Fillier was simply exceptional this past season, standing out as one of the best forwards on one of the deepest and most talented Canadian teams we’ve ever seen. It wasn’t exactly a surprise to see her turning in those kinds of performances—she’s shown herself to be an elite player who’s head and shoulders above her peers for years now. But I think the consistency she brought this season while playing against the toughest competition as a 21-year-old is the biggest reason why she’s ranked No. 1 on our list.
She started scoring from the outset of centralization and seemingly never stopped. At the 2021 Women’s World Championship in August, she tallied three goals and three assists while playing on a line with Natalie Spooner and Mélodie Daoust. Thanks in large part to Fillier’s speed and goal-scoring knack, that line would prove to be one of Canada’s most dominant units throughout the entire season. Throughout the Rivalry Series against Team USA, Fillier led both teams in goals (5) and finished second in points.
Her success only grew at the Olympics. She scored eight goals and 11 points through seven games, and finished second overall at the tournament in goals. With her lethal shot, quickness, and deceptiveness, Fillier is regularly able to generate goals for her team. But what I found truly impressive this year was her ability to create separation even when it was obvious that opposing defenses—at the Olympic level—would be shadowing her.
The sense and feel that she has for creating seams in the defense, whether it’s for herself or her teammates, is second to none, particularly among players within this age group. This is also what places her among the elite of the elite: far from being just a great goal-scorer, Fillier is also an excellent playmaker. Every area of her game is just sound. When you combine that razor sharp sense with her physical ability to execute, you can see why she’s such a force already for Team Canada—and why her ceiling is sky high.
- She won gold with Canada at the 2022 Olympics and the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship.
- She was named an AHCA/CCM Second Team All-American in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
- She was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2020 ECAC Tournament, helping Princeton to their first-ever ECAC championship.
- She was named a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Top-10 Finalist in 2018-19 and 2019-20.
- She earned National Rookie of the Year, ECAC Rookie of the Year, and Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors in 2018-19.
- She earned First Team All-ECAC honors in 2019-2020 and was a finalist for the league’s Player of the Year award.
- She was named the Ivy League’s Player of the Year as a rookie in 2018-19.
- She won silver with Team Canada at the 2017 IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championship and captained the team to bronze in 2018.
What comes next
Fillier has two years of eligibility left in the NCAA and looks set to return to Princeton to play them out. Her return will no doubt make for a joyful experience for ECAC defenders everywhere. She’s returning to college with an Olympic gold medal by way of Team Canada, and she’s a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award-caliber player if we’ve ever seen one, so of course it’ll be entirely predictable when she racks up a thousand points the next two years and doesn’t win.
Too high or too low
A fun story about how I finished my own T25U25 ballot: I legitimately couldn’t decide between Sarah Fillier and Alina Müller this year because I think both players should be No. 1 and it’s patently unfair to make me choose. So I forced my extended family to vote at Sunday dinner. That quickly went nowhere because, in case you’re also not a math genius, 10 is an even number. So we had to call one of my cousins for a tiebreaker. Also, nobody in my family knows anything about hockey. (Except my mom, who was Team Alina. Sorry Mom.)
Anyway, I do really believe that Sarah Fillier had the upper hand this year (which is why I voted her No. 1 — as if I’d leave anything this important solely in the hands of my family). Both are elite players, and the differences in their individual skillsets are likely marginal at best at this juncture. But Fillier’s outstanding performances for Canada at Worlds, in tight Rivalry Series games, and at the Olympics warrant the top spot.