Next up in The Ice Garden’s Top 25 Under 25 Rankings: three players from very different parts of the world, who played in three different leagues in 2019-20.
No. 18 | Anna Shokhina
Shokhina has the skill to be the best Russian player of her generation, but has a habit of sometimes being her own worst enemy. It is because of this that she has become one of the most intriguing players in women’s hockey.
Shokhina had to sit out the first two games of the 2019 Worlds due to a two-game suspension she earned at the end of the Pyeongchang Games for kicking an opponent. In the five games she did play in Espoo, she notched three points — all primary — which was good enough to share the team lead in scoring with Yelena Dergachyova. Her 2.1 Pts/60 in Espoo was the best on Russia and ranked 44th among all skaters.
All in all, it was a solid tournament for Shokhina, but a frustrating one for Team Russia. As it turns out, a similar story also played out for Shokhina and HK Tornado, her club in the ZhHL in 2018-19.
Shokhina led the ZhHL in scoring for the third-straight season after putting up a remarkable 76 points in 33 games. Shokhina’s 25 goals at even strength tied her with Valeria Pavlova for the league lead in that category, which is evidence of just how potent of a threat she can be. Furthermore, she averaged 6.55 SOG/GP and led the league in assists (40). However, she also hurt her team by spending far too much time in the box. Shokhina finished the season with 65 PIM; the second-highest total in the ZhHL.
As talented as Shokhina is, she couldn’t stop Tornado from missing the 2019 Playoffs by five points. That fact, along with the amount of time she spent in the box this year, are two blemishes on the resume of a player who is widely considered the best Russian player in the world.
Where does Shokhina go from here? That seems to be a question that we find ourselves asking every year.
The real test for the versatile winger will be whether or not she can elevate her game against elite talent like Team USA, Team Canada, and Team Finland. Shokhina’s proven that she can light the lamp against lesser competition over the years, but she’s also looked emotional and susceptible to agitation when playing against the best teams in the world. It’s important to note that she isn’t the reason Russia has struggled against the North American superpowers, but she needs to step up in those big games because she is a marquee player.
The fact that she stayed out of the box at the 2019 Worlds was a big step in the right direction after the suspension she earned in Pyeongchang. It’s one that she needs to follow up with more disciplined play in the ZhHL. The bottom line is that both Tornado and Russia need her to become a more responsible, balanced player next season.
Fortunately for all parties, she’s still just 22 and definitely has room to improve her overall game.
Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low?
In my opinion, Shokhina definitely belongs in the T25 U25, but there’s a case to be made that she shouldn’t be inside of the Top-20 because of her mental miscues and somewhat one-dimensional play. With that being said, she’s one of the most skilled players on the planet, so its not surprising that she she received as many votes as she did. When Shokhina is on her game, she has the talent to be a one-woman highlight reel.
No. 19 | Chloé Aurard
Aurard is another player making her debut in TIG’s Top 25 Under 25. She took Hockey East by storm in her first season with the Northeastern Huskies.
As a prep player, Aurard didn’t get a ton of exposure at Vermont Academy, but she helped the team capture the NEPSAC Division II title in her final season and was named the league’s MVP. She also had plenty of experience with Team France before even reaching the college level. She played in three Under-18 World Championships and has been on the senior national team since 2015. At the 2018 Division IA World Championship, she helped France earn their first-ever promotion to the top level for 2019.
At Northeastern this year, Aurard stepped in immediately as a first-line player and finished eighth in the nation in rookie scoring with 12 goals, 19 assists, and 31 points in 35 games. For her efforts, she was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.
For those who don’t pay much attention to Division II prep play or the lower divisions of IIHF tournaments, it probably feels a lot like Aurard came out of nowhere. But there’s a lot of natural talent and skill to her game that signals even more untapped potential. To go from NEPSAC Division II competition to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team is no small feat, but Aurard accomplished it, thanks in large part to her speed and hockey IQ.
She plays with pace, and can think the game at a really high level. One of the strongest aspects of her game is her ability to make good reads and move the puck quickly to make plays–and very often, those plays result in quality scoring chances for her team. She’s already adjusted in excellent fashion to the college game, and as she continues to gain experience, she’s got all the tools to develop into a dangerous forward who drives play every shift.
Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low?
Based on her pure skill set, and how quickly she was able to be a difference maker once making the jump to college, a top-20 ranking is definitely deserved for Aurard. But with how much potential she has, there’s a good argument to be made for ranking her even higher, and readers should expect to see her climb this list in the coming seasons.
No. 20 | Hayley Scamurra
It’s safe to say that Scamurra’s stock has risen considerably from where it was last year when she did not make our Top 25 Under 25. The talented young winger was the NWHL’s scoring champion in her second full season with the Buffalo Beauts. More importantly, her continued success as a pro earned her a spot on Team USA’s roster for the inaugural Rivalry Series against Canada and the 2019 Women’s World Championship.
Yeah. She definitely had a big year.
Scamurra’s 2018-19 season in the NWHL was truly something special. The chemistry that she shares with Maddie Elia made the Buffalo Beauts a team that was capable of imposing its will on the opposition. Although they fell to the Minnesota Whitecaps in the Isobel Cup Final, Elia earned recognition as the NWHL’s MVP and Scamurra was named the NWHLPA’s Top Player of the Year.
Scamurra was the NWHL’s top scorer last year with the 20 points she notched in the 16-game regular season. Even more impressively, 17 of her 20 points were picked up at even strength and 15 of those points were primary. Another number that jumps out from her 2018-19 NWHL season is her 1.53 average Game Score; that was good for fourth in the league, behind only Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Maddie Elia, and Haley Skarupa.
Scamurra’s ability to consistently produce at even strength in the NWHL has made her one of the most compelling young wingers in hockey. Looking back, it was hard to predict what kind of impact she would have in the NWHL after she followed an outstanding 43-point junior season at Northeastern University with a somewhat disappointing 31-point senior campaign. With that being said, not many would have predicted that she would play her way onto Team USA, where she won gold at the 2019 Worlds in Espoo.
The Northeastern alumna scored a goal and picked up a secondary assist — both at even strength — in seven games at the 2019 Worlds. She averaged 15:14 TOI/GP and 1.5 points per 60 minutes, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that she belonged and could contribute to the best team in the world.
As a member of the PWHPA Scamurra will not be playing pro hockey in North America this season. However, she was invited to Team USA’s Women’s Hockey National Festival. So, we should expect to see her hold onto her spot on the national team for the time being.
There’s always a chance that she could be bumped from the roster or lose her footing due to an injury, but Scamurra’s 2018-19 season was a very convincing performance. Right now, it’s hard to imagine her losing her spot after the way she played in Espoo.
Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low?
Scamurra undoubtedly belongs on our list and the 20 spot feels like the right neighborhood for her. Unlike many of her peers on our T25 U25, her international career is more or less just getting underway. Of course, exceptional play in major international tournaments carries more weight than excellence as a pro in women’s hockey. If that wasn’t the case, Scamurra would likely have finished higher on our list.