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Ryan Cooper | | October 4, 2016

Top returning women's hockey players

  Dani Cameranesi (21) should continue to put up some huge numbers as a senior for Minnesota.

The first few games have already trickled in for the 2016-17 women’s hockey season.

The previous season ended with Minnesota grabbing its seventh national championship, but now it faces a challenge following the graduation of star forward Hannah Brandt. Another superstar, Northeastern’s Kendall Coyne, has also moved on, leaving some voids atop the offensive leaderboards.

Still, there is some outstanding talent returning for their teams, giving plenty to watch out for this season. Here’s the ultimate lineup of talent from around the country.

RELATED: Top returning men's hockey players for 2016-17

F: Dani Cameranesi | Minnesota

2015-16: 40 games, 33 goals, 35 assists, 68 points

Cameranesi, the leader last year among returning players in goals and points, has a lot of pressure on her as the unquestioned leading weapon of the defending champions. Not having Brandt to take some of the pressure off could make things more difficult, but it could also allow her to put up some enormous numbers.

The Plymouth, Minnesota, product has put up back-to-back 65-plus point seasons, landing on the All-American second team each time. There isn’t much the senior hasn’t accomplished so far in college, so it will be fun to see what she has in store for her final rodeo.

F: Taylar Cianfarano | Quinnipiac

2015-16: 37 games, 28 goals, 24 assists, 52 points

The Bobcat shot onto the scene in her sophomore year, earning Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. Her consistency was remarkable, scoring a point in 27 of the 37 games, and she had a pair of hat tricks. The second one, against Union on Feb. 19, was a four-goal performance.

The sky is truly the limit for Cianfarano, who approached several single-season Quinnipiac records last year and should start finding herself more in the career record area as her college career continues.

F: Annie Pankowski | Wisconsin

2015-16: 40 games, 22 goals, 36 assists, 58 points

Pankowski has been a revelation for the Badgers, leading the team in points for each of her first two seasons. She did not light the lamp herself in either of Wisconsin’s opening-weekend games at St. Cloud State on Sept. 23 and 24, but she did have two assists in the second game, a 4-2 victory.

Wisconsin is never a team with any shortage of talent, but Pankowski has a way of making the players sharing the ice with her much better, while also putting up flashy numbers herself. She should have a bright future on the national circuit, but first the Badgers are enjoying her final two years in Madison.

D: Megan Keller | Boston College

2015-16: 41 games, 12 goals, 40 assists, 52 points

Boston College’s roster took a major hit this year with the graduations of star forwards Alex Carpenter and Haley Skarupa. But with one-third of its three-headed monster still on campus, the Eagles should continue to be one of the top dogs.

Keller averaged nearly an assist per game last season while providing stellar defense and a great presence on the power play. Four of her 12 goals last year came on the power play, and she crushed the program record for points by a defenseman, which was previously 42.

D: Kelsey Koelzer | Princeton

2015-16: 33 games, 17 goals, 16 assists, 33 points

Koelzer was simply an offensive machine last season, putting up an incredible 17 goals as a defenseman, eight of which were game-winners. She did it on defense as well, leading the Tigers with 61 blocked shots. Numbers like that are why she was made the first overall pick by the New York Riveters in the 2016 National Women’s Hockey League draft.


G: Ann-Renée Desbiens | Wisconsin

2015-16: 32-4-1, 0.76 goals-against average, .960 save percentage

What else can possibly be said about Desbiens? She had a historic 2015-16 season, possibly cementing herself as the greatest NCAA women’s hockey goalie ever. What could possibly be in store for her final season?

The Quebec native broke the NCAA men’s or women’s record with 21 shutouts and posted nearly 544 consecutive minutes of shutout hockey, also a college record. She also set records in save percentage and goals-against average.

Desbiens posted yet another shutout in the season opener at St. Cloud State, but the Huskies managed to get two shots past her in the second game. We will see if that was just a blip on the radar and she is able to challenge her own spot in the record books.

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