by Isaac Berky (Pro Lacrosse Talk)

At the start of the college lacrosse season this year it seemed that there was a collection of players who would be vying for the title of best player in the year’s draft class. As it has with every other aspect of life, the COVID-19 pandemic changed that, thinning the field for the 2020 PLL College Draft.

The PLL announced that only those who are not returning to school will be available to be drafted, meaning the likes of TD Ierlan, Dox Aitken, Michael Sowers and Mac O’Keefe have dropped from the 2020 draft class, and will bolster the talent pool for next season.

Yet, there’s still plenty of talent on the board for Wednesday night’s draft but with only two rounds and no ability to draft a player to hold his rights for next season, expect the picks to look a little different from what we saw in the 2020 MLL Draft last week.

Here’s a look at some of the top prospects whose names will likely be called on Wednesday night.

Grant Ament, Attack (Penn State)

Grant Ament is expected to be the top pick in the 2020 PLL College Draft. (Photo courtesy of Penn State athletics)
There doesn’t seem to be much that can be said about Grant Ament’s game that hasn’t already been said at this point. An elite player-maker that can feed the ball into tight windows just about anywhere on the field, Ament has the speed and skillset to translate to a successful career working from X in the pro game. He has been the best passer at the college level and will be one of the top passers at the professional level from day one.

The attackman finished his college career first in Penn State and in Big Ten history in points and assists. And you can’t forget to mention that he set the NCAA single season assist record in 2019 (96 assists, 5.65 per game). He knows how to find the back of the net on his own as well, finishing his career at Penn State with 91 goals.

Ament has spent time working with and getting to know Rob Pannell and there’s a little bit of Pannell comparison in his game. The term field general is often thrown around to describe the ideal X Attackman, and Ament fits that mold perfectly. His vision is second to none and creates issues, but if you try to cut him off and force him to dodge he can beat you that way too.

Potential Landing Spots: Archers LC

Michael Kraus, Attack (Virginia)

Michael Kraus was a part of the 2019 Virginia team that won the NCAA Div. I National Championship. (Photo courtesy of the University of Virginia athletics)
The team that adds Michael Kraus will be adding an elite dodger, who never shies away from the physical side of the game. In each of his first three seasons with the Hoos, Kraus surpassed the 30 goal mark and was on track to do so again this season, netting 14 goals in six games. While he’s been heralded as an elite-level dodger who gets to the cage even with opponents draped all over him, Kraus has developed his off-ball game at Virginia.

Called a “chameleon” by Paul Carcaterra, the attackman is one of only four players in Virginia lacrosse history to finish with at least 100 goals and 100 assists. Kraus boasts an all-around skill set that can and will cause problems for teams that try to match up. In addition to dodging, he’s a guy that can feed or get into space and put a shot to the back of the net.

Potential Landing Spots: Atlas LC, Chrome LC, Waterdogs LC

Bryan Costabile, Midfield (Notre Dame)

Bryan Costabile is the top midfielder prospect in the PLL draft and has proven he can shoot from range. (Photo courtesy of Notre Dame athletics)
Bryan Costabile is the latest addition to the PLL Draft pool as the Notre Dame midfielder announced he was entering the draft and not returning to school late last week. The midfielder has one of, if not the best shooting range of players available in the draft. Costabile was a force in South Bend that couldn’t be stopped, racking up 99 goals, including a Notre Dame record 42 goals for a midfielder last season.

As the focal point of the Notre Dame offense during nearly his entire career at Notre Dame, he will likely get a little more breathing room and potentially draw more short stick matchups at the professional level. When presented that chance, Costabile can either beat his man off the dodge or create separation and go for the two-point shot. Costabile didn’t see extensive time on the defensive side of the field, but offensively the midfielder brings a skill set that seems day-one ready to succeed in the PLL.

Potential Landing Spots: Atlas LC, Watderdogs LC, Chrome LC

Matt DeLuca, Goaltender (Delaware)

Matt DeLuca is the top goalie available in the PLL Draft and boasts a
When you look at Matt DeLuca the first thing that stands out is his size. At 6’6, 225 lbs, DeLuca takes up a lot of space in the cage. Size doesn’t mean unathletic though. The Delaware Blue Hen makes all the saves he should and a lot that he probably shouldn’t make. Pairing his elite athleticism with his big frame creates issues for shooters as they stare him down.

“Matt can be an intimidating presence in the goal because he takes up a lot of space with his 6’6” frame and he combines his size with unusually quick feet and hands,” said Delaware coach Ben DeLuca (no relation).

A four-year starter at Delaware, DeLuca saw a lot of rubber in his first few seasons but stayed very consistent keeping his goals-against average close to ten all four years and his save percentage between .530-.581.

“Matt’s really unique with his combination of size and athleticism,” added Coach DeLuca.

The lone knock on DeLuca is that he has struggled with outside shots at times during his college career. With the two-point line and shorter shot clock at the PLL level DeLuca is destined to see more outside shots that he faced at Delaware. His ability to track two-point shots off transition and last-second heaves at the net will be tested quickly at the PLL level.

Potential Landing Spots: Chrome LC, Waterdogs LC

Matt Gaudet, Attack (Yale)

Matt Gaudet was named Most Outstanding Player during Yale’s national championship run in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Steven Musco)
A true crease attackman, Matt Gaudet thrived in college under the tutelage of Andy Shay at Yale. The 2018 NCAA National Championship Weekend Most Outstanding Player, Gaudet has shown that he can and will elevate his game when the stakes are the biggest the most, scoring an impressive ten goals on 13 shots during Championship weekend against Albany and Duke. As a junior in his second trip to championship weekend, the Hamilton, Ont. native added another four goals, capping his junior season off with 51 goals for the year.

A sturdy 6’1, 220-lb frame, Gaudet is a no stranger to utilizing his size and loves creating contact in front. With the Canadian box lacrosse background, Gaudet’s hands around the net paired with his size, make him an appealing addition for any team looking for an extra scoring presence or threat. Don’t expect to see Gaudet beat anyone off the dodge or run a PLL offense, but in the right situation, with feeders who utilize him, this Bulldog can thrive.

Potential Landing Spot: Waterdogs LC, Chrome LC, Chaos LC, Whipsnakes LC

Peyton Smith, Faceoff (Marist)

Peyton Smith’s skill set make him poised to become the first Red Fox to step on a PLL Field. (Photo courtesy of Marist Athletics)
If there’s one player whose pro stock has thrived due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s Peyton Smith. In a draft class that would’ve featured TD Ierlan and Kyle Gallagher, Smith finds himself the most appealing faceoff specialist after concluding his career with a .621 faceoff percentage.

Smith isn’t cut in the same mold as some of the larger faceoff specialists we’ve seen in the PLL (Trevor Baptiste, Greg Gurenlian and even Joe Nardella), but is more of a speed and technician type of guy.

In college, his success was tied to his hand speed and the continued development of his counters. According to Marist Head Coach Keegan Wilkinson, Smith’s hand speed is “elite with a great work ethic.” The coach also praises the faceoff man as a player that will get the best out of his wings and everyone on the field because they don’t want to let him down. A blue collar kid who keeps emotions in check, Smith’s continued growth through his four years as a Red Fox has him poised to become the first Red Fox to step on a PLL Field.

Potential Landing Spots: Redwoods LC, Waterdogs LC

Nick Mellen, Defense (Syracuse)

Nick Mellen was John Desko’s top cover defenseman during his time at Syracuse. (Photo courtesy of Syracuse Athletics)
While Nick Mellen may not be as physically intimidating as other defensemen at the pro level, standing at 5’9, his footwork and speed is elite. Since arriving on campus at Syracuse, Mellen has been matched up with some of the nation’s top offensive threats. Mellen made his name as a shutdown defenseman in college, and has the skills and speed to do the exact same thing at the professional level. While Mellen has had injury issues during his time at Syracuse, he still finished fifth in school history in caused turnovers (55).

Potential Landing Spots: Waterdogs LC, Chaos LC, Redwoods LC

Reece Eddy, LSM (Boston University)

Reece Eddy is a versatile pole with a high lacrosse IQ. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/BU Athletics)
Reece Eddy might be the rare LSM on the radar for PLL coaches inching towards the PLL Draft. While Eddy might not be the biggest player on the field, he makes up for any kind of disadvantage through his tenacity and high lacrosse IQ.

“He’s one of the best I’ve ever been around as far as causing havoc,” said Boston University Head Coach Ryan Polley. “He’s got a knack for getting his stick on the ball and just has an ability to make plays.”

Another player who brings that “chip on his shoulder” mentality, Eddy began his career at Canisius before transferring to Boston University. At both schools he finished in the top two for ground balls, while leading his team in caused turnovers in each of his four seasons.

Potential Landing Spots: Chaos LC, Chrome LC, Redwoods LC

Aidan Hynes, Defense (Yale)

Aidan Hynes was Yale’s go-to defenseman, assigned to the opposing team’s top scorers throughout his college career. (Photo courtesy of Yale athletics)
As consistent and steady of a defender as has existed in college lacrosse during the last four seasons, Aidan Hynes has helped backstop the Bulldogs since getting to campus. The defenseman was a turnover causing machine for the Bulldogs finishing first on the team in turnovers twice, but never finishing outside the top six. Hynes is a player who isn’t going to create any highlight reels, but can give a team that steady defensive presence and create opportunities for his teammates.

Potential Landing Spots: Redwoods LC, Waterdogs LC, Atlas LC

Tom Rigney, Defense (Army)

Tom Rigney was a leader on defense and captain for Army during his senior season. (Photo courtesy of Army West Point athletics)
At 6’3, 225lbs, Tom Rigney has a strong and sturdy frame that only aids in his physical style of lacrosse. As a captain at West Point during his senior season, Rigney was an All-American honorable mention and a ground ball machine for the Black Knights. During his junior and senior year, Rigney started every game and anchored the nation’s second-best defense, as the Black Knights only allowed 7.25 goals per game in the shortened season.

Potential Landing Spots: Redwoods LC, Waterdogs LC, Chaos LC, Atlas LC

Andrew Pettit, Attack (Lehigh)

Andrew Pettit is an elite goal-scorer with a knack for finding the back of the net. (Photo courtesy of Lehigh athletics)
After injury ended his senior season in 2019, Pettit went back to Lehigh to play one more year of lacrosse in 2020. Even though he wasn’t able to play a full season, Pettit made sure his presence was felt during the final few games scoring a school record eight goals against VMI, and adding seven points against Holy Cross in his final college game. A lefty attackman who loves to shoot the ball, Pettit also can hurt teams off the dodge or by feeding as well. Pettit also made a name for himself on the man-up, scoring ten man-up goals last season, third best in the NCAA.

“I have no doubt that Andrew will make a great pro. His skills are undeniable and, when healthy, he has been one of the best lefties in the college game over the past several years,” Lehigh head coach and former pro lacrosse player Kevin Cassese said.

“He is an elite scorer, a sneaky good feeder, and is dangerous enough off the dodge to keep you honest. But his lacrosse IQ is something that really sets him apart from the pack. His ability to see plays develop, get to the right spots, and help others get to the right spots. Those intangibles are critical when you get to the professional level, and in that regard, Andrew is as ready as anyone.”

Potential Landing Spots: Whipsnakes LC, Chrome LC, Atlas LC

Other Potential Draft Prospects: Colin Burke (Utah), Adam Goldner (Penn), Jeff Teat (Cornell), Connor Fletcher (Cornell), Phil Goss (Brown), Brandon Salvatore (Cornell), Nick Washuta (Vermont), Miles Silva (Army), Mark Evanchick (Penn)