Standouts from the NLF Freshman Tournament at Boys' Latin
Once the rain lifted Sunday morning, college coaches who made their way to Baltimore were treated to a gorgeous fall day to kick off the fall recruiting season. On the campus of Boys’ Latin, the first NLF freshmen showcase was held and brought a strong group of club teams to the Mid-Atlantic.
We were on hand to watch nine consecutive hours of games, switching fields only a couple of times. Below are just some of the players who stood out and that we’ll be tracking in the coming high school seasons and recruiting circuit.
Connor Shellenberger, Attack, St. Anne’s-Belfield School (Va.)/MadLax – Johns Hopkins
The most impressive player at the event and easily the most productive attackman, Shellenberger operated with confidence each time he touched the ball and made things happen for his MadLax teammates play after play on the way to helping the D.C.-based group finish 3-0 on the day. Shellenberger, a standout last spring at 3d Blue Chip, was an early commit to Johns Hopkins and put on a trio of excellent performances in front of Division I coaches on the sideline Sunday. He’s gotten taller and bigger in the last year, naturally, and it’s helped him operate with skilled defenders on his hands and squared up to him. It’s easy to like his approach when he runs up to the midline to meet the ball and then initiates from up top. He gets a head of steam and can challenge down the alley, but shows his vision to look across to the inside for a cutter, but then was patient on more than one occasion to not force and pull out and kick down the backside to get the defense rotating. But operating as a quarterback from X or from the right wing, he’s constantly forcing defenses to respect him as he can work to the cage through checks and be in shooting position quickly. His ability to then move the ball makes him a real problem once the defense is moving. His best performance came against Team 91, when he faced good defense but still found ways to be effective and make plays to get others involved with so much attention coming at him. In that game, he must have tallied a half dozen points, scoring goals in a variety of ways and making some really crisp passes to teammates. He scored a goal that saw him act like he was going to pass or shoot behind the back, and instead, he found the room to jump and pump the ball overhand for a tricky goal. There was very little Shellenberger didn’t do, and from just about all spots on the field. He tested his defender in every way and was a threat to get to his shot or make any number of looks as he carried or came out of his dodges. Through his tendencies displayed Sunday, Shellenberger showed as much IQ as anyone at the event, if not more.
Josh Dawick, Attack, Edge/Appleby College (Ont.)
Dawick established himself early in the day as a talented scorer who can finish the ball at a very high level around the cage. He can flash to the middle and bang it very quickly with excellent form on his shots and a smooth release. He has super soft hands and showed range from outside on a couple of shots. There is something naturally deceptive about him when he is near the cage. In an early game against Long Island Express North, the right-hander took a deflected pass and lifted it up and into the net all in one big fluid golf swing. He later put on a show against the Crabs in a victory for the Edge with at least four goals and an assist. That game saw him cut to the center of the defense, somehow find a small spot and take feeds to pump in quick goals. He later made a really nice looking feed from just behind GLE, using a hesitation to hang up a defender and then push the ball right over him to a cutter open on the crease for an assist. He later got open on the wing, had time and room and somehow froze the goalie for a moment before rifling the ball just over the keeper’s left shoulder. Dawick is the son of Toronto Rock owner Jamie Dawick. He’s played box in Oakville and those skills look to translate well to the field, where he also has experience through the Oakville program.
Noah Gels, Attack, Ridgefield (Conn.)/Long Island Express
Gels played like one of the toughest attackman at the event, despite being on the smaller side. He went right at his defender, regardless of size, and really made those players honor the underneath, as he would use a jab step or stick movement to make them guard the interior before then quickly pushing to the topside. He would get right into the defender and test him with the rollback and kept fighting inside while protecting the stick. Gels also displayed awareness and an understanding for getting separation after posting up, able to just take a step back and have range and time to shoot. He had a patient, deliberate approach to dodging, reminiscent of a young Kevin Rice in the way he persevered through it and made a play after a long possession leading to a goal. He changed direction on his man three or four times on a single carry before falling to the turf but still threading a pass through the middle of the defense, an easy layup for line mate Dawson Muller (Ridgefield, Conn.). I watched Gels hustle to three groundballs that probably shouldn’t have been his in a matter of two or three minutes just yards in front of where I was standing. He won those battles on sheer determination, showing a high level of effort and got his head and stick right up and went to the middle of the field to create pressure on the defense immediately.
Christian Mule, Attack, Half Hollow Hills West (N.Y.)/Team 91
Mule started off the day with a handful of goals against C2C and then ran into a lot of attention from the defenses that were clearly looking to double him quickly. On a few positions, it appeared as though he was being denied the ball and he was forced to find ways to get involved. He showed his willingness to share the ball in those situations, especially when he dodges, guards himself with his back and looks inside to cutters sneaking through the high crease or from X. He’s excellent at freezing his defender to get them off guard, buying himself space and time to redodge or make the pass. One of his goals saw him hitch-and-go to the middle of the field before he threw a hesitation fake to freeze his man, kept going to his left and then rifled a high-to-high shot to score. Despite the smaller build, Mule showed the body control while dodging that has made him so impressive and hard to cover each time we’ve watched him.
Van Parker, Attack, Broughton (N.C.)/Team 91
Parker, who was outstanding at Jake Reed’s Nike Blue Chip over the summer, had another good showing this past Sunday. After showing at Nike Blue Chip that he could be a hard-dodging, crash-to-the-net attackman, especially from X or from GLE, he showed a different side of his game at the NLF event. Using his tall, strong frame, Parker was able to finish a whole bunch of opportunities right on the crease, showing a penchant for depositing the net on the door step with a consistent pump fake to move the goalie or just basically one-timing the ball into the nearside top corner. He scored a couple times in more than one game. One of those saw him face dodge to the middle of the field in transition and bang the ball by the goalie’s feet as he was hit and fell. He scored another one while falling down. But he really showed that he’s reliable when given an opportunity near the net, whether he created it himself or if he’s fed by his teammates.
Peter Davies, Attack, Dover Sherborn (Mass.)/Laxachusetts
Davies is a thick, sturdy left-handed attackman who really showed a knack for fooling the defenders in his peer group to play right into his game. Again and again on Sunday, he would body up and back in at about GLE, right off the edge of the crease, and by the time the defender would realize where he’d gotten to, it would be too late and he would drop his stick or pull off just enough to get separation and score from just feet away. They were very hard shots for the goalie to stop from that close, especially with him skipping the ball on sidearm or underhand shots. Davies was hard to budge and even the defenders who were strong enough to back him down would eventually find themselves working against him just off the post – right where he wanted to be.
Troy Barthelme, Attack, St. Paul’s/Baltimore Crabs
Barthelme is a tall, large right-handed attackman whose size alone makes him an intriguing prospect. He was one of the stronger threats for the Crabs this past weekend and used his big frame and long arms to his advantage when he would catch the ball and charge up field from behind the cage. When he finally connected on a winding jump shot that bounced and hit just under the cross bar, it seemed to all come together for him with nice fundamentals on the overhand release and smart shot selection. He posted up against defenders and kept his head up and looked for the feed and became a source of stress for defenses, as he seemed more assertive throughout the day.
Ryan Haigh, Attack, PEAC School for Elite Athletes (Ont.)/Edge
Haigh’s grittiness and competitiveness mix with excellent hands to make him a dangerous attackman from out on the right wing or in tight. A tricky cover given his stocky, short frame at what looks like five-feet-nothing, he can get inside of bigger defenders and quickly get to a small space for shooting. Think of the way Shawn Evans gets defenders hung up on him and then uses that contact to create chaos while he continues to the center of the floor and, oftentimes, draw penalties. Haigh is similar in the way he makes things challenging for his defenders, who will often try to overpower him given his size. When in front of the cage, he can be automatic, with such soft hands and a real knack for catching, faking and finishing with some really pretty pump fakes and a real smooth release. The excellent hands help him, as well as his brother Gareth, a goalie, to easily snag the ball off the turf. Though he doesn’t possess great foot speed yet, if you watch him closely you will see he is always moving his feet, which makes his game more advanced in ways, especially if you see him “deke” with his stick to scoot by a defender. He is tough and is an interesting, as well as entertaining, prospect and already has considerable box experience – as does Gareth, who also showed well in his given opportunities in cage.
Jake Caputo, Midfield, Middle Creek (N.C.)/Team 91
Caputo was easily among the most skilled players and perhaps the most outstanding midfielder at the NLF event at Boys’ Latin. He already shows high-level, consistent dodging abilities. You have to see his ability to repeatedly split his defender and get the stick out to his left hand as he explodes into a sprint. He can then quickly get both hands back on his stick and get a lot of velocity by snapping his shots. The fact he is a natural righty makes that even more impressive coming from the young man. His shots were accurate and stung corners or went right inside the post. On one play, he dodged hard to his left, then rolled back through the middle and shot overhand to put the ball inside the left pipe. He ran hard through every play and his ability to play both sides of the ball and come off the wing during draws is what painted him as one of the more complete midfielders competing Sunday – he consistently proved a tough cover and finished his shots off the dodge. Caputo is the son of Duke assistant coach Ron Caputo and showed a lot of smarts the first time 3d Rising was able to watch him play.
Jonathan Bender, Midfield, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School (Va.)/MadLax
Bender is a promising young midfielder who emerged throughout the day as a talented scoring threat and skilled presence out of the box for MadLax as the team went undefeated at the NLF event. Bender got things going with his team’s first goal of the day, scoring on a on a right-handed overhand shot down the alley, showing his quick burst to accelerate and get some immediate separation. He showed his quickness again later on, isolating a short stick out on the high wing, getting a step inside, zooming in and finishing off the dodge with a quick, tight release before the slide could even get to him. He scored another goal cutting across the defense, catching with his right and scoring on a sidearm shot. He was very productive and made a strong first impression on Day One of fall ball.
Stevie Jones, Midfield, South Lakes (Va.)/MadLax
Jones was one of the best athletes on the field Sunday and showed it in how he played on the defensive and clearing the ball up the field, which he could do by himself numerous times. He was so quick when shifting back and forth with his hips open to the ball and he got his stick out in front to challenge what would normally be easy exchanges between two midfielders. He showed tremendous bursts of speed coming up the field, easily gliding to the open field to complete clears. He was a workhorse for MadLax Sunday.
Jack Howe, Midfield, Pleasantville (N.Y.)/Long Island Express North
Howe was one of several bigger midfielders running out of the gate for Express North. This one just happens to have a year of varsity experience under his belt and it was evident as he carried, shook and glided to shooting position on his man when starting from up top. He’s got promising size already at about 6-foot and 175 pounds and combines that with really fluid dodging and carrying, able to pass off his moves. In between the lines, his speed was evident as it allowed him to be in the mix for groundballs. On one play, he “hockied” the ball to space and came up with it cleanly to win back possession. He didn’t necessarily put up the most goals on his team, but each time he carried Division I coaches were making comments about his physical attributes.
Robert Schain, Midfield, Bullis School (Md.)/MadLax
Schain was another really impressive midfielder for the talented MadLax squad that performed well all day at the NLF event. Schain is a slick, athletic midfielder who really shined coming up the field with some high-level stick work to get through and around traffic and enter the box ready to make a play. He’s got a quick change of direction and used that to get himself separation and used the stick skills to protect it while going to the rack. Schain also unleashed a blast from up top on the extra-man, winding up from way up top. He came right down the gut on another series after getting the ball flying off the face-off wing to score with ease. He can really move.
Weston Carpenter, Midfield, Ridgefield (Conn.)/Long Island Express North
Carpenter was another one of the standout midfielders from the Long Island Express North group. He had perhaps his best game starting out the day against Edge, as he helped the team storm back from a 5-0 deficit to come out on top 9-8. In that run, Carpenter had at least a goal and two assists, including feeding on the game-winner. Later on, Carpenter scored on an overhand blast from outside that found the top shelf. He showed scoring and play making ability from the midfield and was quick to find himself in a quality shooting position, or he would quickly move the ball or look to make a second or third move to get to that shot or at least make the defense start to think about going to him.
Keegan Dollar, Midfield, Yorktown (N.Y.)/Long Island Express North
Doller was part of that strong Long Island Express North midfield group and ended up burying the game-winning goal against Edge, his second of that game. He’s a hard-nosed player who had a big showing in the Express North’s most exciting game of the day. He can shoot from up top and that helped him be a threat all day and capitalize on some of those step-down opportunities.
Connor Mitchell, Midfield, Buford (Ga.)/Thunder Lacrosse – Ohio State Grant Mitchell, Midfield, Buford (Ga.)/Thunder Lacrosse – Ohio State
These guys are always the buzz of the sideline whenever we see them, and this is now the third. Watching the Mitchells at NLF, the biggest takeaway is that they appear more physically fit, making their 6-foot frames that much more daunting when they begin barreling down the alley. What makes these twin brothers from down south even more dangerous is their willingness to share the ball and what appear to be improved stick skills. And when they step down the lane or prepare to shoot, defenders in their peer group immediately feel pressure to react. The power on their shots and even their passes is noticeable. In our first viewing of Connor and Grant on Sunday, each of them scored at least once as key initiators for the Thunder. There is already a family of lacrosse players using the moniker “Mitchell Brothers”, so we’ll go with “The Mitchell Boys.” It’s got a ring to it.
Connor Drake, Midfield, Wilton (Conn.)/Long Island Express North
Drake turned heads with his ability to explode to the middle of the field on an east-west top-side push and then unleash a nasty shot with an incredible snap of his wrists. He did that time and time again it seemed and you could see how he can just float through the middle with good feet and get himself to a good angle to shoot at the entire front of the goal. With the way he releases the shot quickly on the run from way back behind his body, it becomes hard to track, especially moving at an upward angle. Moving at full speed and locked and loaded to shoot, Drake forced defenses to move to him or at the very least prepare for a fast-moving high percentage shot from the middle of the field.
Bryson Shaw, Midfield, Mount Saint Joseph (Md.)/Baltimore Crabs - Maryland
One of the better athletes on the field Sunday at Boys’ Latin, Shaw showed that he has high-end endurance – able to run all day and match feet with just about any of the other fast midfielders at the event. As a short-stick defender, he ran them off their dodging angle and off toward the sideline and away from good shooting spots, rendering them ineffective as initiators. He was right on the hip of the ball carrier and showed side-to-side quickness. He was still running at full speed in the third game of the day. By then, he was outrunning people every time he touched the ball or went after it. He has serious wheels and it makes him a threat if and when he does get himself moving into the box. Shaw’s athleticism alone makes him, at this early stage, a nice looking commit for the Terps.
Michael Swirbalus, Midfield, Westwood (Mass.)/Laxachusetts – Ivy League
A player who looked like he does a lot of things at a high level all ready, Swirbalus shows good skills and playmaking to go with a solid build and good feet on both ends of the field. When he brought the ball into the box in transition, he didn’t look easy to stop thanks to his speed and good stick on the run, and that lead to a couple pretty easy goals for him, including two in one outing. He was also aggressive in attacking the defense in those situations. He can set his feet and go into a wind up quickly, especially downhill, and he has a quick release and hard shot. He knew how to make the play in fast break scenarios, likely because he’s been a kid who regularly makes plays on the backend and then takes it up the field. You can see that in his highlight reel numerous times. It seemed he made a bunch of plays on both ends of the field to help Laxachusetts to a good overall showing as a team on Sunday.
John Schreiber, Midfield, Iona Prep (N.Y.)/Long Island Express North
Schreiber turned in a similar performance Sunday compared to his run at Nike Blue Chip this summer, showing as a hard-working, unselfish two-way player. His size, at least 6-foot and a big body, and his good passing make him a threat on offense. He runs some point and ended up dishing out several assists throughout the day, just like he did at Blue Chip, using his height and eyes to see the field and his size does the rest as his big presence essentially demands attention from opposing defenses. But you see the character of his play on the other end of the field, where he makes hard contact with the ball carrier but keeps his hips square most often and doesn’t lunge. He’s a threat in transition because he is really difficult to stop.
Conor Calderone, FO/Midfield, Smithtown West (N.Y.)/Laxachusetts - Maryland
Just recently committed to Maryland, Calderone was one of the more consistent face-off men at the NLF event. He’s quick and low to the ground and can push it out forward to himself. It was a little challenging to identify a consistently dominant face-off man at this event. But you had to like a lot of the other attributes Calderone put on display – he’s explosive, protects himself and the ball out of a win and can push it in transition. In the scrum scenario, that low center of gravity helps him Hoover the ball and his feet help him get to space and move it along.
Mike Grogan, LSM/D, Episcopal High School (Va.)/MadLax
After a really good showing over the summer at Jake Reed’s Nike Blue Chip Camp, Grogan opened up the fall circuit with several strong performances at the NLF event. He was part of an excellent MadLax defense that really limited its opponents all day by keeping opponents out of the middle of the field and keeping their sticks up high in the passing lanes. Grogan took a rough check to the back of the head while he was helping clear the ball up the field, sending him flying face-first to the turf, but he eventually bounced up and was back in action to make plays. He broke up two clears after taking the big hit, once quickly spinning his body to snag the ball out of the air to show soft touch on the handle and then later raking the ball out of traffic, getting the ground ball and then setting his team back up. He’s an athletic player and has now shown well both times 3d Rising has observed him. What he has shown has been consistently impressive.
Brett Mallee, LSM/Defense, LaSalle College High School (Pa.)/HHH – Maryland
Committed to Maryland after we observed him over the summer, Mallee was outstanding at the NLF event. He displayed the athleticism that separates him, at this early point, from other defenders and long poles in his peer group. He’s rugged and has a bounce in his step as he approaches the ball. He’s a big-time play maker in the middle of the field – fearless in going for the ball in scrums, and selling out completely on the clear. He scored one of the best goals of the day, clearing the ball down the near sideline, then sprinting all the way in from GLE, moving his hands for the backhand and then leaping for a horizontal extension to dunk it. His combination of size, good legs and the ability to make plays through physical contact in the middle of the field, as well being able to overwhelm the average ball carrier in his class, makes Mallee one of the exciting defensive discoveries in this class so far.
Will Frisoli, LSM/Defense, St. Sebastian's School (Mass.)/Laxachusetts
Frisoli proved to be an ever-present, road-runner with the long pole on this fine day at Boys’ Latin. The speedster can move his legs and seemed to have just as much energy in his third game of the day as he did in his first. He’s lightweight but obviously fit and can really glide to the ball and up the field. On the clear, he was a threat to enter the box and cause a breakdown, which he did more than once. He showed really nice touch with the long pole on his passes and appeared to be communicating in the middle of the field to teammates. He just missed on a slick low-to-high shot from right on the door stop after sprinting inside. Coming off the wing, he routinely showed his speed and nose for the ball. Frisoli appeared to play with confidence and was deliberate when attacking the ball and moving it up the field.
Zach Lee, Defense, William Penn Charter School (Pa.)/HHH
At this early stage of things, Lee has a lot of attributes that are hard to find packaged into one defender in this 2019 class. He is long and has incredible reach, standing something like 6-foot-3, but he really moved well both laterally and up the field on the clear. I recently heard High Point head coach Jon Torpey speak about defenders needing to choke up on the stick as they came in the box to truly be a threat. Lee did just that on one occasion, sprinting to the restraining line, stopping on a dime and then keenly slipping a soft sidearm touch pass to a teammate camped out wide open on the high crease. He took a big hit from behind at one point and it didn’t bother him and he kept on making plays. He tallied a bunch of groundballs and was a workhorse on clears. His reach, low stance and apparent good foot speed makes him a prospect coaches will be looking to learn more about in the coming weeks.
Dodson Piotrowski, Defense, St. John’s College High School (D.C.)/MadLax
Piotrowski looked like an athletic, physically strong defender this past week, one who moved pretty well for having legs that paint him as a linebacker or power lifter elsewhere in life. He was a very noticeable presence on the backend for MadLax as offenses struggled to penetrate the interior or skip passes across. He showed a good stick going after ground balls and was a really tough budge for any attackman. Off the ball, with his stick in the lanes and with his feet moving, he appeared to be an excellent part of the team’s defensive unit.
Dylan Gardner, Defense/LSM, Xaverian Brothers (Mass.)/Laxachusetts
You had to like Gardner’s combination of size and athleticism. He has a thick build to go along with it – sturdy and strong and very fast off the ground and up the field. His appearance alone makes him a tough guard for attackmen in his peer group. Numerous times he swooped in to come up with the ball and sprint up the field basically uncontested. He was helped lead a solid Laxachusetts defense on this day.
Xander Martin, Defense, Gilman School (Md.)/Baltimore Crabs
Martin, a standout at both 3d Blue Chip last spring and then at Jake Reed’s Nike Blue Chip this past summer, was arguably the best defender for the Crabs team. He’s an aggressive defender who usually heckles the ball carrier by keeping the stick on the hands and chopping his feet to the ball and when shuffling to keep with his man. And he can really turn it up to get all over a player if they’re holding it too long. Clearing the ball, he burst up the field at one point and threw the stick to one hand to whip it over an oncoming attackman and breezed up the field, showing that his athleticism is developing to go along with good technical skills and a bit of a mean streak that he keeps control over until opportune moments. He is very effective on the ball and with his stick.
Kenny Brower, Defense, Kellenberg Memorial (N.Y.)/Team 91
Brower, tasked with one of the day’s most challenging matchups, showed wise stay at home defense and good fundamentals in not chasing but applying checks aimed at controlling and not taking away. He’s got a good frame already at just under 6-foot and moves it well to make use of the length he does have. He can get his stick in front of the dodger’s direction quickly to limit the effectiveness of an attackman who can change direction quickly. He didn’t lunge or lean too much with the stick and was playing defense with his hips as much as his stick. And we saw him close in on the ball with aggression and make use of the stick when necessary, showing a gritty side, too.
Phil Mazzuca, Defense, Appleby College (Ont.)/Edge
Mazzuca anchored a physical, nasty defense that showed box tendencies but, at times, excellent skills with the stick and checking abilities. Mazzuca is a good sized kid at about 6-foot and looks pretty strong; he’s got an authoritative presence. He showed hockey like skills with the ball on the ground, tough in those scrum situations but also smart to goose it out and get it off the turf with good control of the handle.
Harrison Berke, Defense, Johnson (Texas)/Leading Edge – Johns Hopkins
Berke shined for Leading Edge Sunday as a defender with good size and athleticism who also showed a lot of craftiness in the way he checked his man and handled the ball. At 6-foot, about 165 pounds, he can cover a lot of ground and get to ground balls quickly. He uses his athleticism to be aggressive on the ball and then can make some high-level plays coming up the field. He through a swim dodge over a riding attackman on his way up the turf. As this report was being drafted, we received word that Berke committed to Johns Hopkins. He also plays for 3d Dallas.
Mac Fotiades, Goalie, St. Sebastian’s (Mass.)/Laxachusetts
From where we stood, Fotiades had the best showing of the keepers at the NLF event. A thick, boisterous presence in the cage, his size and ability to stay still but then make a quick move to the ball both with stick and body was noticeable. For as fired up as he got after a huge doorstop save on a shot right in his face, his bodied appeared relaxed and composed as shooters were pulling back and as his eyes and top hand went right to the ball on just about every shot. Fotiades tossed a couple long balls that were on point and showed he has worked on all elements of his game. In another game, he made at least a half dozen saves in his allotted half.
Brett Dobson, Goalie, The Hill Academy (Ont.)/Edge
Dobson showed some incredible reflexes at the NLF event. He’s a bit unorthodox in his style of play, in some ways baiting shooters and giving them oddly spacious openings in the net before closing the gap or making lighting quick moves to snap his stick right to the ball. It’s almost wild to watch and you can see it clearly in his highlight reel. He had a couple of really nice saves at the NLF event, including stuffing one of the Crabs big shooters right on the door step. He can flail his body to the most extreme points of the shooter’s angle or to the corners of the cage. He turned in a few multi-save halves, including a really nice showing in the opener against Long Island Express North. The way he used his body indicated an extra layer of toughness you see in goalies coming from Canada.