2021 PLL College Draft Prospects: Midfield

2021 PLL College Draft Prospects: Midfield

The 2021 PLL College Draft is right around the corner! To prepare, we’re spotlighting the top prospects in each position group and sharing former pro lacrosse players and coaches’ thoughts on the top PLL prospects.

Although the top of the draft looks like it will be dominated by attackmen, this class is loaded with athletic, versatile midfielders who can make an impact with a PLL team from day one. Whether you need scoring, defense, or a little bit of both, you can find it in this group. Each guy listed here brings something unique to the table and, given the right situation, can really flourish at the next level.

Lacrosse Playground connected with three-time MLL champion with the Philadelphia Barrage and one the most prolific midfielders in MLL history, Roy Colsey, to get his take on some of the top midfield prospects available in the upcoming PLL College Draft.

Connor Kirst - Villanova/Rutgers

Photo courtesy of Rutgers athletics.

Connor Kirst is a big, powerful, athletic midfielder with a heavy right-handed shot that you can feel through the TV screen. A physical dodger with a mighty 6’2’ frame, Kirst doesn’t get moved off his spot. He often uses a bit of a bull rush to dislodge his defender to get some space, which he does not need much of, before unloading the cannon. The amount of power Kirst can generate with limited time and space is impressive, and he is equally deadly off the catch when both of those things are afforded to him.

His scoring is the biggest asset in his game, but he reads slides well and finds the open man if the pass is the right play. Kirst can play both ends as well and his versatility will be valued with the 19-man rosters in the PLL, although the main draw is clearly what he can do on offense. Kirst is projected widely to be the first midfielder drafted and teams will look to him to contribute as a scorer right away.

Roy Colsey's Take: I knew father Kyle, who was an unbelievable guy; as good of a guy as you'll ever meet. All of his boys are incredible players and Connor is no exception. I saw him at the USA box tryout and he was the real deal. He's a phenomenal athlete, scorer and teammate. His range is going to be a huge asset for the team that drafts him. Connor is at the top of the list of can't miss guys.

Ryan Terefenko - Ohio State

Photo courtesy of Ohio State athletics.

Although there are a lot of talented offensive players in this draft, Ryan Terefenko is exactly the type of player a team with championship aspirations should pursue. The Whipsnakes were dominant last year defensively, in large part due to the strength of their short-stick defensive midfielders who kept them from having any weak links for opponents to attack. Of the many talented SSDMs in this draft, Terefenko is the best, functioning as a de facto fifth long pole on defense.

An impressive athlete with ridiculous lateral quicks, footwork and anticipation, Terefenko is like a mirror for the man he is guarding. Or, rather, a mirror that doles out checks. If they go left, Terefenko is there. If they move right, he flashes to the spot so quick that it’s like he knew where the player was going. He stands 6’0”, but his low center of gravity allows him to body up physical attackers and maintain sound positioning. He doesn’t hunt takeaway checks, but will gladly strip a lazy O-man and take it the other way. Whether it is he or a teammate who puts the ball on the ground, Terefenko sniffs out loose balls like a bloodhound, and his athleticism creates opportunities in transition. He is the type of guy any PLL team needs.

Roy Colsey's Take: Terefenko is another can't miss pick. The guy does it all. He's an absolute animal. He's tough as nails, completely unselfish and will do whatever is asked of him. There's no doubt that what he brings to Ohio State, he will also bring to any of the PLL teams.

Peter Dearth - Syracuse

Photos courtesy of Michael J. Okoniewski/Syracuse Athletics.

Another defensive-oriented midfielder, Peter Dearth is a very different player than Terefenko, but an effective one nonetheless. Dearth is huge, standing 6’3” with long limbs and weighing in at a formidable 215 pounds. He is an athletic dynamo, making explosive plays all over the field with his physicality and raw effort. Willing to sacrifice his body, Dearth is they type of player that will fire up a PLL bench with some spirited play.

He doesn’t stick to his man like glue as Terefenko does, but his length allows him to recover quickly, and he has shown an aptitude for a well-timed trail check. Those long arms and savvy feel make him a weapon in off-ball defense, as he lurks in the passing lanes and pounces when an opportunity arises. In transition, his long strides and power make him an asset, and he can function effectively as a one-man-clear. He’s not as clean a prospect as Terefenko, but he continues to improve and his will to win is indisputable.

Roy Colsey's Take: Peter played for me in high school and has made me super proud by going to Syracuse and being a two-time captain. He's a just a physical presence all over the field. In the PLL, he can be a two-way midfielder. He's good on the wing, he can lock down PLL midfielders, he can pick up groundballs and he can force transition. He's a super tough kid and the upside is just tremendous. He'll be a top pick for sure.

Dox Aitken - Virginia

Photo courtesy of Virginia athletics.

Although a slow start to the season dropped Dox Aitken down some draft boards and in the public eye in general, it would be foolish to let him slide too far in this year’s draft. His slow start is understandable, given his brief dalliance with Villanova Football, but he has seen an uptick in production which more or less began with an explosive OT winner against Notre Dame. With his pedigree and talent, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Aitken taken as the first midfielder. Nor would I be surprised if he turns out to be the crown jewel of this bunch.

Aitken is a five-tool scorer from the position. There are shades of Ryan Brown in the way he can snipe the twine from any spot on the field with either hand in a time-and-room scenario, but he brings so much more to the table. The athleticism and power that allowed him to dabble as an NCAA wide receiver is an asset on his dodges and he can find space attacking from up top, or in making powerful rolls to the cage. With so much experience in big games to go with his talent, Aitken should be an impact scorer in the PLL.

Roy Colsey's Take: Dox is just a phenomenal athlete. He has the ability to do a lot at the midfield and create his own shot. He's going to have a lot of value in the PLL as a guy who can run up and down the field and make other team's pay.

Charlie Bertrand - Merrimack/Virginia

Photo courtesy of Virginia athletics.

Aitken’s teammate at Virginia, Charlie Bertrand picked up the slack for the Cavaliers when Dox got off to that slow start. Bertrand transferred to Virginia after a stellar career at DII’s Merrimack, and has continued to produce at the highest level. He is a crafty player who can play attack, as he did at Merrimack, or run out of the box, as he has at Virginia.

Wherever he is playing, Bertrand likes to invert and dodge from X. He clearly favors his left, although he certainly can go right. His tendency doesn’t hinder him, however, as Bertrand is absurdly skilled with a deep bag of tricks, including some “Canadian off-hand” techniques, such as behind-the-back and one-handed shots. He might have the best passing vision of this group as well. He’s not as explosive as Aitken or Kirst, but he is athletic and his skill is an equalizer.

Roy Colsey's Take: Bertrand is a matchup nightmare because of his sheer size. He has tremendous value in the PLL as a lefty who can play both middie and attack. The team that drafts him is practically getting two players in one and I think he has a lot of value for a team that plays in a box-style offense.

Tanner Cook - UNC

Photo courtesy of North Carolina athletics.

Speaking of the Canadian off-hand, Tanner Cook from North Carolina has perfected his use of that method, as he uses all the angles that one can generate as a lefty to produce for the Tar Heels. Cook is a big body at 6’4” and uses his size well to protect his stick when driving to get in tight for easy finishes. He’s not a particularly twitchy dodger, but he is strong on the ball when sweeping and is deadly when he frees up his hands. He also possesses the prototypical box skills as he can finish in tight off a quick release with a sliver of space, find the goalie’s soft spots from outside and work a pretty two-man game.

Cook has also gotten better each year that he’s spent at UNC, a positive sign for PLL teams that are hoping for growth from their draft picks. With Cook’s size, skill and penchant for improvement, he’s worth a look in the second or third round.

Roy Colsey's Take: I see Tanner Cook going to a team like the Chaos and Coach Towers. He's a box player who can set a pick or fight top side. I think he winds up going to a team that is going to leverage that box ability and two-handed play. He's a guy who's going to get to the goal and generate shots.

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