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Poulin, Fillier top TSN's Top 25 players in women's hockey

Canada Women's Hockey Marie-Philip Poulin - Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images

She may not have scored another golden goal at the last world championship, but Canadian star Marie-Philip Poulin is still the definitive choice for the best women’s hockey player on the planet.

With the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championship wrapped up, TSN assembled a panel of experts to vote on the 25 best players in the game right now.

It has been an unprecedented year in women’s hockey. Fans were treated to an Olympic Games and a world championship in the same calendar year for the first time ever, with Canada winning gold in both events just over six months apart.

Voters were asked to rank the top 25 players in the game right now, regardless of position, with major hockey tournaments weighing heavily in the determination. To be considered, a player had to participate in at least one of the major hockey tournaments since the 2021 world championship. As such, players such as goaltender Noora Räty, who has not represented Finland at a world championship or Olympic Games since 2019, was not considered.

The final list features 10 Canadians, nine Americans, three Finnish players, and one each from Switzerland, Czechia and Japan. By position, there are 16 forwards, eight defenders and one goaltender. While the list features many young players, it has a heavy presence of veterans, with an average age of 27.5.


1. Marie-Philip Poulin 

Centre, Canada
Age: 31
Previous TSN rank: 1
2022 Olympics: 7-6-11-17
2022 Worlds: 7-5-5-10

There’s no denying that Poulin is the best player in the world; the debate is whether she is the best ever. She helped lead Canada to a gold medal in Beijing, recording 17 points in seven games, including two goals in the gold-medal game. While she didn’t find the back of the net in the final game of this year’s worlds, she still finished with 10 points in the tournament, and added a shot block in the dying seconds of the gold-medal game to help preserve Canada’s 2-1 win over the U.S. Simply put, she is always willing to put her body on the line, get into dirty areas, and do what it takes to win.


2. Sarah Fillier

Centre, Canada
Age: 22
Previous TSN rank: 13
2022 Olympics: 7-8-3-11
2022 Worlds: 7-5-6-11

No other player has risen up the ranks as meteorically as Fillier has this past year. After first turning heads at the 2021 world championship on the ‘Fill Da Spoon’ line with veterans Mélodie Daoust and Natalie Spooner, Fillier put up 11 points in her first Olympic Games, including a hat-trick in the quarter-final against Sweden. Despite losing her linemates at this year’s worlds, she still finished as the top Canadian scorer with 11 points and was the lone representative from Canada on the tournament all-star team. Her on-ice awareness and ability to finish make her one of the most elite players in the game.


3. Ann-Renée Desbiens

Goaltender, Canada
Age: 28
Previous TSN rank: 22
2022 Olympics: 5-0, 1.80, .940
2022 Worlds: 5-0, 0.80, .934

After finishing 22nd in TSN’s player rankings at the beginning of the year, Desbiens has cemented herself as not only Canada’s No. 1 goaltender, but the top netminder in the world. She posted a 1.80 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in Beijing, including a 38-save performance against the Americans in the gold-medal game. This past August at the women’s worlds in Denmark, she was even more impressive with a 0.80 goals-against average. But she once again saved her best for last. On paper, her 20 saves in the gold-medal game may not seem overly impressive. However, it was the timing of those stops – including several in the dying minutes of the game – that elevate her into the top three in TSN’s rankings.


4. Brianne Jenner

Right Wing, Canada
Age: 31
Previous TSN rank: 7
2022 Olympics: 7-9-5-14
2022 Worlds: 7-3-2-5

Jenner has reinvented herself over the past few years, moving from centre to the wing and finding great chemistry on the top line with Poulin. She was named MVP of the Beijing Games after leading all scorers with nine goals in seven games. While her name may not have been among the scoring leaders at the worlds, she made her impact when it mattered most, scoring both of Canada’s goals in the 2-1 win over the Americans in the gold-medal game. Her ability to switch with Poulin and her effectiveness in the faceoff circle has been a huge asset for Canada. She finished with a 70.21 faceoff win percentage at this year’s worlds, third best in the tournament.


5. Megan Keller

Defence, USA
Age: 26
Previous TSN rank: 15
2022 Olympics: 7-0-4-4
2022 Worlds: 7-1-8-9

Keller was 15th in TSN’s rankings at the beginning of the year but is now the highest American on the list, not to mention the top-ranked defender. She is a linchpin on the blueline for the U.S. She led the team with 25:18 TOI at the Beijing Games and played more than 29 minutes in the gold-medal game. In Denmark, she was tied for the scoring leaders among defenders with nine points, including eight assists (four primary). She possesses one of the best transitional games in the sport, and her skating ability makes her a threat on the blueline.


6. Brianna Decker

Centre, USA
Age: 31
Previous TSN rank: 4
2021 Worlds: 7-2-3-5
2022 Olympics: 1-0-0-0

It’s been a trying year for Decker, who suffered a serious leg injury in the opening game of the Beijing Olympics and did not play in this year’s world championship. But when healthy, there’s no question Decker is one of the top players in the game. She has 40 assists in her career at the worlds, nine back of Hayley Wickenheiser for most all-time. Her passing is unparalleled, and her ability to read the ice and see plays makes those around her better.


7. Mélodie Daoust

Left Wing, Canada
Age: 30
Previous TSN rank: T2
2021 Worlds: 14-6-10-16
2022 Olympics: 3-0-1-1

Like Decker, Daoust hasn’t been in the spotlight as much this year. After winning MVP honours at last year’s tournament, she opted out of the world championship in Denmark for personal reasons. She also missed several games at the Beijing Olympics after suffering an injury in the opener against Switzerland. But despite her absence, she remains one of the most dynamic and creative players in the game. She creates space with her poise and patience on the puck and has an innate ability to generate offence.


8. Taylor Heise

Centre, USA
Age: 22
Previous TSN rank: N/R
2022 Worlds: 7-7-11-18

The next USA superstar emerged at this year’s world championship. After winning the Patty Kazmaier Award earlier in the year, Heise led the worlds in scoring with 18 points in seven games, also picking up MVP honours. According to Alyssa Longmuir, she also led the tournament in G60 (average goals scored per 60 minutes played) with 10.43. Heise was a threat every time she was on the ice, and her line with Alex Carpenter and Amanda Kessel was one the most prolific at the worlds. She possesses a strong individual skillset and isn’t afraid to take on players 1-on-1.


9. Jocelyne Larocque

Defence, Canada
Age: 34
Previous TSN rank: 17
2022 Olympics: 7-0-2-2
2022 Worlds: 7-1-5-6

A traditional stay-at-home blueliner for most of her career, Larocque emerged as an offensive threat this past year, becoming much more aggressive and active in the offensive zone. At the worlds in Denmark, she notched six points, including her first-ever world championship goal in the quarter-final win against Sweden. As part of Canada’s top defensive pairing (with Renata Fast), Larocque recorded a team-high 20:55 TOI, including nearly 23 minutes in the gold-medal game. She plays valuable shutdown minutes and her ability to read the game makes her difficult to beat 1-on-1.


10. Jenni Hiirikoski

Defence, Finland
Age: 35
Previous TSN rank: T2
2022 Olympics: 7-0-5-5
2022 Worlds: 7-0-1-1

A surefire future Hall of Famer, Hiirikoski made history this year by playing in her 14th worlds, and she continues to be a workhorse on the Finnish blueline. In Beijing, she averaged 27:37 in ice time and was named to the all-star team. She followed that up by averaging 26:44 n Denmark, behind only Japan’s Ayaka Hitosato for the tournament lead. Last month, she also became the first defender to reach 300 points in the SDHL (Swedish Women’s Hockey League). Her skating ability and edge work allow her to contribute in all three zones.


11. Alina Müller

Centre, Switzerland
Age: 24
Previous TSN rank: 6
2022 Olympics: 7-4-6-10
2022 Worlds: 3-1-1-2

Müller is a top international talent but finds herself lower in the rankings after her impact at this year’s world championship was cut short due to a positive COVID-19 test. There’s no doubt she can be a difference maker, as she finished as Switzerland’s top scorer in Beijing with 10 points in seven games, including a goal and an assist against Canada in the semifinal. Her hockey IQ, ability to shoot, and distribution makes her one of the most gifted offensive players in the game.


12. Amanda Kessel

Right Wing, USA
Age: 31
Previous TSN rank: N/R
2022 Olympics: 7-3-5-8
2022 Worlds: 7-6-11-17

After somewhat fading from the spotlight over the past few years, Kessel reminded the hockey world exactly what she’s capable of with the most productive world championship of her career. Her 17 points were behind only Heise for the tournament lead (as was her 10.47 P60), and she led all skaters with a +17 plus/minus, also earning tournament all-star honours. In Beijing, she recorded eight points, good for second most on the team, including a power-play goal in the gold-medal game. She is slippery in front of goal and possesses great poise and patience.


13. Hilary Knight

Right Wing, USA
Age: 33
Previous TSN rank: 5
2022 Olympics: 7-6-4-10
2022 Worlds: 7-6-3-9

Knight may be the oldest player on the American roster, but she continues to rewrite the history books. A year after breaking the record for most all-time goals at the women’s worlds, she surpassed Wickenheiser’s mark for most career points at the tournament. She finished with nine points at this year’s worlds to bring her career total to 89, and in Beijing, she was the leading American scorer with 10 points. Her awareness and strength on the ice continue to make her lethal in front of goal.


14. Alex Carpenter

Left Wing, USA
Age: 28
Previous TSN rank: 19
2022 Olympics: 7-4-3-7
2022 Worlds: 7-2-7-9

Carpenter isn’t always the most noticeable on the ice, which is perhaps why she doesn’t always receive the accolades she deserves. Playing with Heise and Kessel at this year’s worlds, she recorded nine points, including seven primary assists (fifth most in the tournament). After being among the final cuts for the 2018 Olympic roster, Carpenter finished with seven points in Beijing. She also has the tendency to show up in big games, scoring both of her team’s goals in a 3-2 loss to Canada in the 2021 world championship gold-medal game.


15. Daniela Pejsova

Defence, Czechia
Age: 20
Previous TSN rank: N/R
2022 Olympics: 5-0-0-0
2022 Worlds: 7-5-4-9

Pejsova is one of the reason’s Czechia was able to claim its first-ever medal at the world championship, taking home bronze. She was the highest-scoring defender in the tournament with nine points, including a goal in the bronze-medal game. The young blueliner played major minutes for her country, averaging 23:59 per game. She was also named the tournament’s Best Defender (the first time a Czech player has been part of the IIHF’s directorate awards) and earned a spot on the tournament all-star team. Despite her young age, she reads the ice well and knows when to join on offence.


16. Kendall Coyne Schofield

Left Wing, USA
Age: 30
Previous TSN rank: 9
2022 Olympics: 7-3-3-6
2022 Worlds: 7-1-10-11

Coyne Schofield remains one of the biggest names in the game. Her 10 assists in this year’s world championship were behind only teammates Heise and Kessel for the tournament lead, and her 33 shots led all skaters. In Beijing, her 20:08 TOI was the second-highest mark among American forwards (behind Knight). The U.S. captain exudes passion on the ice and is relentless on the forecheck, using her formidable speed to her advantage.


17. Caroline Harvey

Defence, USA
Age: 19
Previous TSN rank: N/R
2022 Olympics: 7-0-0-0
2022 Worlds: 7-3-5-8

The youngest player on the list, Harvey was on the wrong end of some questionable coaching decisions during the Beijing Games, where she averaged just 3:18 of ice time. But Harvey showed what she’s capable of under new head coach John Wroblewski at the world championship, recording eight points in seven games, along with a 4.26 G60. In the gold-medal game, she played the fourth-most minutes for the Americans with 18:46 TOI and was named to the tournament all-star team. She hasn’t turned 20 yet, but with her ability at both ends of the ice, she is on her way to becoming a top defender in the game.


18. Claire Thompson

Defence, Canada
Age: 24
Previous TSN rank: N/R
2021 Worlds: 7-0-4-4
2022 Olympics: 7-2-11-13

While Thompson was absent from this year’s women’s worlds due to preparations for medical school, she made a huge impact at the Beijing Games. A converted forward, she showed her offensive prowess with 13 points in the tournament, setting an Olympic record for a defenceman. Despite her young age, she became a regular in Canada’s top four on defence, as well as on the power play, and picked up tournament all-star honours.


19. Petra Nieminen

Right Wing, Finland
Age: 23
Previous TSN rank: 11
2022 Olympics: 7-3-5-8
2022 Worlds: 6-1-3-4

After leading the Finns in scoring at last year’s world championship and being named to the all-star team, Nieminen didn’t have the same impact in this year’s tournament. She missed most of Finland’s first two games after being suspended for a hit from behind in the opener against Canada and ended up finishing the tournament with just four points in six games. But there’s no doubt she remains a threat on the ice. In Beijing, she was tied for the team lead with eight points, including a hat trick against Japan in the quarter-final. Last season with Luleå in the SDHL, she led the team in scoring in the regular season with 55 points in 34 games.


20. Lee Stecklein

Defence, USA
Age: 28
Previous TSN rank: 10
2022 Olympics: 7-1-0-1
2022 Worlds: 7-1-3-4

The U.S. has relied heavily on Stecklein, the oldest and most experienced blueliner on the roster. She averaged just under 23 minutes per game at the Beijing Olympics, and her lone goal ended up being the winner in the quarter-final against Czechia. After nearly retiring prior to the 2018 Olympics, Stecklein has become virtually irreplaceable on the American blueline as a key leader and a shutdown defender.


21. Michelle Karvinen

Left Wing, Finland
Age: 32
Previous TSN rank: 8
2022 Olympics: 7-3-4-7
2022 Worlds: 7-0-3-3

After finishing at No. 8 in TSN’s rankings earlier this year, Karvinen has been overtaken by Nieminen as Finland’s most dangerous forward. But the veteran is still a major offensive threat, recording seven points at the Beijing Games, including a power-play marker in her team’s 4-0 win over Switzerland in the bronze-medal game. While she’s coming off a disappointing world championship, finishing with just three points, she remains one of the most technically gifted forwards in the game.


22. Natalie Spooner

Right Wing, Canada
Age: 31
Previous TSN rank: 14
2021 Worlds: 7-4-5-9
2022 Olympics: 7-3-11-14

While Spooner missed this year’s world championship due to pregnancy, she was a dominating presence at the Beijing Games, finishing with 14 points in seven games, including seven primary assists. Spooner has said she plans to return for the 2023 world championship, which is good news for Canada. She uses her size to her advantage in front of the goal and often does a lot of the dirty work in puck retrieval.


23. Renata Fast

Defence, Canada
Age: 27
Previous TSN rank: 16
2022 Olympics: 7-1-4-5
2022 Worlds: 7-0-4-4

Fast continues to pick up heavy minutes as part of Canada’s top defensive pair. In Beijing, she led the team with 21:32 TOI, and it was a similar story in Denmark, where she averaged 20:19, including more than 21 minutes in the gold-medal game. Her skating and speed are among her greatest assets. She can chase down virtually anyone in the world and is a top shutdown defender.


24. Sarah Nurse

Left Wing, Canada
Age: 27
Previous TSN rank: N/R
2022 Olympics: 7-5-13-18
2022 Worlds: 7-2-2-4

Although she had a fairly quiet world championship this year with four points, Nurse was an absolute force at the Beijing Games. She set an Olympic record with 18 points and led the tournament with 13 assists (seven primary). Playing on the top line with Poulin and Jenner, Nurse also recorded a goal and an assist in the gold-medal game against the Americans.


25. Akane Shiga

Left Wing, Japan
Age: 21
Previous TSN rank: N/R
2022 Olympics: 5-2-1-3
2022 Worlds: 7-3-2-5

If there was a scoring play by Japan at this year’s worlds, chances are, Akane Shiga was involved. She finished with three goals, five points, and 20 shots in the tournament. Japan recorded 11 goals in the tournament, meaning Shiga contributed to over 45 percent of her team’s offence. At the 2021 world championship, she scored two goals against the U.S. in the quarter-final, the first time Japan had ever scored against the Americans.