Through the first two games of the 2022 U18 Women’s World Championship, Team USA forward Laila Edwards has looked absolutely dominant.
Edwards, who will be attending the University of Wisconsin, already has two power-play goals, a goal at evens, and two assists to her name. In other words, she has points on just shy of half of Team USA’s total offense (11 goals), which has been instrumental to the team’s hot start heading into tonight’s much-anticipated showdown with Team Canada.
In hockey, there are players who enchant you when they have the puck on their stick. They look so confident, so skilled, and so capable when they glide around and through defenders. These are the players who defenders scramble to contain — the players who make everyone around them better because they create space with their gifts. As you might expect, they are uncommon. They are even more uncommon at the U18 level. Yet, it’s already evident that Edwards is such a player.
A native of Ohio, Edwards stands out as a result of her 6’2 frame and her poise on the puck. She’s equal parts grace and power, capable of shielding the puck with her reach and legs to attack the net and making the kind of skillful passes that mesmerize onlookers. Through two games, she has registered 8 shots on goal, but she’s an unselfish player who is playing for quality scoring chances.
Laila Edwards. So skilled that her 6'2 frame is an afterthought when you watch her handle the puck.— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) June 7, 2022
"She really is the all-around player. She can do everything out there... a dominant player ... I feel like we're witnessing history while we watch Laila Edwards." -@SamiJoSmall pic.twitter.com/OmXUFk6V4J
Per Mikael Nahabedian’s transition stat tracking of the tournament, the underlying numbers for Edwards further indicate just how exceptional she is. Thus far, 70% of entry attempts have been controlled and just two have failed. On the other end of the ice, she’s denied three entries by the opposition.
Through 2 games, Team USA has been the most impressive team in Group A.— Mikael Nahabedian (@hunterofstats) June 8, 2022
With over 66% control on exits and 64% on entries, they find ways to improve the condition of the puck in every sequence. Also, Sydney Morrow - remember this name - she'll be very good for a very long time. pic.twitter.com/kjjizUCwJf
Alyssa Longmuir has been tracking Game Score in the tournament and has Edwards with a 3.06 GS against Sweden and a 2.30 GS against a Finnish team that defeated Canada in the group stage. Both performances were good for second-best on Team USA in those games.
So, what do these numbers tell us? This isn’t just a case of her being bigger and likely stronger than the vast majority of the field, it’s about the decisions she’s making with and without the puck and her ability to read the game. We’re looking at a future superstar center.
Are we looking at a two-game sample size? Yes. Is it still very early in this tournament? Of course it is. But the U18 Worlds is known for being fast and furious. It’s not easy to stand out and it’s not easy to make the kind of impact that Edwards has made so far. On some shifts, it looks like she’s playing against girls who just aren’t ready to play someone at her level. To do that on this stage in her first U18 tournament is absolutely remarkable. It’s also music to the ears of both Wisconsin and USA Hockey.
The future is here and her name is Laila Edwards.
Data courtesy IIHF.com, Mikael Nahabedian, and Alyssa Longmuir.