Year in Review: Top 10 women’s players of 2018

The Olympics weigh heavily into the rankings, but the two-week tournament wasn't the be-all and end-all in the women's game as play in the professional ranks and NCAA also factored into our list of the 10 top performers of the past year.
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In an Olympic year, it would be easy to pluck the top performers from the best-on-best tournament and slot each one somewhere into the top 10 women’s players of the past year. Doing so, though, would be to ignore what happened throughout the professional and college ranks during the other 50 weeks of 2018. So, while this list is filled almost entirely by Olympians — all but our No. 10 represented her country at the Games — the play of those same players away from the bright lights in Pyeongchang was factored into determining who made the list and who fell just short.

As with any top 10, there’s going to be some subjectivity. There will be those who disagree with the numbering. But remember that the below list is based on performance from Jan. 1, 2018 all the way through to the respective holiday breaks that each women’s league, be it the CWHL, NWHL, NCAA or any of the number of European leagues, finds itself in right now.

10. Daryl Watts, Boston College
Watts’ rookie season in the NCAA was history-making as she became the first freshman to win the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in the women’s collegiate game. The award encapsulated her entire season, of course, but her calendar year was impeccable. In 38 games — including 18 to close out the past campaign and 20 to begin this season’s slate — Watts netted 31 goals and 55 points. If her performance last season didn’t put her on the Team Canada radar, her performance through the early part of the current campaign certainly has.

9. Gigi Marvin, USA/Boston Pride
Marvin’s season was gold-plated, and it doesn’t get much better than that. Long a fixture of the American blueline, playing in her first tournament with the national team back in 2006-07, Marvin finally helped USA past arch-rival Canada at the Olympics and posted two goals and three points in five games at the tournament. After taking the remainder of the 2017-18 campaign off post-Olympics, Marvin has returned to the Pride where she leads all defensemen with nine points in eight games.

8. Laura Fortino, Canada/Markham Thunder
One of Canada’s stalwart defenders at the Olympics, Fortino posted two assists in five games and earned her way onto the tournament all-star team. Unlike others who participated in Pyeongchang, though, Fortino’s season didn’t end after the Olympics. Instead, she returned to Markham, helping guide the Thunder to the Clarkson Cup. She’s continued to be a standout in the CWHL, too, with 12 points in 17 games. She also added two goals in four games at the 4 Nations Cup.

7. Brianna Decker, USA/Calgary Inferno
This list wouldn’t be complete without Decker, who has grown to become arguably the best American women’s player of her generation. This wasn’t the best season of her career, to be sure, but Decker was still impressive at the Olympics, putting up three assists in five games in Pyeongchang. She really shone in her first turn as Captain America at the 4 Nations Cup, though, netting three goals and six points in four games. Add to it her eight-goal, 17-point performance through the start of the CWHL season and Decker continues to stake her claim as a superstar of American women’s hockey.

6. Rebecca Johnston, Canada/Calgary Inferno
Johnston’s performance at the Olympics was impeccable — three goals and five points — in a second-place effort for the Canadians, and she’s continued her dominance on the international stage throughout the remainder of 2018 with another two goals and eight points in five games. But what makes Johnston stand out ahead of the Poulins and Deckers is her incredible start to her CWHL campaign. Through 16 games with the Inferno, Johnston has posted 10 goals and 25 points. She’s one off the league scoring lead.

5. Alina Muller, Switzerland/Northeastern University
In past years, a top 10 would be dominated by Canadian and American players, but Muller is deserving of high praise for her play over the past 12 months. Muller led the way for Switzerland at the Olympics, leading the tournament with seven goals and 10 points in six games en route to earning top forward and Olympic all-star team nods. Muller also led the Swiss Women’s League in goals and points before an incredible 17-goal, 23-point post season. Oh, she was also named the top Swiss women’s player. Add that to her impressive 2018 resume.

4. Shannon Szabados, Canada/Buffalo Beauts
A no-doubter to make this list every season she hits the ice. Szabados has long been one of the gold standards of the women’s crease and she continued to build on her legacy with a brilliant 2018. Despite battling injury, Szabados was able to return in time for a few tuneup games before the Olympics and proceeded to produce a 1.20 goals-against average and .949 save percentage in three outings in Pyeongchang, where she was named top goaltender. Szabados also headed to the NWHL, her first foray into the women’s pro game, and has a stunning 1.60 GAA and .932 SP through six games.

3. Noora Raty, Finland/Shenzen KRS Vanke Rays
Yes, Szabados was the top Olympic keeper, but it’s Raty who earned the all-star nod and backstopped Finland to a bronze medal in Pyeongchang. But it’s what Raty did during league play with Kunlun Red Star that sees her crack the yearly top three. With the CWHL’s Chinese expansion franchise, Raty posted a brilliant 1.60 and .944 SP in 20 games and then almost singlehandedly propelled KRS to the Clarkson Cup finals. Red Star lost in overtime of the one-game final, but Raty finished the post-season with a dazzling .961 SP.

2. Marie-Philip Poulin, Canada/Les Canadiennes de Montreal
Poulin is one of the most prolific and offensively elite players in the women’s game, and 2018 was another brilliant year for the Canadian. Captaining the national team at the Olympics, Poulin posted three goals and six points in five games and added another two goals and six points to her register in international play through the start of the year. As one would expect, too, Poulin has run roughshod over the competition in the CWHL. She has 11 goals and 26 points in 15 games.

1. Melodie Daoust, Canada/Les Canadiennes de Montreal
Count the ways in which Daoust was dominant over the past year. At the Olympics, she paced Canada with three goals and seven points, all the while boasting the tournament’s top faceoff percentage. Her play was such that she was not only named to the Olympic all-star team, but named the tournament’s most valuable player. She debuted in the CWHL this season, as well, and has posted seven goals and 13 points in 10 games while technically qualifying as a rookie. Plus, she added three goals and four points in four games at the 4 Nations Cup.

Honorable Mention: Maddie Rooney, USA/University of Minnesota-Duluth; Jocelyne Lamoureux, USA; Dani Cameranesi, USA/Buffalo Beauts; Megan Keller, USA/Boston College; Loren Gabel, Clarkson University.

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