Incoming College Freshmen Rankings: Top 30 Defensemen + Watchlist

Jack Rowlett

UNC longpole Jack Rowlett

A loaded class defensively, this group is headlined by players from all over the map, including Top 10 d-men from as far as Florida, California and Arizona in addition to the more traditional hotbeds on the East Coast. UNC freshman Jack Rowlett receives the honor of the top-ranked defenseman, however the race for the top spot was as close as ever.

Note: Slightly different from the aforementioned lists for underclass standouts, incoming freshmen rankings are meant to reflect how the players project at the college level rather than stats or how talented they are at the moment. Every situation differs: some recruits step into powerhouse programs and have to wait their turn behind more established players on the roster, while others will step into ideal circumstances where significant playing time is easily up for grabs. Those aspects make putting together a Top 100 incoming freshmen list not only such a tedious task but so intriguing to look back on after each class finishes their eligibility.

Over the past week, I posted Top 30 rankings (with a watchlist) for midfielders and attackmen, as well as Top 15 lists for both goalies and face-off men. The Top 100 will drop on Tuesday with top classes ending things on Wednesday. As always, feedback is welcomed at tyxanders@gmail.com – follow along on Twitter at @tyxanders and @RecruitRundown.

1. Jack Rowlett / North Carolina / Robinson (Va.)

Disruptive, athletic and rangy, Rowlett earns the honor of the top defenseman in the graduating class of 2015 after a stellar career in Northern Virginia, scooping up 75 groundballs as a senior. He handles his longpole impeccably and is an absolute force in transition, evidenced by  his 24 goals and 12 assists, sending home a pair in the Under Armour All-American Game. UNC has a handful of talented upperclassmen waiting in the wings, but don’t be surprised to see Rowlett go out and fill the role of graduated LSM Ryan Kilpatrick.

2. Cade van Raaphorst / Duke / Desert Vista (Ariz.)

Van Raaphorst puts together freakish athleticism, excellent footwork and a hard-nosed football background to become the West’s most promising defensive specimen in a few years. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Arizona native plays with a mean streak at the LSM position, roaming from sideline to sideline. It may take him some time to adjust to the level of play, but his upside is considerable, especially considering how well the Duke staff is able to coach their guys up.

3. Noah Lejman / Penn / Haverford (Pa.)

Acting as the general the undefeated Fords’ back line, Lejman is a physically imposing (6’4, 210) cover man with precise checks and three-sport athleticism. Against an excellent schedule, he was a force who blanketed the opponent’s top attackmen while also picking up GB’s to trigger the transition game. Should fit in rather seamlessly into the Quakers’ defensive unit.

4. Tommy Wright / Penn State / Garden City (N.Y.)

A four-year starter for the Trojans, Wright has been Long Island’s longstick middie for a while, pressing out to erase opposing shooters while also playing within the defensive principles. Last year, he picked up 120 GB’s with eight points, following that up by garnering a spot on the U-19 30-man roster. The Nittany Lions will likely use his skill set from day one on a defensive unit that can use his energy and playmaking ability.

5. Zach Ambrosino / Virginia / Taft (Conn.)

Versatile in that he can dazzle both down low and up top as a LSM, the Massachusetts native is college ready with his athleticism, stick work and ability to smother ball carriers. At Taft, he showed a knack for putting the ball on the ground and turning it into quick offense, finishing out an excellent career despite being hobbled by injuries as a senior. UVA looks full on defense, but will definitely help with depth and should get plentiful minutes down the line.

6. Eddie Bouhall / Lehigh / Lynbrook (N.Y.)

Twice picking up the honor of Nassau County defenseman of the year, Bouhall put together a phenomenal high school career, scooping 80 groundballs as a senior while chipping in seven points for the Owls. He uses his 6’1, 200-pound size and hard checks to clamp down on attackmen, turning them at GLE and eventually getting the ball back on the defense. Poised to be a multiple-year starter for Kevin Cassese’s Mountain Hawks.

7. Nick Mellen / Syracuse / West Genesee (N.Y.)

Also playing football and hockey, Mellen is as tough as nails and possesses tremendous foot speed and takeaway checks, thriving at both close D and LSM for the Wildcats. As a senior, he posted 17 points with 47 GB’s, helping them to an 18-2 mark in his final season. Since the Orange bring in a great defensive class, it’s hard to say how soon Mellen will play as a freshman, but there’s no doubt that the local product will impress the coaching staff.

8. Hugh Crance / Notre Dame / Corona del Mar (Calif.)

Helping the Sea Kings to an 18-1 mark in 2015, Crance and his brother Hoyt (a freshman goalie at Yale) made up an outstanding defensive unit that constantly made life difficult for opposing teams. Also a running back and safety for the football program, Crance is fundamentally sound, playing angles superbly and getting the ball in the ground. Looks tailor made for Gerry Byrne’s defense in South Bend.

9. Connor Alexander / Duke / Jupiter (Fla.)

A four-year starter under former Blue Devil standout Danny Loftus, the 6’1, 175-pound athlete was a freak of nature down south, imposing his will with heavy checks and stellar ground play. As a senior, Alexander pumped in 11 points and 73 groundballs to earn All-Region honors for the third straight year. Fits in well with Duke’s defensive system and will compete for minutes.

10. Andrew Helmer / Syracuse / Summit (N.J.)

A significant reason why the Hilltoppers’ zone defense surrendered an average of less than 3.5 goals per game over the last two seasons, Helmer has a terrific approach, quick feet and is an asset in the clearing game. Also a football standout, he was twice an All-State pick on the lacrosse field while helping Summit to a pair of Group 2 titles. Projects well at the next level and is expected to turn heads at ‘Cuse.

11-30

11. Dylan Johnson / Denver / Cherry Creek (Colo.)
12. Patrick Foley / Johns Hopkins / St. John’s Prep (Mass.)
13. Marc-Antoine Pion / Harvard / IMG Academy (Fla.)
14. Jack Fowler / Duke / Chaminade (N.Y.)
15. Austin Meachem / Dartmouth / Brunswick (Conn.)
16. Tyson Bomberry / Syracuse / Avon Old Farms (Conn.)
17. Bryce Carrasco / Loyola / St. Mary’s (Md.)
18. Charlie Tarry / Princeton / Bronxville (N.Y.)
19. Michael Borda / Michigan / Gonzaga (D.C.)
20. Jack Halpert / North Carolina / Gilman (Md.)
21. Thomas Reilly / Cornell / Ward Melville (N.Y.)
22. Theo Dol / Virginia / Avon Old Farms (Conn.)
23. Matt Borges / Ohio State / Garden City (N.Y.)
24. Erik Dluhy / Albany / Somerville (N.J.)
25. Finn Dunne / Georgetown / Georgetown Prep (Md.)
26. Case Carpenter / North Carolina / Highland Park (Tex.)
27. Robert Mooney / Yale / Lawrenceville (N.J.)
28. Robert LoCascio / Villanova / West Essex (N.J.)
29. Matt Farrell / Holy Cross / Seton Hall Prep (N.J.)
30. Jake Peden / North Carolina / Downingtown East (Pa.)

Watchlist

Garrett Bullett / Rutgers / Corner Canyon (Ut.)
Jonathan Butler / Harvard / Pingry (N.J.)
Spencer Daniel / Harvard / Salisbury (Conn.)
Danny DeSanti / Army / St. Anthony’s (N.Y.)
David Dilts / Syracuse / Culver (Ind.)
Malcolm Flynn / St. John’s / Half Hollow Hills West (N.Y.)
Michael Fraser / High Point / Bishop O’Connell (Va.)
Brett Greenlee / Denver / Corona del Mar (Calif.)
Austin Haynes / Delaware / Moorestown (N.J.)
Cam Hyde / Johns Hopkins / Lincoln-Sudbury (Mass.)
Kevin Kelly / Villanova / Chaminade (N.Y.)
Michael Langdon / Notre Dame / Cranbrook (Mich.)
Landon McKenzie / Dartmouth / Landon (Md.)
M.J. Melillo / Michigan / Delbarton (N.J.)
Jon Ober / Denver / Episcopal (Va.)
Andrew Parker / Denver / Rancho Bernando (Calif.)
Kai Storrs / Maryland / Salisbury (Conn.)
Christian Teuber / Georgetown / Penn Charter (Pa.)
Charlie Trense / Notre Dame / Westminster (Ga.)
Lazare Zoungrana / Virginia / Brunswick (Conn.)

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