clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2019 Women’s Hockey Top 25 Under 25 | Honorable Mentions

New, comment

5 players who didn’t quite crack our list but still deserve mention

As you might imagine, a lot of players come into consideration when we work on the Top 25 players under the age of 25 every year. After all, it is a massive undertaking to whittle down a legion of talented skaters and goalies to a list of just 25 players. Each year we have players who, for one reason or another, simply don’t make the cut despite their exceptional play and skill.

Our Honorable Mentions this year is no exception. It features some of the brightest young stars in hockey from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Make no mistake, these are players who very much deserve your attention for what they’ve managed to achieve in the early stages of their career and for the potential they have to take their game to another level.


Sarah Fillier

Gabriella Fundaro

Shelley Szwast

Fillier burst onto the NCAA scene with Princeton, leading the team in scoring and helping the Tigers capture the Ivy League championship.

Past accomplishments

As the country’s fourth-leading scorer nationwide and the top scorer among all rookies, Fillier was an obvious pick for the National Rookie of the Year. Nobody in college hockey averaged more than her 1.97 points per game, and she finished the season with 22 goals, 35 assists, and 57 points. Fillier was named the Rookie of the Year in both the ECAC and Ivy League as well, and earned Ivy League Player of the Year honors to boot.

Future impact

Fillier slotted in as Princeton’s first-line center in just her first NCAA season and gave the Tigers’ lineup a much-needed boost. Already, she constantly pressures opponents and causes headaches for opposing defenses on a practically shift-by-shift basis. She’s extremely effective away from the puck and often creates rushes for Princeton by forcing turnovers.

She’s not the type of player who just piled up points against weak competition and then performed so-so against strong opponents. Fillier regularly made game-changing plays for Princeton and I would expect her to do that at the next level, when she eventually gets there. She already saw action with Team Canada at the 2018 Four Nations Cup and earned a regular shift. She’s one of their highest-potential young forwards and if she hits her ceiling, she’ll be a difference maker for the national team just as she is for Princeton.

Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low?

Fillier has never been ranked in TIG’s T25U25 before, so it’s nice to see her getting some consideration this year after a stellar freshman campaign. Princeton returns not only Fillier but the other two members of its top line (Carly Bullock and Maggie Connors), and that consistency should help her continue dominating college hockey next year. Based on play and potential alone, she’s probably deserving of a ranked spot, and another year like this one should see her well into the top 25 next season.

Petra Nieminen

Gabriella Fundaro

Mats Bekkevold

Already an Olympic bronze medalist, Nieminen is one of the most promising young forwards not only in Europe but in the entire game right now.

Past Accomplishments

Nieminen played this past season for Luleå Hockey/MSSK her first in the SDHL, joining one of professional hockey’s most formidable lineups. As a 19-year-old, she put up a very respectable 13 goals, 11 assists, and 24 points in 34 regular season games. She was a point-per-game player in the postseason, scoring six goals and five assists in 11 games to help Luleå take home the SDHL championship.

At the senior international level, Nieminen has already collected World Championship bronze (2017), Olympic bronze (2018), and World Championship silver (2019). She is already counted on to be a contributor offensively for the Finns; notably, at the 2018 PyeongChang games, she notched three goals and five points to finish third on the team.

Future Impact

Nieminen has produced internationally for several years now and really started to turn heads at this year’s World Championship, but Team Finland’s staff has been high on her for a while. Before the 2018 Four Nations Cup, head coach Pasi Mustonen noted her as a player to watch for this next Olympic cycle and believes she could be one of the best players in the world by the time she hits her mid-20s.

She has strong puck skills and is capable of beating defenders one-on-one, as well as maintaining possession while under pressure in tight areas. Nieminen has also shown a willingness to take the middle of the ice and put herself in position to make plays from high-danger areas. As she gets older and her game rounds out, she should solidify herself as a dynamic forward both at the club level as well as internationally for Finland.

Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low?

Nieminen just turned 20 in May and is going to be one of Team Finland’s most counted on forwards for basically as long as she continues playing. There is a very convincing case to be made for ranking her already, but as she gets older and establishes herself as a scorer at the international level, we should see her ascend into a high spot on this list.

Maddie Elia

Eleni Demestihas

Pat McCarthy

Elia’s still-young pro career has been impressive on and off paper, but she’s yet to get the credit she deserves.

Past accomplishments

Elia put together an entirely respectable college career, maxing out with 36 points in her final 32 games at Boston University (12G, 24A). In her first season with the Buffalo Beauts in the NWHL she scored five goals and had nine assists, leaving her with 14 points in as many games. However, the real story is what came next. Rather than a sophomore slump, Elia experienced a breakout season, netting 12 goals and adding 7 assists. Her 12 goals put her alone at the top of the table in goal-scoring last season, and the only player with more points was her linemate Hayley Scamurra. On top of that, she was shooting at an insane 21.8% this season. Although she was not selected for the All-Star Game last season, she was named the 2018-19 NWHL MVP.

Future impact

The nature of the women’s professional hockey scene in North America makes it difficult to predict where she’ll go next and what role she might play. Given that the PWHPA has floated the idea of regional teams scrimmaging against other regions, we might be lucky enough to see her team up with Scamurra again this “season,” though all signs suggest she won’t be in Beauts blue this time around. She has yet to get a shot at the national team level and wasn’t named to the 2019 festival roster, but given her talent and age you can bet that whatever happens next in professional women’s hockey outside the NWHL, she’s likely to be a partner of it.

Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low?

Elia is probably underrated, but it’s difficult to tell just based on the sheer amount of scoring talent in the under-25 crop. She has a reputation for taking a lot of penalties, and although she drew as many penalties as she took last season, that does still drop her down the list. Based on her underlying statistics, including but not limited to her shooting percentage, there’s a decent argument for her being ranked somewhere between 23 and 25.

It doesn’t necessarily help her case that she centered a line with the NWHL’s leading scorer last season, Hayley Scamurra, who burst onto the scene after graduating Northeastern and has been wreaking havoc ever since. It would be interesting for equivalency’s sake to be able to see Elia with different line mates, in order to better judge whether her incredible sophomore season was a product of her raw talent or was boosted by Scamurra’s equally impressive 2018-19 campaign.

Sarah Potomak

Mike Murphy

Brad Rempel

Past Accomplishments

When The Ice Garden began its Top 25 Under 25 series in 2017, Potomak cracked our list at 24th. She jumped up to 17th in last year’s rankings after being cut from Team Canada’s Pyeongchang roster in November. So, it’s quite noteworthy to see her slip down to being an honorable mention just 12 months later.

In many ways, Potomak slipping outside of our Top 25 speaks more to the depth of talent in women’s hockey than it does about Potomak herself. With that being said, her production fell off of a cliff in her redshirt junior season. And that’s likely why she fell so far on our list.

It’s important to note that Potomak missed some time due to injury last season, which directly resulted in her not being able to represent Canada in the 2018 Four Nations Cup. Her lower body injury also played a role in her production dropping from the 53 points — 42 of which were primary -- she put up as a sophomore with the Golden Gophers to the 33 points — 23 of which were primary -- she had in 33 games last season.

Potomak averaged over 3.58 shots on goal per-game (SOG/GP) last season, which was on par with the 3.55 SOG/GP she averaged through her first two collegiate seasons. However, her shooting percentage dipped down to 9.3 — the lowest of her career to date. In other words, it was a rocky year for Potomak.

Future Impact

There’s no doubt whatsoever that Potomak is one of the best young forwards on the planet. She just needs to stay healthy, click with her linemates at the University of Minnesota, and get back to putting up points in bunches as a redshirt senior. If she can do that, she has a real chance of playing her way back on to Team Canada. However, the odds are stacked against her because of all of the competition that she’s up against.

Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low?

This is a tough one. Potomak’s boxcar stats and the injury that knocked her out of Four Nations really hurt her chances of making the cut for our T25-U25. Even if we focus only on young Canadians, Potomak was definitely overshadowed by the performances of others this year. Hopefully, she will rebound and stay healthy in 2019-20.

Hanna Olsson

Mike Murphy

Mats Bekkevold

Past Accomplishments

Olsson drew a lot of attention when she chose to break her contract with Djurgården last season. After all, she has been a member of Sweden’s senior national team since she was 16 and was 10th in the SDHL in scoring in 2017-18.

Even though Olsson played just 26 games of the 36-game SDHL season, she finished tied for 7th in the league in even strength goals (13) and was 10th in the league in shots on goal per-game (4.53). She finished her 2017-18 season playing for Skärgårdens SK, a D3 men’s club because she wanted to continue to develop her game.

Olsson was one of the few bright spots for Damkronorna at the 2019 Worlds. She notched five points in five games and ranked 15th among all skaters in the tournament in primary points per-60 minutes (P1/60). Even more impressive is the fact that three of her four primary points were picked up at even strength. Emma Nordin was the only player on Damkronorna to outscore her at even strength, and she averaged over three more minutes of ice time per game.

Future Impact

Olsson is likely the most important skater under the age of 25 for the Swedish national team. There’s a lot of weight on her shoulders and the rest of Sweden’s young stars due to the team’s mediocrity in major tournaments as of late. The good news for Sweden is that she is an incredibly driven and dedicated athlete with seemingly unlimited potential. The 2019-20 season will be a huge year for Olsson.

On July 30, Olsson opted to return to the SDHL by signing with HV71. We should expect her to play a big role in helping to replace the irreplaceable Riikka Sallinen in HV71’s lineup. She and fellow newcomer Kennedy Marchment have the ability to completely transform the team’s attack both at even strength and on the power play.

Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low?

Clearly, there is a strong case to be made that Olsson deserved to be ranked much higher. She’s proven both in the SDHL and on the international stage that she’s become an elite player at the age of 20. Her resume should have earned her a spot inside of the Top-20, if not the Top-15.