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2022 Worlds: Key performances from U23 players, part 1

IHOCKEY-WORLD-WOMEN-US-CZE Photo by HENNING BAGGER/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

Traditionally college-aged players were among the brightest stars at the 2022 IIHF World Championship in Denmark. Some might say that, collectively, they stole the show even with Hilary Knight and Jenni Hiirikoski reaching career milestones that further cemented their eventual homes in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Today, we’re highlighting big performances from some of those U23 players in Denmark. Some of these performances were all over the headlines while others may have been overlooked. Let’s dive in with Part One.

Taylor Heise, 22 | Team USA

Let’s just get this one out of the way. Heise was named the tournament’s MVP and its Top Forward. It was a breakout performance for a player who looks like she will be Team USA’s next superstar forward, following in the wake of Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, and Alex Carpenter.

According to Alyssa Longmuir’s IIHFFY site, Heise’s 17.88 Game Score and 10.43 GS60 led all skaters. So too did her 18 points (7 goals and 11 assists). She was a scoring chance machine — generating offense with elite playmaking and proving herself to be a dynamic puck carrier. Heise was exceptionally dangerous on the rush, where she picked apart defenses with her passing and stickhandling. But she also stood out on set plays in the offensive zone, many of which she got rolling with a 71.29 FO% — the second-best in the tournament.

It was one highlight reel play after another for the Golden Gopher in her first major international tournament with the senior team.

Hannah Bilka, 21 | Team USA

Bilka skated on Team USA’s top line with Hilary Knight and Hannah Brandt and had herself a tournament. She was thrust into a major role and delivered in a big way playing alongside some of the very best players in the world.

She finished third on the team and in the tournament in scoring behind Heise and Amanda Kessel. Bilka’s 7.1 GS60 and rate of production with an average ice time of 13:57 TOI/GP suggests that this is unlikely to be a flash in the pan. While it’s true that she shot at 27.78 percent — an unsustainably high number — three of her 7 assists were primary. Sometimes, in these tournaments, we see numbers that highlight just how small of a sample size we’re working with. But when we put this performance into context with Bilka being nearly a point-per-game player (0.99 Pts/GP) at BC it’s clear that she has a bright future.

Caroline Harvey, 19 | Team USA

Lost in Team USA’s unsatisfying silver medal finish was a statement performance by a teenager on its blue line.

K.K. Harvey had 0 points in 7 GP at the Beijing games. That’s because she averaged just 3:18 TOI/GP. In Denmark, Harvey was given much more opportunity, to the tune of 17:48 TOI/GP and she rewarded Team USA’s new head coach, John Wroblewski, by making a big impact. Harvey had a 4.26 GS/60 and piled up 3 goals, 5 assists, and 26 SOG in 7 GP. Harvey’s Game Score would have been higher if more than one of her assists were primary, but there was a lot to like about what we saw that doesn’t show up in the numbers.

Harvey is already making outstanding decisions with the puck playing against the best in the world. She fit into Team USA’s high-powered offense beautifully and was second among the squad’s blueliners in scoring, behind only star Megan Keller.

Sarah Fillier, 22 | Team Canada

Third in the tournament in scoring, first on Canada in scoring, and a gold medal to boot. Not a bad showing for “the Next One”, who finished Denmark with 5 goals and 6 assists in 7 GP.

Fillier had the highest GS/60 (6.41) of any skater not on Team USA. Why? Because she was an absolute engine on offense. Team Canada’s historic offense may have powered down from what we saw in Beijing but Fillier stayed in top gear. Eight of her 11 points were primary and 4 of her 5 goals were scored at evens. Fillier also finished third on the team with 26 shots. Remember, she did this on a brand new line and without Natalie Spooner on her wing.

Sometimes, the hockey community can get “too excited” about a young player. When it comes to Fillier, I don’t think we can get excited enough.

Miyuu Masuhara, 20 | Team Japan

Without Nana Fujimoto, Team Japan turned to Miyuu Masuhara and she was simply fantastic. She finished the tournament with a .915 Sv% against a 38.25 SA60. Masuhara stood out most when her team was down a skater — she allowed just one PPGA. Most importantly, she rose to the occasion in Japan’s game against Finland. She stopped 61 shots and dazzled in the shootout to send Finland to Group B.

No one wants Fujimoto’s career to be over, but it’s comforting and exciting to see that Japan has its goalie of the future. Masuhara is a name that everyone should remember. Needless to say, the Finns won’t soon be forgetting it.

All data courtesy of IIHFFY, IIHF.com, and EliteProspects.com