Our T25 U25 series continues with...
18 | Anni Keisala | Goalie | Team Finland | HV71
After being brilliant at the 2021 Worlds, all eyes were on Keisala in Beijing — especially with Noora Räty out of the picture for Team Finland. Despite Finland’s rocky start, its top goaltender had a strong showing. Her numbers weren’t quite as impressive but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t put on a show. Keisala won three games — two of which were shutouts— for the Finns and finished with a .915 Sv%.
Heartbreaking loss for CZE who completely outplayed FIN tonight.— Mikael Nahabedian (@hunterofstats) August 29, 2021
Both goalies were stellar, but Anni Keisala simply stole the game. Incredible 3rd period as well for Ronja Savolainen, who is such an underrated defender. pic.twitter.com/Azsb8IdSee
As a pro in the Naisten Liiga, Keisala was consistently great but didn’t have her best season. On a fourth-place Ivles team, the 5-foot-9 goaltender from Lohja finished with a .935 Sv% and 9 wins. According to EliteProspects, Keisala led the league in saves (676) and ice time (1314) which clearly defined her role as a workhorse starter. However, her performance was overshadowed by Räty and the goalies of the powerhouse clubs of Naisten Liiga — Kiekko-Espoo, HIFK, and Kärpät.
All in all, it was a strong year for Keisala but not as brilliant as her 2020-21 campaign.
- Naisten Liiga Best Goaltender (Tuula Puputti Award) 2016, 2021
- World Championship Best Goaltender 2021
- World Championship All-Star 2021
- Olympic bronze 2022
- World Championship bronze 2017, 2021/
What Comes Next
In 2022-23, Keisala will bring her talents to the SDHL to play with HV71. She will be filling the skates of Alba Gonzalo and Sam Ridgewell. HV71 has a history of having strong goaltending, so there is a tradition for Keisala to uphold while she tests herself against a league that is a cut above where she has spent over a decade honing her skills.
This is a big challenge for Keisala, but it is a great situation for her if she wants to remain Finland’s goalie of the future. The Finns have no shortage of promising young goaltenders including Jenna Silvonen, not to mention several other goalies in their prime like Eveliina Mäkinen who could also challenge Keisala for her throne. In the SDHL, she’ll face more dangerous shooters and the majority of the top players in Europe. More than a few great goalies have been forged in the fires of pro hockey in Sweden.
Too High or Too Low?
Given all that she’s accomplished, 18 feels a bit too low for Keisala. It’s likely she lost points with voters because up until now she has been playing in the Naisten Liiga and she looked a lot more unbeatable in 2020-21. Then again, a .915 Sv% at the Olympics and a .935 Sv% in the second-best European league not being good enough tells us a lot about what a goalie has to do to end up on this list.
When this article is published, Keisala will be 25. Which means she is in the prime of her career. The good news for the Finns is that she’s already one of the best goalies on the planet — hey, EA Sports has her at a 92 overall and they’re never wrong about anything, right? On second thought, forget that last point. The big question now is how much better can she get now that she’s in the SDHL.
17 | Grace Zumwinkle | Forward | Team USA
With a breakout role in her first Olympic Games, Zumwinkle had won goal and earned a silver medal. She also had a very successful World Championship in 2021, netting 6 points in 7 games and earning a silver medal. Rounding off her senior season at the University of Minnesota, she tallied 24 points in 20 games, earned captaincy, and took the Gophers to the top of the standings in WCHA play.
She ended up not getting a ton of playing time in the 2022 Olympic Games, something well criticized by viewers and fans, but when she was on the ice, Zumwinkle certainly had an impact. She had a positive 3 in +/- during the Games, and has actually never posted a negative in that category through her entire collegiate or international career.
- 2017 Minnesota Ms. Hockey Award Winner
- Top three finalist for 2021 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award
- University of Minnesota Gophers 2020-2021 captain
- World Championship silver 2021
- Olympic silver 2022
- World Junior Championship gold 2016, 2017/
What Comes Next
Everything. At 23, Zumwinkle is already a prominent name in the hockey world, but she has a long way to go. She has just begun to touch her potential with the senior USA team. Like many Team USA players whose first experience with Olympic play is watching Team Canada take home gold, a hunger must have been born with her to fight for gold. And she will.
I would expect to see a lot more of her in international play for Team USA as well as potentially joining the ranks of the PWHPA or even trying her hand at professional hockey overseas as a handful of Team USA players do. I do know this is not the last you will see of Grace Zumwinkle on this list or as an integral part of the next wave of women’s hockey in America.
In the meantime, she’ll be back with the Gophers after redshirting last season.
Too High or Too Low
Considering how new she is to international play at the senior level, I think she is just right...for now. There is something special about Grace Zumwinkle, and that has been apparent since she was a child. Every time she plays, every team she is on, is instantly better (and more fun) just because she is there. She fills up a lot of space on the ice and is important with key opportunities. I think this is the right ranking for her now, but I only expect her to go up.