With two World Championship gold medals to her name, Annie Pankowski’s star is likely going to get much brighter when the 2018 Winter Olympics comes around. The 22-year-old forward from Laguna Hills in California will play in her first Olympic games this upcoming winter, and she ranks No. 13 on our list.
Pankowski’s 25 goals ranked second in the WCHA last season, and her 55 total points in 36 games for the Wisconsin Badgers helped the team to a conference championship. Though the Badgers fell in the NCAA championship game to Clarkson, Pankowski was quite the standout player for Wisconsin all season long.
Pankowski will forgo her senior year with the Badgers until the fall of 2018 due to the Olympics. In each of her previous three seasons with Wisconsin, Pankowski has increased her goal totals and average points per game.
She won WCHA Rookie of the Year in 2015 after posting 43 points in 39 games for the Badgers. Pankowski’s sophomore year was her biggest of her college career, as she hit 58 points in 40 games.
In all three years Pankowski has been with the Badgers, they’ve won the WCHA title as the conference’s best team. She’s also been Wisconsin’s leading scorer since she joined the team before the start of the 2014-15 season.
Last season, Pankowski was tied for first as the team’s power play goals leader and was second on the team in shorthanded goals.
Outside of Wisconsin, Pankowski has won two gold medals with Team USA at the Women’s World Championships. In Team USA’s 2016 win, Pankowski posted four points in five games for the country’s seventh World Championship title.
Pankowski will likely be a great fit for Team USA in the upcoming Olympics. Her familiarity with the team thanks to international competitions will be a boon as they get ready for February.
The Badgers will, sadly, take a hit as their best scorer over the last three seasons trains for the Olympics. Pankowski will return to the Badgers in the fall of 2018, but other members of the team will likely have to step up in her absence.
Is this ranking too high or too low?
Being the top scorer on your college team for three straight seasons might have people wondering why Pankowski isn’t in the top 10 here. Outside of her college seasons, however, she’s yet to really find consistency at the international level. Pankowski’s recent World Championships and Under-22 Series were a good start, but she couldn’t get on the scoreboard in three games at the 2016 Four Nations Cup.
A strong lead up to the Olympics could do Pankowski good, as she’ll be on the biggest stage of her life come February.