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2017 Men’s Tewaaraton Candidates, Preseason Edition

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Who’s the next Dylan Molloy?

NCAA Lacrosse: National Championship-North Carolina vs Maryland Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It’s officially 2017, so it’s time to start thinking about the upcoming lacrosse season in earnest. You’ve already seen our preseason rankings, so now let’s discuss a topic equally as divisive, sure to elicit all sorts of banter: Tewaaraton talk.

Dylan Molloy of Brown took home the award for the nation’s best player last year, and this year features a list of players young and old, known and (relatively) unknown, that should compete for the prize.

For seven straight years, the award has gone to the nation’s best attackman. Midfielders Kyle Harrison (Hopkins) and Max Seibald (Cornell) won in 2005 and 2007, respectively, but it’s clearly been an attackman’s award for almost a decade. Whether or not that should be the case is up for debate, but assuming it remains true, this list will be mostly attackmen.

The idea is for this to be updated every month or so, as new candidates emerge. (How many preseason Tewaaraton lists was Pat Spencer on, for instance?) So without further adieu, here are your preseason Tewy favorites, grouped by likelihood:

The Top Tier

Dylan Molloy (Brown)

The reigning king of lacrosse is once again one of the favorites to win the award. Last year, he totaled a mammoth 116 points (a hilarious 6.1 per game) on his way to being named the nation’s best player. Unfortunately, he’s got a few obstacles in his path to repeating: His coach, Lars Tiffany, left for Virginia, several of his best partners on offense graduated (Kylor Bellistri, Henry Blynn, Bailey Tills, etc.), and he’s returning from a broken foot suffered in the playoff win over Hopkins. Molloy has a tall order to match his insane 2016 numbers, but if there’s anyone that can do it, it’s this guy.

Pat Spencer (Loyola)

#FreePatSpencer. The top freshman in D1 wasn’t a Tewaaraton finalist last year, but you can bet he won’t be left off this year if he plays in 2017 the way he finished 2016. The young gun quickly developed into one of the most dynamic players in the game, dishing and finishing in inventive ways around the crease. He ended the year with 88 points, behind only Molloy in a per-game basis. Assuming Loyola lives up to their potential and Spencer gets even better in his sophomore campaign (a terrifying thought), he ought to be considered a serious contender.

Ben Reeves (Yale)

One of the most consistent attackmen in the game returns for Andy Shay’s ascending Yale program. Reeves totaled 45 goals and 34 assists as a sophomore last year as the leader of an underrated Bulldogs offense. He finished 2016 particularly strong, notching nine points in the Ivy League championship win over Harvard and then six the following week in a playoff loss to Navy. Reeves doesn’t receive the hype as some of the other top attackmen, but it’s about time that he does.

Connor Cannizzaro (Denver)

The owner of a 90-point season in 2015, Denver’s offensive centerpiece saw a slight drop in production last year, but he was still one of the best playmakers in D1. Denver retains most of its starting offense, which should help Cannizzaro stay in contention for the award. He’s the best player on one of the best teams in the country, and if he stays healthy, he’ll be in contention.

The “Maybe” Tier

Matt Rambo (Maryland)

The Terp attackman played spectacularly down the stretch last year, seemingly scoring at will during Maryland’s run to the finals. The team’s relatively slow-paced offense limits Rambo’s individual scoring potential, but he proved he can still put up big numbers and make plays with the best of them. If he plays like he did the final month of 2016 for a full season, he’ll be a legit Tewaaraton candidate.

Shack Stanwick (Johns Hopkins)

The lynchpin of the Lacrosse All-Name Team finished 2016 third in the country in assists per game (behind only Molloy and Spencer) and added 20 goals as the conductor of a strong Hopkins offense. One of the best passers in D1, he’ll probably need to score a bit more to be a true contender. With Ryan Brown departing, there could be more goals to go around for Shack—but perhaps fewer assists.

Connor Fields (Albany)

Last year, Fields and the Great Danes answered a lot of the critics who said they’d falter without Lyle Thompson. Fields put up 73 points and Albany finished 12-4 (though suffered a somewhat stunning loss to Hartford in the America East tournament). The jury is out on how the loss of Seth Oakes will affect Fields’ game: On one hand, Fields will have to put the attack on his back. On the other hand, defenses will key in even more on Albany’s best offensive player. If Albany stays solid and Fields rises to the occasion, he’ll be among the nation’s top players.

Justin Guterding (Duke)

71. That’s how many points the Duke attackman has scored in each of his first two seasons for “Touchdown” John Danowski’s Blue Devils (I’m still not sure why we call him that). But things are changing in Durham. Duke loses four of its top six scorers from 2016 (Myles Jones, Deemer Class, Case Matheis, and Chad Cohan). With all that talent gone, the offense could shift dramatically, with Guterding the new main attraction. It’s anyone’s guess how Duke recovers, but if history and pedigree are any indication, the Blue Devils should again be strong and Guterding has a chance to put up a lot of points.

The Dark Horse Tier

Will Sands (Bucknell)

The Bucknell attackman quietly finished ninth in D1 in points per game last season, a year after totaling 42 points as a freshman. If Bucknell can make the playoffs (they’ve been sniffing around the postseason in recent years), Sands should garner interest. The Tewaaraton committee has shown a willingness to give the award to an under-the-radar Patriot League team before, as Peter Baum of Colgate won it in 2012.

Colin Burke (Fairfield)

Pat Spencer Mania distracted from Burke’s stellar freshman season, in which he tallied 46 goals and 65 points for Fairfield. Burke’s return and expected growth in year two is the reason why many lacrosse writers, including some of us at College Crosse, are projecting Fairfield in the top 20. Like Bucknell and Sands, if Fairfield can become a contender, then that will help Burke’s case for the individual award. Even if not, his future is still very bright.

Cole Johnson (Army)

Johnson may have put up the quietest 71-point season in history last year. Army’s offense has improved each of the last two years (30th in 2014, 19th in 2015, 16th in 2016), and much of that is because of Johnson, who’s picked up where John Glesener left off and helped lead the Black Knights to back-to-back double digit win seasons. Expect another leap from the attackman in his senior season.

Grant Ament (Penn State)

The Doylestown, Pennsylvania product scored 52 points as a freshman for the Nittany Lions in 2016. Jeff Tambroni’s squad narrowly missed the playoffs last year but return much of their talent on both sides of the ball and should again contend for a playoff spot. Ament’s ascendancy will be crucial to help them get there.

Sergio Salcido (Syracuse)

Arguably the best midfielder not named Myles Jones, the Orange’s Salcido put up 53 points out of the midfield in 2015, scoring, dodging and dishing in a variety of ways. The award is unlikely to go to a midfielder, but with Jones now out of college, Salcido could become the nation’s top offensive middie in his senior season, and thus warrant Tewaaraton consideration.

Luke Goldstock (North Carolina)

Goldstock is the Tar Heel most likely to take over at least part of Steve Pontrello’s role as offensive maestro for the defending champions. They are different players, but Goldstock should at the very least improve on his 53 points from a year ago as he takes on a bigger role in the offense. Canadian extraordinaire Chris Cloutier will remain the primary finisher.

Jules Heningburg/Adam Charalambides (Rutgers)

The Scarlet Knight duo return for their junior and sophomore seasons, and since I felt weird picking one over the other, here they both are. Scott Bieda and his 66 points graduated, so this is now the offense of “Heningbides.” Heningburg scored 60 points as a sophomore, while ‘Bides notched 56 as a baby frosh for the potent Rutgers offense. I’m not sure which one will emerge as a player of the year contender, but I’m betting that one of them will at least be on the radar come May.

Morgan Cheek (Harvard)

Any time you score nine points in an upset win over Brown in the Ivy seminfinals, you’re going to attract attention. That’s exactly what the sophomore Cheek did on his way to a 36-goal, 59-point campaign. Offensive leader Devin Dwyer graduated, and while Cheek is more of a finisher-type, he’s poised to increase his point production in 2017. He’s a name to watch.

The Joel Tinney Tier

Joel Tinney (Johns Hopkins)

We come to it at last, the Joel Tinney tier. In this tier we have one player: Joel Tinney, the game-winning, groundball-getting, wing-dominating, defense-playing, celly-performing, dynamic Hopkins midfielder. Tinney made his presence known as a freshman in 2015, putting up 28 goals and impacting the game in countless ways. He also tended to rise to the moment, coming up big several times down the stretch (notably in an overtime win against Penn State and the semifinal loss to Maryland). To be frank, there just aren’t very many players like him. Tinney returns from suspension this year ready to help the Blue Jays return to the Final Four. If that happens, expect #Tinney4Tewy to trend on Twitter a lot on April and May.

Some other names to watch: Ian Mackay (Vermont), Jake Froccaro (Villanova), Chris Walsch (Air Force), Ryan Drenner (Towson), Ryder Garnsey (Notre Dame), Trevor Baptiste (Denver), Colin Heacock (Maryland), Ryan McNamara (Marquette), Tristan Rai (Lehigh), Zach Currier (Princeton), Simon Mathias (Penn), Jeff Teat (Cornell), Zed Williams (Virginia), Zach Miller (Denver)