We continue our countdown of the Top 25 under 25 with our number 16 player from the New York Riveters, by way of Princeton, Kelsey Koelzer. Over the past 12 months, Koelzer has experienced just about every level of women’s hockey. A knee injury in high school left her off USA Hockey youth rosters, but she more than made up for that lost time in her college career.
Here is what you need to know about the 5-foot-9 defender as she enters her first full professional season.
Koelzer grew up in Horsham, Pennsylvania and competed with the New Jersey Rockets girls team before landing at Princeton. Remaining in her public high school and playing on a travel team - as opposed to attending a boarding school - was important to her.
"From the time I switched over to girls hockey, there was this underlying pressure to go to a prep school," she told The Victory Press. However, playing locally gave her the exposure needed to get noticed by Princeton. Koelzer had her sights set on the Ivy League, so why not stay close to home?
By her sophomore year, Koelzer generated enough offense for the Tigers to be second overall in scoring (26 points with eight goals and 18 assists). She was also voted Second Team All-ECAC. Koelzer followed up her sophomore campaign with 17 goals and 16 assists in her third season.
Koelzer had her best season her junior year. She and the Tigers went 22-9-2 including a 16-game winning streak. The record was the best in Princeton history. The team went on to win its seventh Ivy League Championship and the first since 2006. The 2015-16 Tigers were just the second Princeton women’s team to compete in the NCAA Tournament as well.
Koelzer was named ECAC Best Defender of the Year, First Team All-American and a Top Ten Patty Kazmaier Finalist. The Tigers went 22-9-2, (8-2 Ivy League) to earn the programs seventh Ivy League Championship and the first in ten years.
Heading into her senior season, Koelzer was named to the USA Hockey U-22 Select Team and participated in the USA Hockey Women’s National Festival. She tallied two assists in three games with the U-22 team in 2016. She also caught the eye of Riveters head coach and general manager Chad Wiseman who selected her first overall in the 2016 NWHL Draft.
Koelzer returned for her senior season at Princeton with her first USA Hockey appearance and an invitation to play professionally. She added eight goals and 23 assists to her career tally, finishing third in points for a defender in program history (100 points in 128 games).
After ending her college career in the ECAC Tournament, Koelzer made NWHL history as the first active undergraduate player to join a league roster. Her time with the Riveters was brief, but gave her a taste of the next level.
“I learned a lot in the brief time I spent with the Riveters last season,” said Koelzer upon re-signing with the Riveters. “Having the experience now with the speed of the game will help me when we get back to work come October.”
Koelzer is a quick, strong and athletic on the ice. Her size and quickness set her apart from other defenders and make her a threat on the rush and when she has the puck on the blue line. Koelzer is a good match for the style of play New York executes under Wiseman.
Is This Ranking too High or too Low?
Although not selected to the 23-player USA roster currently training in Tampa prior to final selection of the Olympic team, Koelzer in definitely on the national team’s radar. She spent time with the senior team in April and a solid NWHL season will only improve her chances of making a senior team roster in the near future.
Koelzer’s outstanding college career and bright future make her a must-watch prospect in women’s hockey. There are few defenders who are as dynamic with the puck as she is. And that’s why she landed at the 16 spot on The Ice Garden’s Top 25 under 25. We’ll have a better idea if being ranked 16 was too high or too low for Koelzer after her first NWHL regular season.