2023 Premier Lacrosse League Preview: Cannons LC


Ryan Drenner has been an All-Star in every non-PLL Island season.

With the 2023 Premier Lacrosse League season set to open in Albany, N.Y., on June 3, USA Lacrosse Magazine is going team by team in the days leading up to the opener. Today, we take a deep dive on Cannons LC.

Cannons LC

2022 Record: 1-9
Head Coach: Brian Holman
Assistants: Jim Mitchell, Mikey Thompson

Key Additions: Marcus Holman, A; Finn Sullivan, D; Adam Ghitelman, G; Jeff Trainor, SSDM; Matt Kavanagh, A; Matt Rees, D; Kyle Hartzell, LSM; Matt Campbell, M

Key departures: Ryan Tierney, M (Redwoods); Tim Edwards, SSDM (Archers); Jake Froccaro, M (retired); Nick Marrocco, G (Player Pool); Lyle Thompson, A (sabbatical)


Is there enough talent without Lyle Thompson?

For two seasons, Lyle Thompson was the focal point of the Cannons. In 2022, he scored more goals (26) and totaled more points (44) than anyone else in the league. Despite his individual success, the Cannons were unable to win more than one game.

Once the season ended, the debate on social media was if the Cannons should trade Thompson. The argument for a trade was that the team has already struggled with him (4-15 over two seasons), the team had a lot of needs, coupled with minimal draft capital, and Thompson could fetch a large return. Instead, the Cannons were active, adding marquee free agent Marcus Holman, two-time champion and All-Star Matt Kavanagh and rookie midfielder Matt Campbell (37 goals, 25 assists in 2023 at Villanova). All seemed to be good fits alongside Thompson.

When training camp rosters were released, however, Thompson announced he would step away from the team for the summer. It puts the Cannons in a tough place. No one can replace what Thompson did on the field. They also missed out on the possibility of bringing in more of the top free agents. The Cannons have to hope the growth of younger players on the roster, plus the additions they did make, can not only offset the loss of Thompson but maybe even lead to more wins.

Will Ryan Drenner rise to star status?

Ryan Drenner has never been “the guy.” In the first two seasons of his professional lacrosse career with the Florida Launch, the guys that got all the accolades and attention were Kieran McArdle and Dylan Molloy. In 2019 with the Whipsnakes, it was Matt Rambo. With the Waterdogs in 2020, it was McArdle (again) and Zach Currier. In 2021 and 2022 with the Cannons, it was Thompson.

Quietly, however, Drenner was always one of the team’s top producers. He was fourth on the Launch in points in 2018 and third on the Whipsnakes in points in 2019. With the Cannons in 2022 he moved from attack to midfield and still enjoyed his fourth 20-point season in six years. He’s also been an All-Star in every non-PLL Island season.

He may not always be the first name fans think about, and he may not draw the opposition’s top pole, but people are noticing the work Drenner has done. When Thompson announced he wasn’t going to play in 2023, Drenner’s name was brought up on social media quite a bit by fans and former pros, including Greg Gurenlian, who tweeted, “I see Drenner getting the keys to the @PLLCannons offense at X this summer”

It remains to be seen where he will play on the field, but it seems likely he will be effective at either. Will his production be status quo, or will he take the next step to be one of the league’s Top 50 (or better) players?

Is the defense good enough?

In each season since the Cannons joined the PLL, they had the worst scores against average; the team also has the worst scoring differential over the past two season (minus-39) — and that’s with the league’s top goal scorer in 2022.

The defense is where the Cannons underwent the largest facelift with new coach and general manager Brian Holman. It was clear what he was going for: experience and a winning pedigree. The team added goalie Adam Ghitelman, LSM Kyle Hartzell and defensemen Finn Sullivan and Matt Rees. Together, they have combined for 11 All-Star appearances. Add in veteran Brodie Merrill and promising young players Jake Pulver and Jack Kielty, and this should be an improved group.

There are still some question marks. For as good as Merrill and Hartzell are and have been, they are the two oldest players in the league. How much more is left in the tank? Ghitelman was fourth in the league in scores against average in 2022 (10.7), but he was 10th in save percentage (49.4 percent), which was worse than previous Cannons starter Nick Marrocco (49.8 percent). Marrocco also made 24 more saves than Ghitelman.

On paper, the group seems improved, but how long will it take for all the pieces to come together as a unit?


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