Ranked just outside the top ten at #11 the past two years (2018, 2019), Boston College standout Cayla Barnes is ranked at a well-deserved #7 after a fantastic sophomore season in the NCAA. Barnes has proved, time and time again, that she’s got what it takes to keep up with the big guns since being named to the 2018 Olympic roster at the age of 19.
But what’s different this year? Let’s take a look.
The real question is what hasn’t Cayla Barnes accomplished since she burst into the public eye in 2014?
Her first international tournament saw a fairly quiet performance by a sixteen year old Barnes — she didn’t tally any points over the course of the tournament, but nonetheless went home with some hardware as the team won its fourth ever gold medal.
The 2016 tournament is where Barnes really started to show hints of the absolute menace we know her as today. With six helpers, including a tally on Natalie Snodgrass’ overtime game winner in the gold medal game against Canada, Barnes clinched the title of most assists, and had the honor of being named not just a Top 3 U.S. Player, but a Media All-Star and the tournament’s Best Defender.
She won a gold medal that year too.
In 2017, it was much of the same as she started to earn her reputation as being one of the most formidable up and coming defenders in the world. For the second year in a row, Barnes was named a Top 3 U.S. Player and the tournament’s Best Defender, as well as clinching the title for most goals, assists, and points by a defender. She finished off her U18 career with a third consecutive gold medal.
We all know what happened in 2018 — how could any North American forget — but aside from the obvious addition to her trophy case, it was a monumental year for Barnes in that it marked her first ever selection to the American senior team. This feat is especially impressive when you consider just how difficult it is to make an Olympic roster; remember, this is the same roster from which Wisconsin’s Annie Pankowski and Ohio State’s Jincy Dunne were cut. Barnes’ selection, as a nineteen year old, is all the more impressive.
Flash forward one more year to 2019, when Barnes makes her debut at the senior Women’s World Championship. At the age of twenty and in competition with players like Finland’s Jenni Hiirikoski and her own teammate in Megan Keller, Barnes took home the goal scoring title among defenders and was named a Top 3 U.S. Player and to the Media All-Star Team.
Interspersed amongst her international appearances are absolutely stellar seasons with the Boston College Eagles, including selections to the all-Hockey East second (2019-20), third (2018-19), and all-rookie (2018-19) teams. She tallied a career high in goals during her second full season with BC off of six goals and 17 assists, and ranked first among all Hockey East skaters and third in the NCAA with 103 blocked shots.
There’s no telling where Barnes’ ceiling lies, so it’s almost difficult to gauge the extent of her future with the Eagles and beyond.
Even with the sharp decline in production that BC faced after the halfway point of their 2019-20 season and the team’s failure to qualify for the since cancelled 2020 NCAA tournament, Barnes has been remarkably consistent with her production and her defense. With two seasons of eligibility left to chase that coveted national championship title with the Eagles, it wouldn’t surprise us if Barnes played a pivotal role in her team’s postseason efforts.
In terms of international play, I’d be very surprised if Barnes didn’t become a staple of the American senior team moving forward. She was named to the December roster for the 2019-20 Rivalry Series, and made an appearance at the joint training camp with Canada as well despite USA Hockey limiting the number of collegiate players on their roster.
Is this ranking too high or too low?
This ranking is honestly probably too low for Barnes. Comparing defenders to forwards is like comparing apples and oranges, so it’s hard for any blue liner to get the recognition she deserves in a ranking like ours. Nevertheless, a player of Barnes’ caliber definitely deserves to be ranked within the top five, but I don’t doubt that the next few years will see her get the ranking she deserves.
After all — four spots in one year? Wilder things have happened.