, grueling three weeks,” Copelan said last week. “So you need to be very strategic with how you assemble that roster.”


“Someone that is as talented as Jeff is worth the risk.” — Chaos LC head coach Andy Towers


DRAFT NOTES

No Surprise at No. 1 /  What’s in a Number 

Once again, Archers head coach Chris Bates found himself in the enviable position with the first overall pick. Once again, there was a clear favorite. Last year, Grant Ament was a Tewaaraton Award finalist and watched Loyola's Pat Spencer, who Bates took first in 2019, receive college lacrosse’s highest individual honor. The Spencer pick has not panned out since he used a fifth year of eligibility to play basketball at Northwestern and will pursue a professional basketball career. Ament, who tallied an NCAA record 96 assists in 2019, offers an immediate impact. 

With the departure of Christian Cuccinello to the Waterdogs via the expansion draft, Ament should fit in seamlessly into the Archer’s attack, dishing assists to Marcus Holman and Will Manny, who finished the regular season first and second in goals, respectively.  

“I’ve wanted him for over a year,” Manny said in reference to Ament earlier this spring on “Unbuckled Chinstrap,” a PLL podcast hosted by Paul Rabil.

The PLL even released a player name and number shirt for Ament before the first round concluded. Yet, he will not sport the No. 1 that he donned at Penn State and which Holman wears for the Archers. Instead, Ament will wear 16. The number holds special legacy at Penn State, since every spring a senior wears it in honor of former Nittany Lion goalie Connor Darcey, who died in a car crash in June 2015. 

Army Defensemen Head of the Class

There must be something in the Hudson River. For the second year in a row, West Point produced the first defenseman selected in the PLL college draft. Last spring, Towers chose Johnny Surdick, the 2019 Schmeisser Award winner, with the No. 6 pick. The trend continued last night when Chrome’s Tim Soudan tabbed Tom Rigney at No. 4. 

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Virginia native collected 2.83 ground balls per game in 2019. The Denver Outlaws also selected Rigney with their first pick (No. 5 overall) in the Major League Lacrosse Draft. 

“I look at Tom Rigney as a guy who really had a good year last year and made second team All-Patriot, but played a little bit in the shadow of John [Surdick],” Army head coach Joe Alberici said this past January. “He really stepped up as a captain [in the fall], and I was really impressed with him.” 








Go With What / Who You Know

“It's a little bit more of a leap of faith than in previous years when you had more time to evaluate,” Redwoods head coach Nat. St. Laurent said last week about preparations for this year’s college draft. “So you have to rely on your connections with coaches and colleagues in the sport and take their word for it.” 

Greg Gurenlian, the Redwoods’ faceoff specialist who retired this offseason, gave St. Laurent a strong recommendation for Peyton Smith, the 2019 MAAC Faceoff Specialist of the Year from Marist. Gurenlian watched Smith’s progression up close the past couple summers while Smith coached at his Faceoff Academy. Smith was also crowned the national champion at the Faceoff Academy National Showcase in 2015. 

The Redwoods’ second round pick, defenseman Chris Price (13th overall) out of High Point, reunites with his former keeper, Tim Troutner, who St. Laurent took with the 20th pick in 2019 and went on to win rookie of the year honors. 

Familiarity was a theme in several other teams’ picks. Atlas head coach Ben Rubeor used to  game plan against Notre Dame midfielder Bryan Costabile (No. 2 overall) back in the MIAA when Costabile played for Mount Saint Joseph and Rubeor coached at St. Mary’s then Loyola Blakefield. 

Copelan noted how he had watched DeLuca previously when Delaware battled against his Fairfield Stags in the Colonial Athletic Association. Bates scouted defender Jack Rapine since his high school days in the Philadelphia area at Upper Dublin High School, where he was teammates with Michael Sowers. Jim Stagnitta probably watched Rapine and the Whipsnakes second round pick, Hubler, from Johns Hopkins more than any of his PLL coaching peers over the last few years since his son, Matt Stagnitta, also played for the Blue Jays.  

Best Background

Earlier this week, Stagnitta said it’s at times hard to see people walk to the beach while he’s in the thick of game film and scouting reports inside his home office in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. Last night during the NBC Sports broadcast, we got a glimpse into the work spaces of the PLL’s top brass. 

While there were no dog hijinks like Bill Belichick pulled last month during the NFL draft, there was some wildlife. It was hard to miss the stuffed deer and fox perched behind Tim Soudan’s right shoulder. The fauna are a fitting backdrop for the first year Chrome head coach. His team is on the hunt to pull even with the rest of the league after they went 2-8 during the 2019 regular season with Dom Starsia at the helm. Perhaps with the defensive acquisitions Soudan added and the league’s highest scoring offense from 2019, he can add another type of trophy to his collection after the Championship Series.




PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIST ATHLETICS

Peyton Smith, taken sixth overall by Redwoods LC, will be in the mix to replace Greg Gurenlian.


Premier Lacrosse League
College Draft Results

Pick

Team

Player

Pos

College

1 Archers Grant Ament A Penn State
2 Atlas Bryan Costabile M Notre Dame
3 Waterdogs Michael Kraus A Virginia
4 Chrome Tom Rigney D Army
5 Chaos Matt Gaudet A Yale
6 Redwoods Peyton Smith FO Marist
7 Whipsnakes Sean New D Holy Cross
         
8 Waterdogs Matt DeLuca G Delaware
9 Chrome Reece Eddy LSM Boston U.
10 Atlas Aidan Hynes D Yale
11 Archers Jack Rapine D Johns Hopkins
12 Chaos Jeff Teat A Cornell
13 Redwoods Chris Price D High Point
14 Whipsnakes Matt Hubler D Johns Hopkins