1. Jessie Fleming – MF – UCLA
On the same year that a couple of rising Canadian stars signed off from the college game, Fleming showed why she could walk away a college legend in her own right in a few years. Fleming had already been a full Canadian international for more than a few years before coming into Westwood and came into the college game with the reputation of being one of the brightest attacking prospects for her country in some time. After a season with the Bruins, it’s easy to see why Fleming is so highly regarded. Despite missing three matches while on international duty, Fleming still led the Bruins in scoring with eleven goals on a remarkable forty-two shots, putting sixty-four percent of those attempts on frame, astonishing numbers for anyone, let alone a rookie. Fleming also made a habit of making defenders look like training cones for YouTube-worthy clips with her technical skill and flair on a consistent basis. The Canadian seems like a near lock for a #1 pick in this draft if she’s in it, which is the big question considering Kadeisha Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence’s venture to France after their college careers ended.
2. Deyna Castellanos – F – Florida State
Florida State scored one of the recruiting coups of the decade when they were able to bring in Castellanos, one of world soccer’s most promising prospects. The Venezuelan had displayed what appeared to be otherworldly talent at youth international level for her country in the run-up to her arriving in Tallahassee and won the Golden Boot at the 2014 U17 World Cup. Already a full international with Venezuela, Castellanos had mighty expectations to meet as a freshman at Florida State. Despite missing nine matches on the season, the Venezuelan was still impressive as a rookie, tying for the team lead with seven goals, including some astounding strikes and would’ve surely finished in double figures had she played in every match. Efficiency at collegiate level needs some work, but time is on Castellanos’ side, with the forward not turning eighteen until April. The sky is truly the limit for FSU’s latest international star.
3. Tierna Davidson – MF/D – Stanford
The standout player on a typically elite recruiting class heading into the Farm last year, Davidson was all that was promised and more in her rookie season. Previously a part of the U20 World Cup qualifying team for the U.S., Davidson wasn’t on the final roster for the competition, with Stanford being the benefactors and getting a fantastic freshman season from the Californian. Davidson was talented enough to start every match for the Card as a rookie and was part of an imposing central midfield that also featured Andi Sullivan. Though Davidson was more miss than hit in front of goal, one of her two goals was a big game winner against Big Ten double winners Minnesota. Also a potential fit at center-back for some team, we may not find out Davidson’s true potential until Sullivan departs after 2017, with Davidson likely becoming the focal point of the midfield for Stanford after then.
4. Taylor Kornieck – MF – Colorado
It’s hard to pick out a player from last season’s freshman class that did as much to boost their overall profile and draft stock as Kornieck. Though Kornieck looked like a recruiting coup for a program that had come off a horrible season, few could have envisioned the impact the U.S. U18 international would have right off the bat. While more than Kornieck contributed to Colorado’s rise to second place in the Pac-12, the rookie’s incredible 2016 season was one of the biggest factors in one of the biggest turnarounds in league history. Kornieck’s ability in the clutch certainly can’t be denied after her rookie season, which saw her net six game winning goals and eleven overall for the Buffs. Kornieck’s efficiency numbers weren’t great, but she’s not going to be a center forward at the next level. Role is a big question as a pro, as Kornieck stands at a massive 6’1”, which raises a lot of possibilities for position, but any strong coach should be able to find a place for this special talent.
5. Kaleigh Riehl – D (CB) – Penn State
Riehl enters 2017 as a veteran at U20 level for the U.S. after starting every match at last year’s U20 World Cup in Papua New Guinea while having also featured at the U20 World Cup two years earlier. Given that experience in 2014, when Riehl was one of the few rostered players without college experience to that point, the bar was set pretty high as she headed into the college ranks with PSU. It’s safe to say she cleared that bar and set it even higher after a 2015 campaign that saw Riehl start every match at center-back for the club as they rolled to a first national title. Riehl’s efforts helped PSU net eight straight clean sheets to finish the season, while her goal late in the College Cup semi-final against Rutgers sealed her side’s spot in the final. Riehl looks like a no-brainer first rounder at this point, even in a class with some great potential at center-back.