The Freshman Fifteen: Early Watchlist For The Class of 2018

Regarded as one of the top 2018's Grayson Sallade (Manheim Township, Pa.) makes his way to the goal – © 2014 Kevin P. Tucker

Regarded as one of the top 2018’s, UVA-bound middie Grayson Sallade (Manheim Township, Pa.) makes his way to the goal – © 2014 Kevin P. Tucker

Freshman recruiting has gone through a pretty wild timeline recently with commitments creeping earlier and earlier each time the calendar flips over. With that said, visibility for these players new to high school is off the charts, as the clubs and individuals enter the nation’s best tournaments in hopes of impressing a sideline packed with the most recognizable names in Division I.

For those reasons, it seems like the proper time to launch an early look at the 15 players to watch in the class of 2018. Anything more than a preliminary watchlist would be an incredibly bold and premature task – that will have to wait until Top 75 rankings are executed at the end of next summer’s circuit.

This early list combined a handful of factors, the most important being live evaluations: every player listed below has been watched by me at least once but in most instances, at least four full games have been scouted for each player. There’s no doubt that a ton of deserving names were left off and that’s the nature of the project, especially considering the volume of top players who missed most (if not all) of the circuit due to a fall sport or injury.

It’s a class that is led by the wealth of skilled midfielders and a handful of attackmen (though that’s a light group for now) who have shown that they deserve to be considered the cream of the crop early on. There are plenty of standouts defensively and between the pipes, it’s just too early for them to create much separation from the rest of the class.

Here are this year’s ‘Freshman Fifteen’ standouts:

Andrew Bonafede, G, Chaminade (N.Y.) 
Club: LI Express
College: Edit 6/19 – Duke
Breakdown: It’s always difficult to tout a top goalie at this early stage, though Bonafede made that task a little easier by having an exceptional fall between the pipes. A big kid with insanely quick hands, the righty calmly held his ground for LI Express and collected high save totals, especially at the Big 4 Champions League. He’s the type of netminder who doesn’t care what body part is stopping the ball – he’s making the save no matter what. Also showed that he’s a strong communicator and clearing goalie, consistently helping trigger the transition game. Bonafede has a long list of potential college suitors, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be making a decision anytime soon.

Isaiah Dawson, M, Bishop’s School (Calif.) 
Clubs: West Coast Starz, RC
College: Edit 3/4 – Ivies
Breakdown: If you want athleticism and upside, Dawson (6’2, 170) is your man. He’s as smooth as they come when dodging from up top, coming down the alley with a head full of steam and excellent vision. Judging from his IQ, shooting mechanics and repertoire of dodges, the San Diego product is clearly a kid who has worked super hard on his game and has only scratched the surface of what he’s capable of. Just like Bishop’s alum Jake Seau did on the recruiting circuit, the young Dawson will draw fans all along the sidelines to see if his game matches the hype. Right now, the four schools in the mix are Duke, Harvard, Penn and Michigan – if I’m a betting man, my money’s on the Blue Devils and he will be visiting Durham in late January.

Jordan Ginder, FO/M, Poly Prep (N.Y.) 
Club: Team 91
Commitment: Edit 6/16 – Duke
Breakdown: Is there a freshman in the country more important to his team’s success? Probably not, and don’t call him a FOGO either. This is a kid who college coaches have to feel positive about in terms of rule changes: I learned that during his dominant weekend at The Faceoff Academy National Showcase, where his work ethic, technique and grittiness were on display en route to a title in the 2018 age group. It’s been established for quite some time that Ginder can win the draw with ease, but watch him on the field and you’ll see he’s not just a face-off man, #9 is the type who you have to slide early to when the ball is in his stick. He’s also great on defense and just has a knack for all things on the field and due to his speed and endurance, can handle just about anything. All indications are that Ginder has his heart set on a certain program unable to take ’18 commits yet.

Jacob Kelly, A, Calvert Hall (Md.) 
Club: FCA Maryland
Commitment: North Carolina
Breakdown: Just about everybody wanted this left-handed quarterback and coach’s son before he committed to the Tar Heels in late October. What makes Kelly such a phenomenal prospect is that he’s equally adept at feeding, scoring and riding but more importantly, he makes the players around him better. He isn’t off the charts explosive but will instead pick part defenses with what’s in between his ears. He isn’t incredibly big, but carries himself with confidence and has a pretty mistake-free brand of lacrosse. Coming from a heralded lacrosse family, he absolutely loves the game and is always working at it. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of impact he makes on his father’s varsity squad this spring , though nothing will be given to him.

Sean Kuttin, M, Chaminade (N.Y.)
Club: Team 91
Commitment: Johns Hopkins
Breakdown: Simply put, there are a lot of positives when it comes to the Kuttin’s game. However, his motor would be the first glaring attribute that comes to mind. Using a rapid first step, textbook shot on the run and a knack for the big groundball between the lines, he’s a player who is seemingly always making things happen. Kuttin can rip it with accuracy from the outside but is also great at drawing the slide and dumping it to a talented Team 91 teammate for the assist, which he showed in his fall highlight video. Even though he’ll have to wait his turn to play varsity, the consistency and amount of production that he possesses makes me think that Kuttin is capable of being the next stud midfielder to come out of Chaminade.

Matthew Magnan, M, Fox Lane (N.Y.) 
Club: Prime Time
Commitment: Syracuse
Breakdown: With a target already planted on his back after committing to Syracuse in mid-October, Magnan took on all comers and was dominant at times at the Adrenaline Fall Invitational and Philly Showcase. This is a 2018 midfield class with a ton of gunslingers and Magnan is without a doubt the most impressive with his left hand. Opponents threw everything plus the kitchen sink at the promising middie and he was still able to get his hands free with ease, catching goalies off guard with his accuracy and quick release. It will be fun to watch Magnan and fellow ‘Cuse commit Griffin Gelinas (who might be the best attackman not listed) for Prime Time over the next few years.

Frank Marinello, D, Chaminade (N.Y.) 
Club: Team 91
Commitment: Edit 6/16 – Duke
Breakdown: Going forward, there will be several ’18 defensemen capable of catching up to Marinello’s size and 1-on-1 play. Right now, however, he’s definitely the top dog – and the only D guy worthy of making the early watchlist. An absolute nightmare to go up against due to his towering 6-foot-2 figure, heavy checks and ability to cut down shooting angles, Marinello is the kind of physical and intelligent presence that any coach would kill to have join their program. He’s able to send little attackmen flying with big hits but is also nimble enough to pick up a contested ground ball with great stick work and run it upfield with impressive athleticism. Another kid who has his eyes on a favorite school but will have to hold off on committing for a bit.

Ricky Miezan, M, Episcopal (Va.) 
Club: Madlax
Commitment: North Carolina
Breakdown: Before he pledged to the Tar Heels (who plan to build a midfield around him) earlier this month, college coaches became giddy while thinking about how the 6-foot-1, 170-pound Miezan projects at the next level after four more years of development. Slick and assertive, the soccer standout floats up and down the field and is a bonafide force with the ball, a Kyle Harrison type of threat for a lot of reasons. Miezan was truly at his best at the Big 4 Champions League, his split dodge and speed are out of this world, helping create plenty of separation from longsticks and shortsticks all fall long for Madlax. The big, sweeping middie puts a lot of sizzle on his shot and brings many of the intangibles needed to be a multi-year starter in the IAC and beyond that, the ACC.

Joe Neuman, F/O, Whitman (N.Y.) 
Club: SweetLax
Commitment: Johns Hopkins
Breakdown: Another Long Island disciple of Matt Schomburg’s FogoLax training, Neuman was highly sought after by every Division I power (he visited nine schools) hoping to gain a distinct possession advantage. Though size might be an issue down the road, he’s built low to the ground at 5-5 and 150 pounds with impeccably quick hands and tenacity. Those qualities helped him pick up a huge honor this fall, winning ‘King of the X’ at the Philly Freshman Showcase over a longpole to show just how dominant he is. Neuman is able to put the ball wherever he wants to, giving every team he’s on a big leg up on the opposition due to possession time. It will be fun to watch what he’s able to do this year in one of the nation’s more talented high school leagues in Suffolk County.

Ross Pridemore, A, Taft (Conn.) 
Club: SweetLax
Commitment: Virginia
Breakdown: The amount of polish and IQ that Pridemore already has on his game simply can’t be ignored, which is why nearly every college coach I talked to during the ranking process touted him as the best attackman in the class. He’s unbelievably crafty and confident when carrying from behind, putting on a show whenever the ball’s in his hands but also showing that he can do damage a number of different ways. The future Wahoo quarterback is a lethal outside shooter and has the reputation for making eye-popping plays in the riding game. There’s a possibility that he’ll even be handed the keys to Casey D’Annolfo’s offense early in his career – playing such great NE West competition on a weekly basis will only help Pridemore’s trajectory.

Grayson Sallade, M, Manheim Township (Pa.) 
Clubs: Big 4 HHH, Duke’s LC
Commitment: Virginia
Breakdown: No player in the entire class was more lights out than Sallade this fall and few people would argue that sentiment. Whether it was at Quaker Fest, Big 4 or the B’More Classic, he was often a man amongst boys, as the Lancaster native continuously dazzled down the alley and stung well-placed shots with a ton of snap. He was also to demonstrate his two-way play and versatility at events but is more known for being a tremendous outside shooter with excellent field vision as well. Sallade decided on UVA in early December and fits in perfectly with the Wahoos’ athlete-centric, transition-oriented style of play. While he plays in an average league, he has the advantage of having the midfield tutelage of talented MLL midfielder Kyle Wimer, his head coach at Manheim. From where I sit, Sallade is likely the best 2018 prospect at this time.

Nicky Solomon, A, Centennial (Ga.)
Club: LB3
Commitment: North Carolina
Breakdown: With an awesome dodging style and a rather impressive understanding of the game, Solomon certainly has what it takes to be an high impact player down south for years to come after committing to UNC back in October. Liam Banks’ pupil is a kid who always has his quick feet moving, hands changing and head up when going to the cage, ending the fall with a big day at the Philly Showcase and All-Star Game. Due to his speed and hustle, Solomon is someone who will ride and get you the ball back before making things happen in transition. When surrounded by the right players, few players in the country are as dangerous as the greater Atlanta native, who will team up with his Syracuse-bound brother Nate ’15 this spring.

Luke Summers, M, Allentown Central Catholic (Pa.)
Clubs: Duke’s LC, Big 4 HHH
Commitment: Michigan
Breakdown: Big, athletic and left-handed, Summers jumps off the page right away. This fall, he displayed an absolute cannon from the outside as part of nasty midfield lines for both the Duke’s and Big 4, also showing that he currently has some of the best stick skills in the entire class. Despite constantly drawing doubles, the three-sport standout is almost always able to make things happen, whether that’s dumping it off for the assist or letting a beauty go towards the goal. Like his buddy Sallade, he’s a high upside kid from a non-traditional area in Pennsylvania with potential to be one of the best kids in the class.

Griffin Westlin, M, Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) 
Club: Leading Edge
Commitment: Edit 1/6 – Johns Hopkins
Breakdown: Part of a loaded Leading Edge midfield (Bond and Wornow are ones to watch as well), Westlin comes off a busy and impressive fall that provided him with his pick of a plethora of high Division I programs. Because he’s an athletic lefty with a heavy shot and the ability to make players around him better, one Top 20 head coach gave an incredibly fitting comparison to Duke’s Deemer Class. He’s able to blow by his man and get his hands free with regularity but can also play off his teammates and make plays that way. Westlin was superb at the Big 4 event, helping his squad to a championship berth. He has no shortage of college options and could be making a decision in the near future.

George Wichelns, A, Connetquot (N.Y.)
Club: Team 91
Commitment: Maryland
Breakdown: There’s a touted Long Island quarterback type in every class, a much talked about player who has the tools to be one of the nation’s best. In the freshman class, That’s Wichelns. The lefty is dynamic and is a textbook dodger from behind, able to body up defenders while getting topside, despite a less than ideal frame. He calmly makes plays at X, whether’s it’s a pinpoint spot feed to a cutter, a question mark dodge or a mid-range shot after being set up by a Team 91 teammate. Wichelns couldn’t help but impress the college coaches on the sidelines this fall, playing in several events despite being on board with the Terrapins since the early fall. It will be fun to see what he’s able to do as a freshman in Suffolk County.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s