The number one spot on our Top 25 Under 25 goes to Annie Pankowski. The Wisconsin Badger alumna makes her third appearance on the list, rising all the way from 21st last year.
March and April of 2019 are probably the ones Pankowski looks back on fondest, despite a long list of accolades previously.
She was centralized with Team USA for the 2017-18 season only to be a late cut from the Olympic squad. She returned for the 2018-19 season, her senior year in Madison. In the regular season, she notched 15 goals over 32 games, a solid production that earned her a Patty Kazmaier Top-3 Finalist spot. But when the playoffs hit, Pankowski found a new level.
In seven playoff games, she scored 11 goals, leading the Badgers to a National Championship. She notched a hat trick in Game 2 of the WCHA Quarterfinals, two goals in the NCAA semifinals to push the team to the Frozen Four, and the second of two goals in championship game to secure the trophy. The clutch player didn’t let that trophy out of her sights either as she slept with it and brought it graduation.
She kept rolling right into Team USA for her third appearance at Worlds, where she won her third gold medal. In those seven games she scored four goals and had three assists, including the lone American goal in regulation of the gold medal game and a shootout goal in the same game.
Pankowski finished her college career with 206 points, good for sixth best in their history. Her 96 career goals puts at fifth in their record books, and her 110 assists at number 7.
Off the ice, she’s next level as well. After being cut from Team USA Olympic squad twice already, Pankowski penned a moving piece about coming back from that experience, especially the 2018 Olympic cut. At 24, how many people have the wherewithall to look back on that experience like she did? In addition she was a Hockey Humanitarian Award Finalist for her work with OccuPaws while at Wisconsin.
Pankowski’s future in professional hockey was unclear after the end of her senior season as she was attending veterinarian school. However, she said she opted to stay at Wisconsin so she could continue training. She was drafted by the Riveters but also tweeted the initial #ForTheGame comments.
As for with Team USA, after an impressive Worlds in Espoo, look for Pankowski to have a long life with the team. She’s as clutch as they come, a goal scorer who can pick her spots like no one’s business. She’s the near future and the far future of the team, a key part of it.
Is this ranking too high or too low?
This ranking is perfect. Pankowski’s 2018-19 campaign was off the charts, especially in the last two months. She put the Badgers on her back and led them to a National Championship. She showed what she can do on Team USA in Espoo. In my mind, she was the top player under 25 in women’s hockey last season.