It's been more than 20 years since women's hockey stepped onto the Olympic stage, but the past decade has undoubtedly seen the women's game take its greatest strides. From the emergence of the professional circuits – sadly, two became one with the shuttering of the CWHL – to the talent development in the non-North American nations, the past 10 years has seen the women step into the spotlight.
But who are the players that led the decade and stood head and shoulders above the rest? There are some awfully familiar faces topping the list, the who's-who and veritable superstars of the women's game, but some love was also shown to those who might not be as heralded stateside and north of the 49th parallel.
10. Rebecca Johnston (CAN)
The highs might not be as high, but the lows are next to nonexistent. Johnston is the epitome of consistency, and that’s what lands her on the all-decade list. She is the second-highest scoring Canadian on the major international stages – 23 goals and 55 points in 52 combined World Championship and Olympic games – and one of the highest scoring players in CWHL history before the league was shuttered.
9. Florence Schelling (SUI)
It’s something of a rarity to have three goaltenders in the top-10 of a list that features the best players of a decade, but Schelling cannot be ignored, particularly given her effort in the early-2010s. At the 2012 World Championships, she helped the Swiss stun the field with a bronze medal victory and just two years later, she again led the Swiss to the podium, but this time at the Olympics. Through her 3.97 goals-against average and .913 save percentage aren’t stunning on paper, Schelling stood on her head to shutout Russia in the quarters and held the fort against Sweden in the bronze-medal game.
8. Jenni Hiirikoski (FIN)
She’ll likely never get the credit she deserves, but Hiirikoski can make a case that she’s been the most criminally underrated player of the decade and maybe in women’s hockey history. Twice she has been named the top Olympic defender – the only other player whose won the award twice is Hall of Famer Angela Ruggiero – and Hiirikoski also has a World Championship MVP, six top defender awards (this decade, as she has seven total), four all-star team nods, a silver medal and won three of her six bronze medals in the 2010s. Domestically, she’s captained JYP in the Finnish League and Lulea in the Swedish League.
7. Amanda Kessel (USA)
OK, so it wasn’t at the Olympics or World Championships, but Kessel authored the single-greatest college campaign of the decade. During the 2012-13 season at University of Minnesota, Kessel scored 46 goals and 101 points in 46 games, making her the only player in the past decade to exceed even the 90-point plateau, let alone the 100-point mark. She now finds herself as one Team USA’s most productive forwards, her per-game scoring rate commensurate with a number of the decade’s best scorers. She also made the Olympic all-star team in 2013-14.
6. Noora Raty (FIN)
It might the single-greatest positional debate in women’s hockey history, because if Raty was Canadian, where would she rank on the all-time list? Some argue that she’s the superior keeper to Shannon Szabados, who appears later on this list, but Raty simply isn’t as decorated. She does, however, have a World Championship MVP, a bundle of NCAA honors and she has backstopped Finland to some great international heights, including a World Championship silver and two Olympic bronze. She also nearly stole the Clarkson Cup for the expansion Kunlun Red Star in 2017-18.
5. Kendall Coyne Schofield (USA)
Coyne Schofield became a household name after her performance at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game Skills Competition, where the Team USA standout put her wheels on display. But Coyne Schofield was already a star. An impact player at the senior national level the moment she made her debut, Coyne is the third-highest scoring American player of the decade at the World Championships, named top forward at the 2019 tournament and has nine points in 10 Olympic contests. Oh, and don’t forget her NCAA production. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, her freshman season, her 141 goals are the most in the NCAA and Coyne’s 249 points are the third-most.
4. Shannon Szabados (CAN)
The veteran Canadian keeper stepped into the spotlight at the 2010 Olympics and she hasn’t really left it since, winning two gold medals, two Top Goaltender awards at the tournament and a handful of other international accolades. She parts of four seasons in the SPHL, two as a split-time starter, and last played for the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts in 2018-19. That was her first foray into the women’s professional circuit and her numbers were remarkable. She won the league’s top netminder award with a 1.49 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
3. Hilary Knight (USA)
No player in the past decade has done more damage at the World Championship, and Knight’s numbers are truly gaudy. In 37 games, her 36 goals are 10 more than any other player and her 64 points put her one clear of the second-highest tournament scorer. Knight is also the leading American scorer at the Olympics this decade. In fact, given her international accomplishments, one might expect her to be higher on this list. However, the two players ahead of Knight displayed a greater level of dominance in club play at the NWHL and CWHL levels.
2. Marie-Philip Poulin (CAN)
That Poulin is finishing anywhere other than first place is going to draw the ire of some, and that goes double given ‘MPP’ scored the gold medal-winning goals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. She is also the decade’s second-highest Olympic scorer – a whole six points back of first-place Meghan Agosta, however – and Canada’s most prolific World Championship scorer of the past 10 years. Three times, Poulin led the CWHL in scoring. Three times, she won the league’s MVP award. She was also an Olympic all-star, World Championship best forward and World Championship MVP.
1. Brianna Decker (USA)
Arguably the most underrated player in the women’s game despite the fact she’s a superstar. Decker’s production has been largely overshadowed by the star power Knight possesses, but it’s almost without question that Decker has been every bit as productive and inarguable that she has the ability to be more game-in, game-out dominant than almost any other player. Decker has won Olympic gold, World Championship gold, an NCAA crown and league titles in the CWHL and NWHL across the past decade, and in the 192 games she’s played at all levels, she’s averaged 1.84 points. Whenever she hangs up her skates, her effort throughout the 2010s should be enough to get the Team USA star into the Hall of Fame.
Over the next two weeks, The Hockey News will be wrapping up the 2010s with a look back at the best – and worst – of the decade. Find more here.
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