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January 25, 2018

The Best Female Player In The World?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: There is no better writer in hockey than Eric Duhatschek.

In fact the only reason I initially signed up to pay annual fees to read The Athletic was so I could read more from the man they call The Hat. He's that good.

This week he has a simply fantastic feature piece on Team Canada's new women's team captain: Marie-Philip Poulin. It's behind that aforementioned pay wall, so I can't share it with you but in the article you can't help but wonder if, in a post-Haley Wickenheiser world, Poulin is the best female player on the planet right now.

You don't have to ask Cassie Campbell-Pascall twice. The legend (why isn't she in the Hockey Hall of Fame?) turned CBC broadcaster has no doubts, calling her the Sidney Crosby of women's hockey.

“That’s the big thing that separated Wick from everybody – her shot,” Campbell-Pascall told Duhatschek. “She could shoot before anyone else could. But Poulin is just so strong. Even though she’s not as tall as Wick was, she’s a pretty thick girl. She’s built like Crosby – thick, but a little shorter. Then there’s just her skill. She really is the Sidney Crosby of women’s hockey. She has a great shot. It’s her skating ability, her edge work, her ability to protect the puck. To me, she’s got the shot of a Wickenheiser; the hockey sense of a Danielle Goyette, and the speed of a Jayna Hefford. She’s a complete package.”

Despite an international resume that includes dramatic goals on par with Paul Henderson, Mario Lemieux, Jayna Hefford and Crosby, Poulin may need an introduction, or at least a refresher. Such is life in women's hockey.

Duhatschek's article is the best way to learn more about her. He looks back at her youth, and how at age 15 she moved to Montreal to chase puck-chasing dreams despite not knowing a word of English. A few short years later she's graduating from Boston University and finally comfortable with her second language.

Along the way she famously scored back-to-back gold medal winning goals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympic games. Her performance in Vancouver should be particularly noted, as she scored the tying and overtime winning goals to win on home ice.

She's been a mainstay on Team Canada since she was 18, winning the 2012 World Championship gold medal and a whole bunch of silvers. Last spring she led  Les Canadiennes de Montreal to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship.

And now, at 26 years old, she has been named captain of a transitioning Team Canada as they look to win yet another Olympic gold medal title.

It's hard to imagine what Poulin can do for an encore. She doesn't need to score more dramatic goals to cement her status. She's a future Hall of Famer, and has at least one more Olympics on her horizon.


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