January 9, 2014

2014 MLL Collegiate Draft: Where Will They Go? 

by Phil Shore | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

St. John's attackman Kieran McArdle plays a solid feeding game that several teams could benefit from. But where will he land? (Lee Weissman)

The 2014 Major League Lacrosse collegiate draft will take place Friday during the US Lacrosse National Convention in Philadelphia. The supplemental draft, in December, really signaled the start of the new MLL season, but the excitement really gets going during the collegiate draft.

New blood is brought into the league and fans can follow their team's selections during their final college seasons this spring.

As always, the draft can be unpredictable thanks to trades and surprises but after analyzing some key needs for each team, one can have a better idea of just who will be wearing what new colors come June, when the college players are ready to join their professional teams.

Team Needs

Boston Cannons

The Cannons allowed the most goals scored in MLL last season. They even allowed two goalies to score. The responsibility falls on the entire defensive unit: defensive midfielders, LSMs, defenders and the goalie. The team has already added legendary LSM Brodie Merrill via trade this offseason, as well as defender Diogo Godoi. With three picks in the first 20 selections Friday night, the Cannons will most likely add to those two with at least one more long pole. The team also has an aging attack core and would be smart to start bringing in some young guys to groom behind Matt Poskay and Ryan Boyle.

"We're looking to get guys who will be impactful right away and who will push for the starting positions right away," Cannons GM Kevin Barney said. "We can use depth up and down the field. We're still going to be a veteran team. With age comes that uncertainty of how much longer they're going to be with us."

Charlotte Hounds

The Hounds exceeded expectations last year and got to the MLL championship with a slew of rookies all over the field. Those same players will once again be the core this year.

"We don't have any huge concerns. I'm happy how the supplemental draft went," Hounds director of personnel Wade Leaphart said. Leaphart added that the team is always looking for offensive midfielders, much like every other team in this league. For the draft however, the Hounds could really add some depth at long pole in what a number of league general managers said is a deep pool at that position.

Chesapeake Bayhawks

The two-time defending champions don't have a single pick in the first two rounds, but they also don't have any holes. The team has made a slew of moves this off-season, bringing in Brendan Mundorf, Joe Walters and Brian Megill. It will be tough for rookies to even make this roster. But the Bayhawks could look for a face-off guy; Adam Rand won only 48 percent of his face-offs last year. Otherwise the team could look at some young defenders should guys like Brian Spallina or Nicky Polanco get hurt or decide to retire, as well as players from the University of Maryland, coach Dave Cottle's former workplace.

Denver Outlaws

The Outlaws routinely make moves in the offseason that perplex many outsiders, but the changes often pay off during the season. This year, the team traded away Brendan Mundorf for John Grant Jr. and long pole Michael Simon. They also traded away solid transition midfielders like Will Mangan and Justin Turri, but brought in the electric Cameron Flint. The Outlaws could use depth at every position. Depth at midfield seems to be the biggest area, but some young defenders to eventually fill in for Lee Zink and an attackman to play at X will be looked at as well.

Florida Launch

The Launch, which has the roster core of the former Hamilton Nationals, traded away iconic LSM Brodie Merrill and lost MJ Kiekebelt in the supplemental draft, so restocking that position is necessary. There is a nice pool of players at that position in this draft. The Launch will work on their defense, like they did in last year's draft, but would also be wise to grab another attackman as well.

New York Lizards

Much like with the Cannons, the Lizards need is pretty clear cut, at least according to head coach Joe Spallina.

"We need close defensemen, good cover guys, so we can move Karalunas, and move him and Hartzell around and dictate matchups defensively," Spallina said.

With two picks in the first four, Spallina will be able to add two impact players with at least one being a top-tier defender. It's most likely that the Lizards add some midfield depth as well.

Ohio Machine

For the second year in a row, the Machine will have the top pick in the draft. Last year's No. 1 pick, Peter Baum, decided to play on the LXM Pro Tour instead of in MLL, so hitting on the top pick this year is important. What is the team's biggest need?

"When you're 2-12 you can't necessarily say you're absolutely 100 percent golden anywhere," said Machine general manager John Algie. "Certainly midfield scoring and possessions is where we need to do well. We're always looking to improve the defense as well."

Midfield will be the Machine's biggest area of need and they will most likely address that in part with the first pick. Improving the defense won't just be adding some young poles, which is needed; it also could mean getting a goalie. The team still isn't quite settled at that position yet and the team gave up the second most goals in the league last year.

The team does have enough young talent at attack to try and avoid drafting players at that position.

Rochester Rattlers

They are the most unpredictable team year-in and year-out, but they really need some attackmen. The team needed help in that area last year and trading away Ned Crotty hurts the team that much more.

The Rattlers also struggled at the face-off X once again, so bringing in someone in the draft wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Mock Draft

First Round

Big, hard-dodging middies like Tom Schreiber don't tend to hang around long in the draft. Don't expect that to change. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

1. Ohio – Tom Schreiber, M, Princeton

The Machine needs help in the midfield and it just so happens that many believe the best player in this draft is Schreiber. He was a Tewaaraton Award finalist last season, has led Princeton in points in each of his first three seasons and was one of only four juniors to be a first-team All-American right away. He will contribute immediately.

2. Rochester (from New York) – Jordan Wolf, A, Duke

The Rattlers traded the third and fourth picks to move up to No. 2, so they have to have their eyes set on someone very specific. They are known to surprise, but they really need help at attack. Wolf is not only the best attack available — thanks to his 57 goals and 28 assists last year — but Rochester has a stable of players with Duke ties, including Dave Lawson, Mike Manley, Justin Turri, Rob Rotanz, and John Galloway, who was an assistant coach with the Blue Devils when Wolf was there.

3. New York (from Rochester) – Joe Fletcher, D, Loyola

Kyle Hartzell and Brian Karalunas are both All-Star defenders, but they are long-stick midfielders who can mix it up and play down low. The Lizards need a true cover defender, which is what Fletcher is. Drafting the only college player to make survive the first round of cuts for Team USA's 2014 world championship team is another great get for the Lizards.

4. New York (from Rochester) – Rob Emery, M, Virginia

Spallina said the team has its eye on a midfielder. Trading down to get two picks in the top four instead of one was why they made the deal with the Rattlers. Spallina said he expected Schreiber to go early, which leads me to believe Emery is his guy. He's big (six-foot-three-inches, 205 pounds) and can score (24 goals as a junior, 22 goals as a sophomore). He also can learn the league behind guys like Max Seibald, Matt Striebel, and David Earl.

5. Florida – Luke Duprey, LSM/D, Duke

Duprey is a monster pole, standing in at six-feet-five-inches, that plays a very physical brand of lacrosse. He starts at LSM for Duke, but his size would allow him to play down low too. Having Duprey and Tucker Durkin on the same team would be scary for opposing offenses.

6. Denver – Jeremy Noble, M, Denver

Being the only team out west, the Outlaws have cornered the market on college players coming out of the fine program at the University of Denver. The Outlaws need depth, especially in the midfield after trading away solid contributors like Justin Turri and Will Mangan. Noble struggled in the second half of last year with a hamstring injury, but when healthy, like he was in 2012, he proved he can score, finishing third on the team in points in 2012.

7. Charlotte – Michael Ehrhardt, D, Maryland

As teams address other needs, the strong, six-foot-five-inches, defender Ehrhardt slides a little but the Hounds will be fast to pick him up. After trading away the rights to Tucker Durkin last season, Charlotte would be wise to add a strong piece like Ehrhardt to their backline.

8. Boston (from Denver from Chesapeake) – Scott McWilliams, D, Virginia

With some talented close defenders already off the board, the Cannons must act fast to get another piece to rebuild their backline. He's an aggressive player and Boston missed that presence last year after trading away Jack Reid.

Second Round

Mark Cockerton is one of several potential impact players that may still be on the board in the second round. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

9. Charlotte (from Chesapeake from Ohio) – Kieran McArdle, A, St. John's

"We're honestly going to draft best available," Leaphart said. The Hounds have a number of talented attackmen, but McArdle could be the best player on the board right now. He was a force on offense last year, scoring 36 goals and adding 49 assists. He's a good feeder and gives the team some flexibility with other players currently on the roster.

10. Florida (from Chesapeake from New York) – Brendan Fowler, F/O, Duke

Last year, the Nationals were fourth in the league in faceoff winning percentage but still didn't win 50 percent. Things will be worse this season without the groundball king, Brodie Merrill, playing on the wing. The team has had a rotating door of specialists the past few years, with Mike Poppleton ending the season as the guy. Fowler — the 2013 NCAA tournament MVP — is the best face-off man in the draft and will give the team a steadying presence for years to come. He's also tough, having been a former member of Duke's football team.

11. Charlotte (from Boston) – John LoCascio, LSM, Villanova

The Hounds have Mason Poli and Michael McCormack but again, they are going to go with best available and LoCascio adds to their defense. He can cover, as he was first in the NCAA in caused turnovers last season (53, which is 16 more than the next closest player), and he was also 20th in the nation in ground balls per game.

12. Florida (from Boston from Rochester) – Mark Cockerton, A, Virginia

He's playing on Canada's preliminary roster and should fit in nicely with the team's slew of other Canadian players. He's proven to be a strong finisher as well as a strong body. He led the nation in goals per game last season and has 78 goals and 94 points in 47 career games.

13. Ohio - Joe Meurer, D, Ohio State

The Machine needs to add some depth and youth at defense and they like to take players from Ohio St. so Meurer makes perfect sense. He was an honorable mention All-American last year and was the team's defensive MVP last year. He's solid as a cover guy as well as on the ground.

14. Charlotte (from Denver) – Ryan Creighton, M, UNC

The Hounds love players that played in North Carolina, so bringing this Tar Heel in wouldn't be a surprise. He is a durable player with a lot of energy, which fits in with the stable of young midfielders already in Charlotte. He plays more of a defensive midfielder role, but he won't hurt the team in transition by any means. He also will be a captain for North Carolina this season.

15. Charlotte – Jim Marlatt, M, Notre Dame

While Creighton is more defensive minded, Marlatt is a fairly consistent presence on the offensive side of the ball. He scored 20 goals to go with 12 assists last season. He has solid dodging capabilities and can shoot with some range. Putting him next to Mike Sawyer would really stretch the defense.

16. Denver (from Chesapeake) – Justin Ward, A, Loyola

Losing Brendan Mundorf means the Outlaws must add a player with quarterback-like capabilities behind the cage. Matt Gibson and Eric Law are good players but may be best used elsewhere on the field. Ward was 11th in the league in assists per game last season, and has 67 career assists in 43 games.

Be sure to follow the MLL draft online at LaxMagazine.com live from the convention center in Philadelphia, and keep up with all the US Lacrosse convention news with #LaxCon on twitter.

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