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Rivalry Series: 3 players to watch for the US

There are plenty of young studs who might be on Team USA’s radar, but here are a select few to keep your eyes on.

USA v Canada - 2016 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

TIG is taking part in SBNation’s Rivalry Week festivities, and as part of this series, we’re looking at up-and-coming players to watch for Team USA.

Fellow TIG writer Gabs Fundaro covered the Canadian side of the Rivalry Series earlier. We constrained ourselves to players who are under 22 and have not yet made a senior team game roster.

Natalie Snodgrass
Forward, University of Connecticut, rising senior

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a gifted forward out of Minnesota could be next in line to make a serious impact on the US Women’s National Team.

Snodgrass came from Minnesota to Connecticut, where she has led the team in points all three years she’s been at the school. Her highest point total was 38 her freshman year, and her lowest was 29 her sophomore year. She wore the ‘A’ as a junior and will be captain of the Huskies next year. On paper alone it’s clear to see how she leads the pack, but that’s only part of the story.

Snodgrass is fast, and that’s part of what makes her dangerous. Her ability to come off of the boards with speed, create space between herself and opposing defenders, and pick her spot has been a substantial part of UConn’s successes. She was a part of the U.S. U18s in 2015 and 2016, but has yet to make a full senior team game roster.

Snodgrass is the real deal. Her skill set is varied and complete, which means that she could be plugged into almost any spot on a stacked United States roster and make an impact. She sees the game well enough that she could fill in whatever gaps the roster ended up having, and the more space she’s given to grow the more she’s likely to surprise everyone. You don’t have to take it from me: her hometown idol Natalie Darwitz has noticed Snodgrass and her hockey IQ, too. In an interview with the Hartford Courant, she described Snodgrass as playing “full-head of speed with no fear.”

Grace Zumwinkle
Forward, University of Minnesota, rising senior

Zumwinkle is one of countless incredibly gifted players at Minnesota, and despite her U18 tenure and impressive stats from high school, she could easily have gotten lost in the shuffle at one of the best programs in the country. Could have—but didn’t. As a freshman in the 2017-2018 season, she was already first on the team in scoring. Granted, that was with United States Olympian Kelly Pannek and the Canadian Potomak sisters out due to centralization and the Olympics, but it wasn’t a fluke- she was second in scoring the following two years. She has broken thirty points in all three of her NCAA seasons and has broken forty points in two of those three.

She was a big part of the 2015 and 2016 U18 squad, but it was only this spring that her name found its way onto a senior team roster. She was slated to go to Worlds with the team until it was canceled, and there’s no reason why she wouldn’t continue to figure into their plans for the future. She should, too. Her ability to put the puck in the back of the net is more than just a good shot. The puck sticks to her, and she has incredible poise for someone so young. She’s so comfortable carrying the puck that she makes some of the best teams in the NCAA look slow and awkward at times. Zumwinkle could and should certainly factor into Team USA’s quest to get faster and younger.

Abbey Levy, 20
Goaltender, Boston College, rising junior

From Vetter to Cavallini to Rooney and more, Team USA traditionally has not hurt for good goaltending. The team is clearly interested in seeing what Aerin Frankel can do in international play, as they should be given her impressive NCAA career so far. That being said, Frankel isn’t the only young American goaltender worth keeping an eye on. Abbey Levy, her former teammate at Shattuck St. Mary’s, is just as exciting.

Unlike Frankel, Levy went west for college and spent two years with Minnesota State. While Frankel played behind names like Skylar Fontaine, Chloé Aurard and Alina Müller, Levy faced teams like Wisconsin and Minnesota with a team that hasn’t had a positive goal differential since the 2006-2007 season. In spite of that, she set records with the Mavericks. Her .917 SV% and 2.58 GAA last season was the best in program history. The 8 shutouts she managed in her two years with the Mavericks is good for second in program history, too.

David Faulkner/SPX Sports

Next season Levy will be joining Boston College, who has sorely needed a stud goaltender after Katie Burt’s departure. At 6’1”, Levy’s size alone makes her an asset, but it’s clear from her time at Shattuck and what she was able to do with the Mavericks that she has real potential. She’s been on the fringes of the USA program, joining the USA Hockey Women’s Festival in 2019, but it would not be surprising if she’s able to put up seriously impressive numbers at BC, and if she does, you might expect to see her name in camp.