The next name on our list Top 25 under 25 list is a reigning NCAA Frozen Four champion. Cayley Mercer led the Clarkson Golden Knights to their second national title in program history in 2017. The Exeter, Ont., native may have followed her sister Carly to Clarkson, but she made a name for herself while there.
However, the incoming freshman faced adversity before even setting foot on campus. She tore her ACL and had reconstructive surgery less than two months before reporting to Clarkson. Mercer told The Ice Garden that her year of recovery was a turning point in her career, one that prepared her more than anything else. “It really taught me to be resilient and push through adversity,” said Mercer. “I think that when I was finally able to play again, I was so ready to let all my hard work do the talking.”
After red shirting her true freshman year, Mercer made posted 22 points (3 goals, 19 assists) en route to her first NCAA Frozen Four title. Mercer would go on to double that points tally in her sophomore season (24 goals, 20 assists) and finish her final year with 62 points (28 goals, 34 assists) and another national title. She scored twice in the 3-0 win over Wisconsin and was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2017 Frozen Four tournament.
Mercer ended her college career with 178 points (80 goals, 98 assists) in 160 games played. She was a Top 3 Finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award in 2017, a First-Team All-American, and the ECAC Female Athlete of the Year. She has spent some time with Hockey Canada at the U-18 and U-22 level.
Although drafted by the Buffalo Beauts as a rising senior, Mercer entered the CWHL draft this summer and will be taking her talents to China. She was the first-round draft pick for the Vanke Rays (7th overall).
Mercer is generous with the puck, and considers herself a passer, first and foremost. However, her quickness and ability to handle the puck also make her a threat to shoot and score on her own.
The players headed to China are expected to be ambassadors for the game, something Mercer will do very well. She speaks intelligently about the game and encourage players around her on and off the ice. That coupled with her hockey resume will make her a solid player for the Rays.
Mercer captained the 2017 Clarkson team, becoming the second Mercer to captain a national championship Clarkson team. She four straight NCAA Tournaments in her career and helped the Golden Knights become the only team outside of the WCHA to win a national title.
Is this ranking too high or too low?
This list has be difficult to craft, given the talent in the women’s game, the age cap didn’t make selection much easier. However, my gut is that Mercer might be a bit low on the list. The lack of time with her national team likely keeps her under the radar, but it not a blemish on her ability. Mercer has improved every season at Clarkson, making it likely she has yet to plateau.