The 31 best players of the 2017 lacrosse season

Just one month into the season, you can see a clear divide between the best players and those trying to reach that status.

I have 31 players who have made their mark in 2017. My editor probably wanted 25 or 30 players, a nice round number, but I came up with 31 who have impressed me and helped lift their teams.


There are no freshmen on the list — that's for another time — but these players have shown the ability to take over a game or simply help their teammates improve. There is a reason their teams are winning.

The catalysts


Connor Cannizzaro: Denver's Tewaaraton Award finalist in 2016 darts and dances, using a paralyzing sidestep to jet past defenders. The senior had 90 points in 2015 when Denver won the NCAA title.

Connor Fields: The Albany junior had 66 goals as a freshman but has evolved into a complete player. Fields has uncanny instincts that make every goal an event. The former hockey player is averaging a staggering 7.5 points a game.

Ben Reeves: The 2016 Tewaaraton finalist is a molecular cellular development biology major at Yale who attacks the goal. He's a straight-line dodger. Reeves didn't play in the loss to Maryland.

Pat Spencer: The Loyola Maryland sophomore is a signal caller who plays in the spotlight while attracting double-teams when he steps off the bus. Spencer had nine assists against Lafayette and is averaging six points a game after an 89-point freshman season.


Ryder Garnsey: Garnsey is a southpaw with style and an unpredictable nature. The Notre Dame sophomore uses his body to move past defenders and has 14 points after three games. Garnsey is a gunslinger and the new sheriff in South Bend.

Sergio Salcido: His story at Syracuse is one of patience and perseverance. The 5-foot-7 senior from Winter Park, Fla., redshirted in 2013, scored no points in 2014 and had just five assists in 2015. Last year, he had 29 goals and 24 assists. He's an elusive midfield dodger, with a powerful shot and proficient passing skills.

Cole Johnson: A 6-1 senior from Bellevue, Wash., he had 73 points for Army West Point a year ago. The linchpin of the Black Knights is averaging four points per game in 2017.

The game changers

Dylan Molloy: The 2016 Tewaaraton winner from Brown is averaging six points a game this season. Molloy is like a fullback (220 pounds) barreling into, through and over defenders on his way to the goal. When you back off him, he sets his feet and uncorks a shot top shelf.

Trevor Baptiste: Freakishly strong, explosive and coordinated, the Denver junior owns the faceoff circle. He's the best by a wide margin — winning 73 percent of his faceoffs this season.

Joel Tinney: The junior Johns Hopkins midfielder is gritty, gifted and guaranteed to make a play at crunch time. The Canadian was suspended by the NCAA in 2016 and did not play. This season, he made game-changing plays against Navy and scored the walk-off winner against Loyola.

John Sexton: This Swiss Army knife does it all for Notre Dame — on defense, faceoff wings and spearheading the transition offense. Sexton is the long-stick midfielder for the country's No. 2-ranked scoring defense, locking down dodgers and snaring possessions at a high rate.

Isaiah Davis-Allen: Maryland's midfield defender is the heart and soul of the Terps. His man-to-man defense, the ability to cloak opposing dodgers, is without peer. The senior captain excels in transition, creating scoring chances.

Stephen Kelly: North Carolina's midfielder is a faceoff man deluxe, a specialist who can score and create offense as evidenced by his two goals this season, 38 ground balls and 61 percent winning rate at the dot.

Zach Currier: Princeton's do-it-all chess piece gobbles up ground balls like few I've seen. The left-hander from Canada fills up the stat sheet and never tires. His stat line last weekend from an 18-7 upset of Hopkins included 15 of 19 faceoff wins, 10 ground balls, three assists and one caused turnover.

Jules Heningburg: The lanky junior from New Jersey is the premier player for Rutgers (4-0). Coming off a 60-point season, this right-hander and his Scarlet Knights have started 2017 strongly. He can do a bit of everything and is an underappreciated passer.

Ryan McNamara: The Minnesota native was ultra-productive in 2016 with 57 points while leading Marquette to the 2016 Big East tournament title and an NCAA tournament berth. His eyes are up while dodging with a change of speed and direction.

The shooters

Matt Rambo: Maryland's senior is not a one-trick pony, but his forte is shooting. With more than 20 career hat tricks, Rambo is deadly from midrange. He's clutch, having scored eight game-winning goals in his career.

Sergio Perkovic: The "Motor City Hit Man" is a load at 6-4, 220 pounds and should be a 30-goal scorer this spring for Notre Dame. He's off to a cold start from the field so far, shooting just 3-for-30, but it's just a matter of time before he straightens out the coordinates.

Patrick Frazier: The Hopkins southpaw from New England is the master of time and space. Frazier's outside bomb is feared — traveling well above 100 mph. The political science major has 25 career goals with 21 on the extra man.

Chris Cloutier: North Carolina's power lefty had nine goals over championship weekend to help capture the title. He works in a steel mill in Canada during the summer and is able to sling the ball to the four corners from an identical release point.

The erasers

Garrett Epple: The senior is the backbone of Notre Dame's defense. The Calvert Hall alumnus was terrific Saturday against Rambo in the 5-4 win over Maryland. Epple has gotten better and better covering the ball carrier, and has always been a roaming vacuum cleaner around the crease.

Tim Muller: The Maryland defender is stubborn and unwavering. His game IQ is sharp, and the captain has excellent on-field communication skills. He is the latest in a long line of dominating Terps defensemen.

Austin Pifani: He wields his stick like a fencer's foil, able to thrust, slap and parry ball- handlers into discomfort. The 6-2 Tar Heel has disruptive range and gets underneath the ball carrier's lower glove or under the armpit. Once his stick lodges in those spots, ownership is complete.

Brendan Hynes: Hynes has played midfield defense and down low for Richmond. He's the anchor for a stingy group of Spiders defenders who lead the nation in scoring defense and have their eye on a Southern Conference title.

Tanner Scales: His one-on-one coverage of Spencer in Week 1 stamped Scales as a premier cover man for Virginia. At 6-2 and 200 pounds, the senior from Colorado has an ideal build and is the hub of the defense.


The distributors


Grant Ament: Penn State's sophomore is small in stature but has huge determination. He scored 54 points as a freshman and is averaging five this season for the 6-0 Nittany Lions. He's integral to coach Jeff Tambroni's potent offense, which is ranked No. 2 in scoring.

Morgan Cheek: Watch the tape and you'll see that Cheek is off to a sensational start, averaging nearly seven points a game for Harvard (4-0). The junior runs the show with a toolbox brimming with skills.

J.D. Recor: The 5-7 senior from Marist has more than 100 career assists. The Red Foxes are 4-1 thanks to his 5.6 points per game on 43 percent shooting. Recor has tremendous acceleration and triggers the nation's most successful extra-man offense.

Shack Stanwick: The Hopkins junior is studious and surgical with the ball in finding the open man. He makes the correct decisions when the game is in the gray area — whether to push it or slow the tempo. Stanwick has been more aggressive as a penetrator this season.

The stoppers

Jack Concannon: Hofstra's right-handed goalie is 4-0 heading into Saturday's road game at North Carolina. He made 17 stops in a recent win over Georgetown. The 6-2 junior ranks ninth in save percentage this season and moves smoothly on his arc.

Benny Pugh: At 6-4, this senior fills up the goal, making windows for shooters nonexistent. Richmond's stopper leads the country in save percentage at .694 and handles the ball effectively around the crease.

Quint Kessenich covers college sports for ESPN and writes weekly for The Baltimore Sun during lacrosse season. Follow Kessenich on Twitter at @QKessenich.