Scouting: My Top 25 Under 25 Women's Hockey Players (Part 1)
Who are the best women's hockey players in the world under the age of 25?
In the last few weeks, the Ice Garden published its yearly Top 25 Under 25 list. As part of this exercise, I was invited to submit my list of the 25 best women’s hockey players under the age of 25.
Having recently updated the N-WHKYe models, I thought it would also be a cool idea to see the results that the models would yield for this exercise. The results below are therefore based on the updated N-WHKYe models considering equivalency metrics for the last 2 seasons. For each player, I additionally provide some scouting & player development insights based on video analysis.
The list below is fairly similar to the one I submitted to the Ice Garden for their Top 25 Under 25, but it’s not exactly the same. My list has a cutoff date of June 1st, 1997.
This first part focuses on positions 25 to 16 of the rankings.
25. Emma Maltais, Forward (Team Canada) – WHKYe: 0.38 – 1999
Emma Maltais played a vital role in Team Canada’s depth chart throughout the most recent international tournaments. Her strong skating foundation, her energy and her willingness to smartly initiate contact in 50/50 battles are her main assets. Combined, they provide any coach with a very versatile player who will do whatever it takes to help her team win.
24. Jincy Dunne, Defender (Team USA) – WHKYe: 0.38 – 1997
As the 6th defender in Team USA’s depth chart, Dunne wasn’t necessarily the player who saw the most ice in recent tournaments. However, despite limited opportunities, she ranked 24th among her peers thanks to her smooth stride, her ability to catch pucks dynamically and her habit of putting pucks towards the net which add value to her team’s possessions.
23. Cayla Barnes, Defender (Team USA) – WHKYe: 0.40 – 1999
At 23, Cayla Barnes already is one of the most experienced and reliable defenders on Team USA’s roster. Even if slightly undersized, defensively, her awareness and fitness level allow her to quickly neutralize threats through unassisted stops, helping her team retrieve the puck with ease. Offensively, she could use her solid stickhandling skills and her deceptiveness more often to initiate even more scoring opportunities.
22. Ronja Savolainen, Defender (Luleå HF) – WHKYe: 0.40 – 1997
Ronja Savolainen is a tall defender who can skate, defend, play the puck, shoot and contribute in many more different ways to her team. Frankly, if the 2F/3D structure was a thing in hockey, Savolainen would probably be one of the best “wingbacks” in the world. In terms of her technical skills, the main thing she needs to work on is her pivot when transitioning to backwards skating. By learning to open her hip quicker through her rotation, she could be more efficient when defending against the rush.
21. Ashton Bell, Defender (Team Canada) – WHKYe: 0.43 - 1999
Bell isn’t the flashiest of players. But you don’t need to be a flashy player to be effective and that is exactly what she is. On both sides of the puck, Bell is a player that coaches can trust, as she often leverages her defensive awareness and her offensive vision to make good (and well calculated) decisions on the ice. Offensively, it is through her puck movement that she is able to contribute to her team’s possession sequences.
20. Maude Poulin-Labelle, Defender (University of Vermont) – WHKYe: 0.45 – 1999
For me, when talking about consistency, Maude Poulin-Labelle is one of the first names that comes to mind. And, in the case of Poulin-Labelle, it all starts with her preparation off the ice. As an avid student of the game, she’s able to continuously improve upon the way she understands the game, while leveraging her off-ice training to be a dynamic player. I would not be surprised to see her get an invitation for a Hockey Canada camp one of these days.
19. Ève Gascon, Goaltender (Saint-Laurent Patriotes) – WHKYe: 0.50 – 2003
Ève is an elite goaltender who might be the most promising prospect in women’s hockey (no bias here). She’s the youngest player in these rankings and given her work ethic, her athleticism and her technique, she could be a dominant goalie in women’s hockey for a very long time. She’s already one of the best goalies in the men’s hockey CEGEP league. As I was telling our coach at Saint-Laurent earlier this year, she reminds of Juuse Saros in nets.
18. Abby Roque, Forward (Team USA) – WHKYe: 0.50 – 1997
Abby Roque is an elite play driver. She brings the puck to high value areas on the ice and can be a dual threat offensively thanks to her heavy shot and her elite playmaking skills. However, she struggles on larger ice surfaces due to some of the inherent technical inefficiencies in her stride. In order to learn how to generate maximum power from each stride, Roque could work on optimizing her push-off angle.
17. Maja Nylén Persson, Defender (Brynäs IF) – WHKYe: 0.52 – 2000
Nylén Persson is the first women’s hockey player to win the Salming Trophy, which is awarded on a yearly basis to the best defender in Sweden. She is a dominant force on the ice and already plays a huge leadership role both within the context of her club and national teams. Her tactical habits and her vision are practically second to none. However, from a technical standpoint, she sometimes tends to bend on her inside edges a bit too much. As such, improving her basic posture could make her an even more dynamic player.
16. Amanda Thiele, Goaltender (Ohio State University) – WHKYe: 0.56 – 2002
Amanda Thiele is one of the most athletic goaltenders in the world. She is not afraid to challenge dangerous shots as her positioning, her athleticism and her puck tracking skills allow her to limit rebounds or steal goals when rebounds occur. Technically, she could try to move her arms a bit less when moving laterally, but she’s already so good that she will definitely improve on that and become a key piece for Team USA for years to come.