Players to Watch
by Erin Brown|06 JUN 2022
At 16, Sanni Vanhanen is already a veteran of Finland's senior women's team, earning bronze at the 2022 Olympics.
photo: Photo By: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
After a one-year hiatus, teams enter the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championship with many questions about their opponents. Most teams have only returned one or two players, while others are working with all new rosters.

"People don't know what we have. We don't know what (other teams) have," United States Head Coach Katie Lachapelle said. "It's going to be neat to get back out. You kind of forget over the past two years. You haven't seen anybody play." takes a look at a player from each squad worth keeping an eye on as round-robin play gets under way Monday afternoon:

Laila Edwards, United States (F, No. 10)
The Wisconsin commit will make her Madison debut at this tournament, while also serving as an assistant captain for the Americans. At 188-cm, 84-kg, Edwards' size makes her hard to miss, but her size can sometimes mask her hard work. She's a smart playmaker who makes the players around her better. "She just makes the right play," one scout said.

Michaela Hesova, Czechia (GK, No. 29)
Hesova takes advantage of her smaller size, displaying agility and mobility in the crease. A teammate of Edwards' at Bishop Kearney not only has quick reflexes, but can handle the puck as well. The 16-year-old is a respected leader inside the Czechia locker room, having played with the group since 2019. "She always cheers everyone up," one scout said. "She's always positive no matter what is going on."

Alex Law, Canada (F, No. 16)
When the Canadians convened last summer for the initial camp to scout players for this event, the forward did not draw much attention. But as she blossomed with the Durham West Jr. Lightning, ultimately recording 34 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 25 games, Team Canada elevated the "highly intelligent" and dynamic playmaker and scorer to its squad. "She's getting stronger and stronger every game," said one scout.

Annabell Manns, Germany (D, No. 6)
At 160-cm and 48-kg, Manns is not necessarily big, but should not be overlooked on the German blueline. The 15-year-old is a clever defender who excels at "reading the game" and "making good decisions," according to one scout. She is quick to regain puck possession for her team and strong in her own end.

Alina Marti, Switzerland (F, No. 4)
A member of Switzerland's 2021 senior women's and 2022 Olympic squad, Marti is a two-way center. She is described as being very technically sound, sees the game well and boasts a good shot. She experienced a breakout season with ZSC Lions Frauen of the SWHL, her fourth with the club, recording 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 23 games.

Jenna Raunio, Sweden (No. 8)
The 15-year-old had a breakout season with HV71 of Sweden's SDHL, registering six goals and eight assists in 34 games. The campaign earned her a long-term deal which will allow her to continue to develop with the club until 2025. Though she's listed as a defender for Team Sweden at this event, Raunio also has the ability to fill in at forward in a pinch.

Ema Tothova, Slovakia (F, No. 16)
The second-youngest player participating in the tournament has been lauded for her hockey smarts and good sense with the puck. She split time among several Slovakian teams, but notably appeared in 14 games with SKP Bratislava of the EHWL, recording a goal and four assists. One scout suggested Tothova could "be a big surprise here."

Sanni Vanhanen, Finland (F, No. 23)
Already a veteran senior national team, the 16-year old has appeared at the 2021 IIHF Women's World Championships and 2022 Olympics, where she earned bronze. She plied her game with Tappara's U16 men's club, recording five goals and four assists in 28 games. She's not necessarily a flashy player, but her hockey smarts and understanding of the game elevates her teammates. She is an adept puckhandler who stands out for her attention to detail.