2020 Top 25 Under 25 | No. 1: Alina Müller
The two-time Olympian and Patty Kaz Top-3 Finalist tops off our 2020 rankings
After steadily climbing the T25U25 rankings in each of the past four years, the Swiss phenom slots in at No. 1 overall on our list for the very first time.
Müller’s achievements before even playing at the college level would be enough to distinguish most players for their entire career. Back in 2014, when she made her Olympic debut for Switzerland, she became the youngest player in history to win an Olympic medal. Four years later, at the 2018 Games, she was named the tournament’s Best Forward after leading the field in scoring.
After a standout freshman season with Northeastern in 2018-19, Müller followed it up with an even better sophomore campaign. She led Hockey East in scoring with 27 goals, 39 assists, and 66 points. She was named a Top-3 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Finalist after finishing as a Top-10 Finalist as a freshman, and landed a spot on the All-American First Team, her second All-America nod in two years.
The New England Hockey Writers Association named her their MVP for 2019-20, and Müller was also named to the All-USCHO First Team. She was dubbed the winner of the Cammi Granato Award, Hockey East’s Player of the Year, and earned Hockey East Tournament MVP honors after helping the Huskies to their third-straight titles.
We have to bring this back because we've truly run out of things to say about Alina.#HowlinHuskies | #MoneyMueller pic.twitter.com/54w28cOwSz— Northeastern Women’s Hockey (@GoNUwhockey) May 23, 2020
Müller is already in the running for “best player in the world”, and I think it’s safe to say that by the time she finally graduates from this list, she will be. Her ceiling is sky high, and she’s already done plenty to prove that potential, both with the Huskies and on the international stage. Last year I wrote that if you were going to design a hockey player in a lab, Alina Müller is what you’d come up with, and I still wholeheartedly believe that.
She plays an almost flawless game in all three zones, able to defend well and turn possession for the Huskies regularly. Offensive skills notwithstanding, she plays a high-energy game and makes for a really solid two-way center option. Of course, what elevates her from just “solid two-way center” to “generational talent” is the fact that, once she’s got possession, she has a brilliant hockey IQ and an almost unlimited amount of tools in her arsenal to use to create high-danger scoring chances.
Müller is a wicked good scorer in her own right; her shot is one of the hardest in the game, and she’s absolutely lethal from almost any spot.
Mueller in the HIGH SLOT makes it a 3-1 lead to end the first period!! @GoNUwhockey pic.twitter.com/se1VZ4JTtB— Hockey East (@hockey_east) March 8, 2020
🚨We've said it before, and we'll say it again WE LOVE A SHORTY🚨— Northeastern Women’s Hockey (@GoNUwhockey) February 22, 2020
Alina Mueller gets the #HowlinHuskies on the board first with her third short-handed goal of the year! pic.twitter.com/YaWqOeQqIE
🚨💰💰💰🚨— Northeastern Women’s Hockey (@GoNUwhockey) February 15, 2020
Alina Mueller slots home a beauty and we're all tied up at 1-1! #HowlinHuskies pic.twitter.com/IqbNVeHQEC
On top of that, she can also set up great plays for her teammates; her vision and passing skills help aid that, but so does her ability to create breakdowns on her own. She’s a strong skater who can maintain control of the puck with both her hands and her quickness on her feet; she’s very good at reading the defense and using her stickhandling to out-maneuver them until she can pull the trigger on an open play. And she does all this without looking flashy at all—it’s second nature to her abilities and the way she thinks the game.
Take a look at this set-up play on a shorthanded rush for a goal back in January:
🚨ANOTHER SHORTY🚨— Northeastern Women’s Hockey (@GoNUwhockey) January 29, 2020
The #HowlinHuskies are THRIVING on the PK. Skylar Fontaine scores the second short-handed goal of the night for Northeastern to give the Huskies a 2-1 lead! pic.twitter.com/8HObTt6Wp4
She makes her entire team better every time she’s on the ice, and she makes it look like she could do it all in her sleep. Northeastern has a ton of talented players, but it’s no coincidence to me that the Huskies have looked like a very convincing national championship contender in the two years since she came to campus.
Last season, when Müller scored a goal, the team was unbeaten with a 23-0-0 record. In 2019-20, nobody in the country had more points on game-winning goals than Müller’s 19. It sounds cliche to say, but she is the type of player who helps her team win, by consistently breaking through when the game is on the line. She is near-unstoppable in the big moments. It hardly matters that, in such moments, the attention and efforts of opposing defenders are focused squarely on her—she comes through anyway.
Is This Ranking Too High or Too Low?
Müller coming in at No. 1 on this list is long overdue. She’s an outstanding player who is almost always the best player on the ice, regardless of the competition, and her natural skillset has been apparent since she was a teenager. Since then she’s continued to prove that she can use that skillset to completely change the dynamic of a game. It’s hard to categorize one player as flawless, but Müller is the closest you could probably come to that. No. 1 on the list is just perfect for her.