Team Canada’s All-Decade Team
<em>A starting six representing the best of the best for the Canadian women’s national team in the 2010s</em>
Over the last few weeks hockey publications covering men’s hockey and the NHL have been rolling out series of all-decade teams. We figured it was only appropriate to do the same but wanted to add a little twist. Instead of looking at all-decade teams for CWHL, NWHL, SDHL, or other professional teams, we are putting the spotlight on the best players to compete on national teams over the past decade.
The window we’ll be focusing on begins with the 2010 Olympics and ends with the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship. Because the Olympics and Worlds have far more significance than the Four Nations Tournament or the Rivalry Series, we are focusing exclusively on accomplishments achieved in those events.
- World Championship All-Star Team: 2013, 2017
- Best Forward 2013 Women’s World Championship
- MVP 2013 Women’s World Championship
- Olympic All-Star Team in 2010/
If Hayley Wickenheiser was the face of Team Canada in the 2000s, Poulin was its face in the 2010s.
Poulin led Canada to three Olympic medals — two golds, one silver — and a slew of World Championship medals in the last decade. No member of the Canadian women’s national team scored more points in Olympic and Worlds competition combined than Canada’s captain. Poulin was only 18 when she scored five goals and picked up two assists in the 2010 Vancouver Games to earn every bit of her first Olympic gold medal. Four years later, she carved out a place for herself in hockey history to earn her second.
In the gold medal game of the Sochi Olympics, Poulin tied the score up at 3-3 with under a minute left in regulation. Later, on a power play in overtime, she buried one of the most iconic wrist shots in hockey history to continue Team Canada’s Olympic dynasty. It doesn’t get much more clutch than that.
A consistent, elite center, Poulin fell short of averaging 1.0 Pts/GP in just one major tournament in the last decade (2011). Her best performance, in terms of production, came in the 2013 Worlds where she scored six goals and picked up six assists in five games to earn recognition as the tournament’s MVP. Over half a decade later, it remains one of the most dominant performances in a World Championship in the history of the game.
Poulin was Canada’s captain when USA finally wrestled away its first Olympic gold in 20 years, but it would be ridiculous to hang that or Canada’s bronze medal finish at the 2019 Worlds on her. Poulin’s injury history never gets discussed enough when she’s compared to other elite players. There’s no doubt that injuries have hindered her game, which makes her production in major tournaments all the more exceptional.
She’s not just a lock for Team Canada’s All-Decade Team, she’s All-World All-Decade.
- Olympic All-Star Team: 2010, 2014
- MVP of 2010 Olympics
- Best Forward 2010 Olympics/
As brilliant as Poulin was on the Olympic stage in the 2010s, Agosta was even better. In the 15 games of Olympic competition she played starting with the Vancouver Games, Agosta scored 14 goals and registered 10 assists. No other skater in the world piled up more points in Olympic competition in the last decade. Poulin and Switzerland’s Stefanie Marty finished behind her in Olympic goals in the decade with 11 each.
That's Agosta's 16th career Olympic goal, giving her sole possession of 2nd place all-time. Hayley Wickenheiser is first with 17.— Kirsten Whelan (@kmtwhelan) February 13, 2018
As if her production on the game’s greatest stage wasn’t enough, Agosta also finished the decade with 24 points in 25 games of Worlds competition. She scored three or more goals in the Vancouver Games, the Sochi Games, the 2012 Worlds, and the 2013 Worlds. She moved to Vancouver in 2014 to pursue her career in law enforcement, which meant that, unlike so many of her fellow post-collegiate teammates, Agosta was unable to hone her skills in the CWHL or any other top women’s league. However, that didn’t stop her from burying two goals and picking up three assists in five appearances at the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018.
Simply put, the pride of Windsor, Ontario was one of the most dynamic forwards on the planet over the last 10 years. For whatever reason, Agosta just doesn’t get the credit that she not only deserves, but has earned with her play on the national team. She’s a generational talent and one of the greatest players in the history of the game.
- World Championship All-Star Team 2016/
A natural leader and one of the best skaters in the world, Johnston has been a consistent, productive forward for Canada since her second major tournament with the senior national team at the 2009 Worlds. When the Vancouver Olympics arrived, she proved herself to be a valuable depth scorer on Canada, picking up six points in five games to start the decade off with a bang.
Over the last ten major tournaments, Johnston has earned 55 points in 52 games of Olympic and World Championship hockey. With the exception of the 2019 Worlds, Johnston picked up at least five points in every major tournament of the last decade. You have to be a special player to score with that kind of consistency year after year, and that is exactly what Johnston is.
Johnston’s best performance in the last decade with the Canadian women’s national team likely came in the 2016 Worlds. In Kamloops, she was named a media All-Star for scoring two goals and leading Team Canada with five assists in five games. It’s also worth noting that she had seven points in five games at the 2012 WWC, which was Canada’s most-recent gold medal finish at the Worlds.
Rebecca Johnston roofs her second of the game 🏒⬆️🥅— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 11, 2018
Canada up 4-0 @RBC pic.twitter.com/FeVQlGTY9V
Johnston is perhaps best known for her skating, but over the last decade she has proven to be capable of creating offense in a variety of ways for Team Canada. Like Agosta, she’s an underrated and under-appreciated superstar, but the numbers don’t lie. Johnston was undeniably one of Canada’s best in the 2010s.
- World Championship All-Star Team 2012
- Olympic All-Star Team 2018/
The 5-foot-5 Fortino was, hands down, the most valuable fixture of Canada’s blue line in the last decade.
She made her national team debut (in a major tournament) at the 2012 Worlds in Burlington, Vermont. The Cornell alumna made a splash by scoring two goals and picking up two assists in four games, which earned her recognition as a media All-Star. Over the following seven years, Fortino distinguished herself as one of the best two-way defenders in the world.
The Ontario native has the ability to make big plays with the puck, but has always put sound defensive play first. That mentality earned Fortino the trust of Hockey Canada’s coaching staffs throughout the last decade. They don’t make defenders much smarter than Fortino, which is why coaches learned to lean on her and feed her tons of ice time, especially against Team USA. Her ability to play without emotion made her an essential ingredient for the team’s success in the biggest games played on the biggest stage.
#Hockeysurglace - Jennifer Wakefield (@jennwake9) marque son 2e du match sur des passes de Laura Fortino (@fortino_laura77) et de Blayre Turnbull (@katbt617).#CAN 3 - #OAR 0@RBCfr #Pyeongchang2018 #RColympiques pic.twitter.com/4lPIOfolka— Radio-Canada Sports (@RC_Sports) February 19, 2018
Fortino clocked 22:43 TOI/GP at the Sochi Olympics and 25:00 TOI/GP at the Pyeongchang Olympics, which not only led the Canadian national team, but also finished second in the tournament behind only Finland’s Jenni Hiirikoski. Clearly, she contributed a lot more than one assist in Canada’s last Olympic appearance. She finished the event tied for fourth in shots on goal among defenders (14) and stood out as one of the most consistent players in her own zone.
In the last decade, Fortino ranked second among Canadian defenders in games played (32) at the Worlds (behind Jocelyne Larocque, 36) and was tied for first in scoring (15) in Worlds competition with Meaghan Mikkelson — who also deserves to be on Canada’s All-Decade starting six. Fortino also finished the decade tied for second among Canadian blueliners in scoring in the Olympics in the last decade with five points in 10 games.
Needless to say, all of the above makes for an impressive resume. It could and should cement Fortino’s place as one of the best defensive players in the history of the national team. But keep in mind that she’s just 28. She’s just entering her prime, which means she could be a huge part of Team Canada’s identity in the new decade.
- World Championship All-Star Team 2013/
Ward played in two of the three Olympic tournaments three of the World tournaments in the last decade (2011, 2012, 2013), but she definitely stood out from the rest of the pack.
Ward, who honed her skills in USports (then CIS) at McGill University and at Boston University, was Canada’s most talented and productive offensive defender of the decade. She began the decade with a gold medal in Vancouver, scoring two goals and picking up two assists in five games. She picked up two assists in each of the next two World Championships (2011, 2012) before absolutely going off in the 2013 Worlds.
In Ottawa, Ward led all defenders in the tournament in scoring with one goal and six assists in five games. She also finished tied for third on Canada in scoring and tied for fifth among all skaters in scoring. It was a statement performance. and proved to be the highest-scoring Worlds tournament of the decade for a Canadian defender (tied with Erin Ambrose, 2019 Worlds).
The next year, at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Ward’s skating and ability to move the puck helped Canada capture gold. She averaged a staggering 24:14 TOI/GP in the tournament, which led the national team by a significant margin, and finished with an assist and a +5 plus/minus rating. It would be an understatement to say that she was Canada’s most valuable blueliner.
The Quebecker retired from the national team in September 2015 to pursue her career off the ice. Ward finished her career with three silver medals at the Worlds and two Olympic gold medals. One could say that Canada has been searching for its next great offensive defenders since she hung up the skates. Only recently has Erin Ambrose shown signs of being the next great puck-mover on Canada’s blue line in major tournaments.
- Olympic All-Star team 2010
- Olympics Best Goaltender: 2010, 2018/
What’s left to be said about Szabados that hasn’t already been said? She’s not only an icon of Team Canada, she is widely considered one of the best players at her position to ever play the game.
Looking back at the last decade, Szabados’ achievements not only overshadow Canada’s other netminders, they also tower over the rest of the world — with the exception of Switzerland’s Florence Schelling and Finland’s Noora Räty. But, to many, Szabados is in a league of her own because of her long reign as one of the best goalies on the planet. In the last decade, she earned a record of 17-7 in Olympic and Worlds competition.
It’s not hyperbole to claim that Szabados was near-perfection for Canada at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. She finished that tournament with a .980 Sv% in 180 minutes of action, stopping 50 of the 51 shots she faced to earn the first of her two nods as the Best Goaltender of an Olympic tournament. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any goalie with numbers as good as Szabados’ were in the last three Olympic tournaments. If you combine her numbers from Vancouver, Sochi, and Pyeongchang, Szabados posted a .959 Sv% in Olympic competition in the 2010s.
Shannon Szabados, again. Great save after a great Finland play. Still 3-0 Canada in the third period. #WomensWorlds pic.twitter.com/mUqjedU23w— Women's Hockey Gifs (@CWHLHighlights) April 6, 2017
Szabados is one of those goalies who doesn’t truly have a weakness. Her athleticism and lateral movement makes her appear twice as large as her 5-foot-9 frame in net. Countless forwards have found themselves looking to the heavens in disbelief after Canada’s greatest goalie exploded off the post, followed by her trademark curls, to erase what should have been a goal with her glove, blocker, or leg pads. She’s been Canada’s workhorse starter for the last decade and, at the age of 33, is showing no glaring signs of slowing down.
Although she closed out the decade with a lackluster performance at the 2019 Worlds, which resulted in the first bronze medal of any kind in her storied career, the Alberta native was still rock solid. Szabados finished the Espoo Worlds with a .915 Sv%, earned a shutout, and two of the four goals that she allowed were scored when the opposition was on the power play. So, a bad day at the office for her is still better than most goalies ever fare against elite competition.
In short, Szabados is a no-brainer for Canada’s all-decade team and would also be a lock for it’s all-time squad. If they haven’t already reserved a spot for her in the Hockey Hall of Fame when she decides to hang up her skates, they should start getting one ready.
Honorable Mentions: Natalie Spooner, Brianne Jenner, Meaghan Mikkelson, Caroline Ouellette, Jocelyne Larocque
All data courtesy of IIHF.com, EliteProspects.com, hockeycanada.ca, and the author’s own tracking.