We had a tie between two players for fourth place, and we couldn’t bear to break it, so clocking in at the fourth spot at our T25-U25 (T26-U25?) are two players who, safe to say, are the future of USA Hockey — and frankly, they’re already the present.
Here’s a look at Megan Keller (You can read about Hannah Brandt here).
Keller is on the younger end of our poll at just 21, but her impact both at the college level and on the national stage has been undeniable.
For Team USA, you can’t call her a rookie anymore - she’s a seasoned vet and she hasn’t even graduated college yet. She represented the US at the U18 World Championships in 2013-14, where she won a silver medal, and has been a part of the last three World Championship teams, winning gold medals at each one. In 13 games at the WWC, she's proven to be productive from the blue line, with nine total points (4G, 5A). Her first Worlds tournament was probably her best performance - she scored five points in four games. As an 18-year-old. Yeah.
She's also been an invaluable part of Boston College, who will miss her dearly as she centralizes with Team USA this season. Her sophomore season has been her best collegiate season to date - Keller amassed 52 points (12G, 40A) in just 41 games in 2015-16 for the Eagles.
This article would never end if we listed every single achievement that Keller's accomplished. She's broken records with staggering speed - she's the fastest defender in BC history to reach 100 points (needing just 102 games), she needs just 12 more points to get into BC's top ten career points list (but she's already fourth in career assists) and has the Hockey East record for career points (74) and assists (54) with a full year of NCAA eligibility left. As you might expect, she's also led all NCAA defenders in points for her last two seasons.
Keller is, simply put, an absolute terror on the ice.
It’s fairly safe to say that Megan Keller is going to be the future of USA’s defense for many, many years to come. We’re inching closer to a changing of the guard on the American blue line - for players like Gigi Marvin (30) and Kacey Bellamy (30), this will very likely be their last Olympics. They have both been cornerstones for years.
Keller is more than ready to step into that role now, along with younger players like Emily Pfalzer and Megan Bozek. With three World Championships and (soon) an Olympics under her belt, she’s proven that she’s more than capable to play at the highest level against the best players in the world.
Where things get even more interesting will be how she fares in her final year of college (she’s redshirting her senior season for centralization). Keller has been a Top 10 Finalist for the Patty Kazmaier award, given to the best college women's hockey player, for the past two seasons. One has to suspect she’s a favorite to win it in her final year as an Eagle.
It's not easy for a defender to win the award, but Keller was the first blueliner to ever win the Cammi Granato Award, given to Hockey East's Player of the Year. Who's to say she can't win the Patty Kaz, too?
Is this ranking too high or too low?
We’re getting to the point of the rankings where the players are already considered elite despite their age, and those who are ranked in the Top 5 very much deserve to be here.
For Keller, it’s likely that she’ll either hold her spot in the rankings or climb up. She’s got three more years before she hits 25 (just…wow, she’s good) and it wouldn’t shock us if she gets up to the No. 2 or No. 1 spot. That’s hard to do as a defender - it’s much easier to look at the flashy numbers that a forward can put up or an impressive save percentage from a goalie - but if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s Keller.