For the second straight year, Alex Carpenter has finished first in The Ice Garden’s Top 25 Under 25 rankings. Look, I know what you’re all thinking. Carpenter was cut from Team USA’s Olympic roster and they won gold without her, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is still one of the most talented players in the world at 24.
Where do we even begin? Carpenter has won gold four times with Team USA at IIHF Worlds. She also has won a gold at the U18 Worlds, two silvers at the U18 Worlds and has an Olympic silver medal. Oh, and she led Team USA in goals at Sochi as a teenager. But, for some reason, all anyone seems to want to talk about is the gold medal she didn’t win in PyeongChang.
Carpenter was unstoppable during her collegiate career. She piled up 278 points in 150 career games as an Eagle; to put that into context, Kelli Stack had 209 points in 142 games at Boston College. Carpenter also won the Patty Kazmaier Award in her junior season at BC.
After wrapping up her college hockey career Carpenter took her skills to the Boston Pride of the NWHL. In her rookie pro season she had 29 points in 17 games for Boston and shared the league lead in primary points with teammate Brianna Decker. Oh, and she did that on a team that was missing Hilary Knight for the majority of the season. The BC alumna also picked up three goals and three assists in two postseason games for the Pride before Boston fell to the Buffalo Beauts in the 2017 Isobel Cup Final.
Carpenter began the 2017-18 season in residency with Team USA. As one of the national team’s brightest stars, many considered her to be a lock to make the roster for PyeongChang. But, to the shock of the hockey world, Carpenter was one of the final players cut from the team.
After getting cut Carpenter packed her bags and headed to Asia anyway. But instead of going to PyeongChang, she went to Shenzhen, China to play for Kunlun Red Star. Carpenter put up 12 points in 13 games for KRS, but saved her best for the Clarkson Cup Playoffs. Her triple-OT goal against the Calgary Inferno punched KRS’s ticket to a Clarkson Cup Final showdown against the Markham Thunder.
ALEX CARPENTER GETS THE GAME WINNING GOAL AND WE ARE SCREAMING pic.twitter.com/kMtOV0m5Rp— The Ice Garden (@TheIceGarden) March 19, 2018
Trying to project what comes next in Carpenter’s already exceptional career is no small task. She’s still just 24, so there is a chance that she could return to the United States women’s national team program. But there’s also a chance that she never wears the red, white, and blue again.
What we do know is that Carpenter will be playing professional hockey in China for the second straight season. She and Noora Räty will be the Shenzen team’s biggest stars now that Kelli Stack and Zoe Hickel have moved on. In other words, there’s a very good chance that the CWHL’s MVP could be playing in China for the second straight year.
Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low
Carpenter finishing first in our rankings caused quite a bit of debate at The Ice Garden. In the interest of full disclosure, I had her ranked first on my own ballot.
I asked myself, “What has changed since she was my uncontested pick for the best player under 25 in women’s hockey in 2017?” The only answer that I could come up with is that she was left off Team USA’s Olympic roster for reasons that we still don’t completely understand. She is still a dominant, versatile forward. Carpenter is the kind of player you want to build a team around, which is probably why she’s signed up for a second season of being a player-ambassador to help develop the Chinese national team.
Still, she’s probably ranked just a little too high on our list. Her stock has not climbed since last year and there are just so many other outstanding young players in the women’s game. I still firmly believe that we have yet to see the best of Carpenter, but I also believe that her omission from Team USA’s Pyeongchang roster created some turbulence in her development as a hockey player. With any luck, we will see a confident, driven Carpenter on the ice in China next season, an Alex Carpenter that USA Hockey can’t afford to ignore in its pursuit of another gold medal at the 2019 Women’s World Championships.
Let us know what you think in the comments.