From the Archives – Beijing 2022 – Canada vs. United States

With Neutral Zone’s expansion into women’s hockey in 2017, we began writing amateur scouting reports on female players born in 1999 or later. There are a total of 8 players on the Canada and US Olympic rosters who are young enough to have been scouted by NZ. In 2018, there was only 1 rostered player, Cayla Barnes born later than 1999.

In anticipation of tonight’s rivalry matchup between Canada and the United States, Neutral Zone is pleased to release a pre-game Olympic report looking back at these 8 players’ youth hockey career. 

Each of these players have helped their respective youth teams to different levels of success. We are thrilled to see these 8 hometown heroes rise to the highest possible level in women’s hockey. We wish all players good luck tonight in what will surely be the most competitive game of these Olympics so far. 

Team Canada

#10 Sarah Fillier – 2000, F, Princeton University 

Fillier is a 2000 born forward who was first scouted by Neutral Zone in 2017 with the U22 Oakville Hornets. Fillier captained her team and was rated 5 out of 5 stars by NZ, an elusive rating designated for those players predicted to have Olympic upside. Here’s what scouts had to say about Fillier in her senior season with Oakville:

“Fillier possesses incredibly fast foot speed and the ability to accelerate quickly. She always puts the puck on her teammates tape. Fillier has a very high-level of hockey sense and knows where the puck is going to be before it gets there. Makes herself tough to defend against with her deceptive dekes on defenders and goalies. Shoots in-stride with a quick hard release that makes it to the net from anywhere in the offensive zone. A big-time goal scorer who rarely goes a game without scoring. She’s an unselfish player who makes herself useful in the defensive zone by winning battles and ensuring the puck gets to the next zone. All-around consistent top-end talent.”

After making a lasting mark on youth hockey, Fillier packed up for Princeton University where she played the 18/19 and 19/20 seasons before having last season cancelled due to the pandemic. Her freshman season brought virtually every award possible as she led the NCAA in scoring with 22 goals and 35 assists for 57 points in 29 games. She was rightfully named national Rookie of the Year, second team All-American, and was a Patty Kazmaier top 10 finalist. Her sophomore year, she matched her point totals exactly, she was honored with All-American status, and, again, a top 10 Patty Kazmmaier finalist.

Tonight, look for Fillier’s ability to combine her arsenal of skills to create. She is one of the most natural goal scorers we have ever seen, and we expect to see offensive production tonight. Additionally, Fillier has strong positioning and excellent instincts which make her an exemplary teammate.

#21 Ashton Bell – 1999, D, University of Minnesota Duluth

Bell was part of the first class to be scouted by NZ in 2017. She immediately stood out to scouts with her size, strength, consistency, and smarts. At the time, Bell was playing forward for the Westman Wildcats in Manitoba where she was ranked top 10 in her class and rated 4.75 stars by NZ. Here’s what scouts had to say about young Bell: 

“She is a strong 2-way working player who is always in the proper position. Bell has high level hockey sense and speed. She is aggressive on every puck and won’t give up on it. Likes to get the puck on net and crash when in doubt.” 

Bell was committed to the University of North Dakota, until the school cut the women’s hockey program. As a top player in the 2017 class, she was able to find a new commitment to the University of Minnesota Duluth. It was at Duluth in her junior season (2019) where Bell transitioned from the 2-way working power forward to a defensemen. Her work ethic, strength, and reliability bode well for the defensive position and we applaud Bell for making that transition late in her career. Since moving to the blueline, Bell’s league honors have not stopped rolling, and she has emerged as one of the most productive defenders in program history. 

She has continued to push the boundaries of what is possible throughout her college and National careers. Watching a versatile player like Bell on the international stage is sure to be exciting. NZ will look for her movement off the puck and her high level of compete to translate seamlessly to defensive positioning.

#27 Emma Maltais – 1999, F, Ohio State University

Like Bell, Maltais is another player scouted in NZ’s first year as a company. Though scouts only had 1 season to scout Maltais before she went to college, it didn’t take long to assign her 4.75 out of 5 stars and rank her in the top 10 in her class. Here’s a snapshot from when Maltais captained the U22 Oakville Hornets and lead the team to their PWHL gold medal win: 

“We love watching the grit that Maltais displays every time she is on the ice. She has great strength and compete in her smaller size. She has a hard and level shot and releases it quickly. She sees every option when moving up ice and can consistently hit the best one with a strong pass. She is willing and able to do whatever her team needs on any given shift. She is an unselfish team player who distributes the puck and hustles constantly to get it to the net whether it’s her scoring the goal or not.”

Her speed, agility, and scoring touch were impossible to ignore in amateur play. She carried that energy seamlessly to Ohio State where she led the team in points her freshman and sophomore years. She finished her career at Ohio as an All-American and a Patty Kazmaier top 10 finalist. 

Tonight, Maltais is likely to maintain strong support and drive the net with purpose to optimize her team’s offensive performance. She has always been a top-notch team player which will be visible tonight in her unselfish puck decisions.

Team USA

#3 Cayla Barnes– 1999, D, Boston College

Barnes, the only two-time Olympian on this list, played for New Hampton school in the New England Prep league when she was first scouted. She was impossible to ignore on that team, gaining her a 5 out of 5 star rating, and ranking 2nd in her class across Canada and the US. Here’s what scouts said about Barnes in her senior season at New Hampton: 

“She is a smaller sized player but that does not hinder Barnes in the least. She has very fast speed and footwork to navigate the ice with ease. Has the ability to handle the puck quickly at top speeds, which helps as she is an offensive minded D who wants to rush the puck. Barnes can be very deceptive from the point and has a rocket for a shot when she lets it go. A significant defensive and offensive contributor.”

In her freshman year of college, Barnes only made it through 5 games at Boston College before being called away to help the United States to their gold medal win at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang. Barnes played big minutes for the Olympic squad, including special team minutes.

It isn’t everyday you see a defender standing at 5’2” in the Olympics, however height is not an issue when it comes to Barnes’ game. She is smooth, controlled, and fiercely dangerous if given a lane. Being her second Olympics, we will look to see Barnes leaning into her offensive side even more. We expect she will join the rush, create on the power play, and hit the score sheet tonight.

#4 Caroline Harvey – 2002, D, NAHA White/ University of Wisconsin

The youngest of our listed players, Harvey is not yet part of a collegiate program. Most recently, she played for the U19 NAHA White team and will join the Wisconsin Badgers after these Olympic Games. Due to her age, Neutral Zone had more time to scout Harvey than others on this list, creating 16 amateur scouting reports that feature Harvey. She was first scouted at the U15 Player Development camp in 2017 and quickly climbed the ranks to become a 5 star prospect. Here’s what scouts said about Harvey from last years NAHA Labor Day Tournament:

“ Harvey is a high end talent who was clearly the NAHA Labor Day Tournament’s most valuable player. She has ideal size and athleticism for the position, elite skating ability and a rocket shot that she can score on from anywhere in the offensive zone. She’s a heads up, polished puck carrier with strong, balanced edges and the ability to make a forechecker miss and then stretch the ice from the goal line. Her vision and hockey sense allows her to see the second layer and not get distracted by forecheckers. When Harvey is on the ice the play runs through her; she’s calm, poised and confident with the puck. She can slow it down and pick defenses apart in all three-zones with skilled and calculated passing or she can push the pace, make quick decisions or rush it end to end. Her dynamic stick and long stride speed made her tough to contain in the neutral zone and was a dual option to go wide around defenders or stickhandle through them. She quarterbacked her team’s power play from the breakout to the offensive zone, she moved pucks quickly and artfully around the offensive zone and could walk the line and blast a bullet slap shot which she scored on more than once. Defensively she trusts her feet and plays a tight gap through the neutral zone, she has a strong stick to steal pucks and lift sticks and angles opponents to the boards. She has her head on a swivel in her own end, wins corner battles with ease with her reach and quickness and toughness. She reads the play, she knows where to be on the ice, she anticipates where the puck is headed and often gets there before her opponents, breaking up plays. She intercepted a lot of passes and caused turnovers on the rush and seamlessly started the transition the other way… She is on another level with supreme size, skating and skill but what stood out even more than her talent was her leadership and attitude. When they were down several goals in the semi-final against Bay State she willed her team to stay in the game and never stopped competing….. Harvey thinks the game at a high level, she competes at a high level and makes plays at a high level. The best of the rest.”

In these Olympics, look for Harvey to settle things down defensively, rip shots on net, and control the offensive zone from the blue. She will skate it up and showcase her blazing speed but always does so with smarts. She is the full-package and won’t go unnoticed tonight.

#13 Grace Zumwinkle – 1999, F, University of Minnesota

Zumwinkle was the first player ever to achieve a 5-star rating on Neutral Zone and did not moved down in ratings. She played for Breck in the Minnesota High School league where she was named Ms. Hockey at the State Tournament in her senior year. Here’s what scouts said about Zumwinkle while with Breck:

“Grace is a leader, commands the ship and is a huge part of Brecks offense and success. She is an all-around player and natural goal scorer. She is a threat every time she steps on the ice and knows how to put the puck past the goalie. She has a tireless motor, she is incredibly powerful with her strength, shot, speed, and hockey sense, and would make any roster better.”

After Breck, Zumwinkle took her roster spot at the University of Minnesota where she began her career with a 3-game goal streak, and a 6-game point streak. In her senior season at the U, she captained the Gophers and was a top 3 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.

Zumwinkle’s clear leadership and ability to make any team better will allow her to stand out on the US roster tonight.

#18 Jesse Compher – 1999, F, Boston University

Back in 2017, Compher was a standout for her offensive production on her U19 Chicago Mission. She was rated 4.5 stars on Neutral Zone, showing that she had what it takes to play at the International level. That being said, Compher did not take her foot off the gas and has continued improve throughout her college career.  Here’s what scouts said about Compher at Tier 1 USA Hockey Nationals:

“Compher has great size, fast speed, and solid strength. An excellent presence net front. Moves into space well with speed. Wins faceoffs. Has the ability to draw a player in then deke them out and blow past with speed. Overall, a very powerful forward who consistently produces.”

At Boston University Compher put in work both on and off the ice, becoming a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in her Sophomore year. As a senior, Compher captained the Terriers and led the team in both goals and points.

Compher will push the pace of the game tonight. She is a smart and patient player who won’t force it, but fully commits to her decisions. She is likely to impress tonight in the offensive zone with her incredibly fast release and goal scoring touch. Canada needs to keep their game tight defensively to prevent Compher from exposing space and driving it to the net. 

#37 Abbey Murphy – 2002, F, University of Minnesota

Closing out our “from the archives” series is Abbey Murphy, who is one of the flashiest players we have had the privilege to scout. Murphy put on an absolute clinic against any opponent she faced while with Chicago Mission, making every game exciting to watch. Murphy was assigned a 5 star rating in 2018, and was never moved down from the top. At the end of her amateur career Murphy was ranked 1st among all Canada and US players in her class. There are 18 scouting reports on our site from Murphy’s young career, here’s what scouts said:

“Murphy has blazing fast speed and is very dangerous with or without the puck; if she has it alone, she will make her opponent pay. She is very evasive and can carry the puck from end-to-end without being touched. She’s a player who never gives up on the puck, Murphy is a natural talent and a true threat to any team she plays against. She closes in on her opponent with a long reach and overcomes them to steal pucks away, giving them little time and space to work with. She wins 50/50 pucks with ease and slips away from her opponent with excellent puck control. She is a goal scorer with a hard shot that goalies often can’t track… She is the top of the top; an impact player who is destined for certain greatness.”

Murphy now plays for the University of Minnesota but hasn’t yet reached her potential in NCAA play due to the timing of the pandemic. Murphy appeared in all 20 games played last season and racked up 18 points. She was named the WCHA pre-season Rookie of the Year, and to the All-Rookie Team.

Tonight we will look for Murphy’s confidence and flare. She has a highly refined skill set that will lead to offensive production. She is among the youngest at this event, but playing against a familiar opponent should allow Murphy to show us what she’s made of.