For a large portion of 23-year-old Haley Skarupa’s hockey career, she has played in the shadow of another young American star (about whom you may be able to read in the next few days). But never mind that right now. Skarupa stands on her own two skates as a steady winger with impressive speed and a willingness to shoot the puck at every opportunity. In the 2016–17 NWHL regular season, she had a total of 82 shots on goal — good for second in the league — and a respectable shooting percentage of 13.4%.
Skarupa does not come from a hockey family, or from a traditional hockey market. So when the Maryland native decided to try the sport, her natural aptitude was a surprise. Coaches and teammates quickly saw, however, that Skarupa might be a generational talent — that’s how coach Kush Sidhu of the Washington Pride, her Junior Women’s Hockey League team, once described her. He was not exaggerating — Skarupa received Maryland’s Scholar Athlete Award from 2008 through 2012.
She opted to attend Boston College (the fact that her parents were alumni didn’t hurt) and was a leader of the team during her four years there, putting her name near the top of several charts:
- Second-highest scoring hockey player in Boston College history — men or women
- Third-most goals scored in BC women’s hockey history (115)
- Second in school history for career points (244), assists (129), game-winning goals (23), power play goals (25), and plus–minus (+178)/
Skarupa was a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2015 (her junior year) and 2016 (senior year).
She was a member of the 2015–16 team that had the second-ever undefeated regular season in women’s NCAA hockey history.
And she scored the overtime goal that sent Boston College to the NCAA final in 2016:
In the 2016–17 NWHL regular season, Skarupa was an offensive leader for the Connecticut Whale. As Marisa Ingemi reported for The Ice Garden, “The rookie out of Boston College has worked well on a line with Kelli Stack and Kelly Babstock to produce the majority of the Connecticut firepower.”
Over 16 regular season games played for the Whale, Skarupa was fourth in goals (11), seventh in assists (11), and tied for third in total points (22). Three of those goals came in her very first game. With the addition of an assist that day, Skarupa took ownership of the NWHL record for most points in a player’s first career game. And she had another, more multifaceted, hat trick later in the season.
Her two assists in the Whale’s single playoff game were good for fourth-most points (tied with teammate Kelli Stack and Boston’s Gigi Marvin) through the 2017 Isobel Cup playoffs.
Skarupa’s first appearance in an international tournament happened when she was 16. As a member of Team USA at the IIHF U18 World Championships, she earned silver medals in 2010 and 2012 (Skarupa led the 2012 tournament in goal scoring with 11 goals in five games) and gold in 2011.
She played at the Four Nations Cup, earning silver medals in 2010 and 2014 and a gold 2016 (Skarupa contributed four assists in four games). She was also on the gold-medal-winning US teams at the Women’s World Championships in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
A fourth-liner at the 2017 Worlds in Michigan, Skarupa didn’t make a huge impact during that tournament. In five games played, she had one goal and one assist (both during Team USA’s 11–0 victory over Germany in the semifinal round).
As a member of the 2017–18 US Women's National Team roster for Worlds and an invitee to the US Women's National Team Selection Camp, Skarupa had the chance to make her Olympic debut this winter. It’s something she said had been her goal "for a long time now" — and that was in an interview back in 2012.
Though she ultimately didn't make the 23-player roster that will play in the Olympics, her invite to selection camp means she'll likely remain on USA's radar for years to come.
She could return to the NWHL for the 2017–18 season — and probably find herself at or near the top of several statistical lists again.
Is this ranking too high or too low?
A player who started playing hockey essentially on a whim and wound up as an offensive leader for the Boston College Eagles certainly deserves to be in the top 10 on this list — and if it seems like an overstatement, that’s probably just because we have not yet had the opportunity to see Skarupa playing under the brightest of spotlights, on the Olympic stage. This player has been steadily impressing observers for most of this decade, and there’s no doubt she has the potential to keep doing so as she approaches her quarter-century mark.