#7 (G) Ann-Renée Desbiens, University of Wisconsin
The 24-year-old goaltending phenom from La Malbaie, Quebec continued to add accolades to her résumé following a stellar collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin. Desbiens makes a reappearance in our Top 25 Under 25 after being named the #2 prospect on last year’s list.
Hannah Bevis highlighted Desbiens’ stellar career in last season’s ranking. The college standout has put forth one of the most remarkable NCAA careers in memory. Her 44 shutouts are the most in history. In her final two seasons at Wisconsin, Desbiens allowed fewer than a goal per game while posting a save percentage north of the .960 threshold. Perhaps her most mind-boggling statistic is the record she established for consecutive shutout minutes (543:53).
Remarkably, a national title has eluded Desbiens at the collegiate level. Even this most minor of blemishes is not enough to detract from the fact that she has been one of the most dominant players at her position for four consecutive years... and there is still room to grow. While all athletes echo the sentiment that team success comes before personal awards, Desbiens has plenty of individual hardware to be proud of in place of a national title. The most recent and significant coming in 2017, in which her NCAA career culminated in a Patty Kazmaier Award as a senior.
Building upon her success at Wisconsin, Desbiens made her Olympic debut at the 2018 PyeongChang games. She pitched an 18-save shutout against the Olympic Athletes from Russia in a 5-0 victory. While it was her only appearance in the tournament, it is indicative of her ability to play at an elite level while honing her game under the tutelage of veteran mentors Shannon Szabados and Genèvieve Lacasse.
Desbiens was selected by the Boston Pride in the 2016 NWHL Draft with the fourth overall pick. However, her plans to pursue professional women’s hockey are currently on hold. Last month, Desbiens announced via Twitter that she will be returning to the University of Wisconsin to complete her Master’s.
Officially signed up for classes this fall @UWMadison to complete my Master. After a year away from school, it will be weird to attend classes again and even weirder to not have to rush to practice everyday or to be cruising around campus on my moped #BeepBeep— Ann-Renée Desbiens (@adesbiens30) July 9, 2018
Hockey fans around the world should be counting down the days until she laces up the skates and takes to the ice again. Desbiens is an extraordinary player who can carry a team to glory. She is the the future of Canadian goaltending; one worthy of standing sentry in the blue paint in place of Szabados and Lacasse.
Despite limited international appearances and accolades to her name, Desbiens has proven herself to be ready to seize an opportunity should it present itself. The Quebec native has overcome hardships in her career, including a concussion and a knee injury which could have derailed one of the most prolific goalie careers that college hockey fans have ever seen. The stage is set for Desbiens to step into the spotlight. One can only hope that it happens sooner rather than later.
Ranking - High or Low?
Desbiens is a generational talent in between the pipes. The wellspring of elite talent in the women’s game presents difficult competition vying for spots in our Top 10 — Desbiens was never in doubt. While a reasonable argument can be made that her position at number two last year could have been taken by someone else, there is no rationale which can place her outside of the ten best. She has all the potential to be the best goalie in the world if she puts it all together and remains there.
Canada’s disappointment with a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics is not reflective of the current state of their team. With players like Desbiens leading the new guard, the future is bright.