The fun thing about women’s hockey is that free agency never really ends.
Official NWHL team practices have started for the 2021 season and over 100 players have signed, but that doesn’t mean general managers are done. While some players have chosen to play with the Professional Women’s Hockey Player Association or have scattered across European leagues, a lot of talent remains unsigned. Let’s highlight a few.
First, what does an NWHL roster entail?
In an NWHL game, teams dress 17 players: 6 defenders, 9 forwards, and 2 goaltenders. However, a team can sign up to 25 players in case of lineup changes because of injury, conflicting schedules, or simply wanting to shake things up.
What does each NWHL team need to add, and who should they add?
(11) Forwards: Mary Parker, Tori Sullivan, Jillian Dempsey, Lexie Laing, McKenna Brand, Taylor Wenczkowski, Sammy Davis, Christina Putigna, Carlee Turner, Meghara McManus, Tereza Vanisova
(7) Defense: Mallory Souliotis, Briana Mastel, Paige Capistran, Kaleigh Fratkin, Jenna Rheault, Lauren Kelly, Taylor Turnquist
(2) Goaltenders: Lovisa Selander, Victoria Hansen
Possible Addition: Avery Fransoo
Playing last season as Providence College’s captain, Fransoo is a stay at home defender who was voted the team’s “unsung hero” in her first two seasons. She led her team in blocks her junior year with 55, on top of leading defenders on Providence in points. During her senior year, she posted 18 points, 11 of them being even-strength points. The Boston Pride is also home to Fransoo’s former teammate, Christina Putigna, making Avery Fransoo both a well-rounded player and a familiar face.
Other possibilities: Beth Larcom (G)
(10) Forwards: Emma Ruggiero, Iveta Klimasova, Autumn MacDougall, Neva Van Pelt, Cassidy MacPherson, Kayla Meneghin, Kristin Lewicki, Hunter Accursi, Taylor Accursi, Erin Gehen
(8) Defense: Megan Delay, Marie-Jo Pelletier, Lenka Curmova, Dominique Kremer, Lisa Chesson, Kelly O’Sullivan, Alyson Matteau, Whitney Dove
(3) Goaltenders: Carly Jackson, Caty Flagg, Kelsey Neumann
Possible Addition: Emily Fluke
Most NWHL fans will agree with this statement: if you can sign Emily Fluke, you should sign Emily Fluke.
Fluke spent her first two seasons in the NWHL with the Connecticut Whale before switching to the Boston Pride last year. Dan Rice of The Hockey Writers reported that she won’t be back with the Pride but is looking to sign elsewhere, and with the Whale already having 12 forwards, the Beauts are Fluke’s best bet south of the border.
Last season, Fluke came in second among forwards who played ten or more games in five on five goals for percentage with 87.50%, and was on the ice for only 4 goals against in 23 games. She had her best offensive season yet with 29 points in 24 games, including 2 points in the single playoff game the Pride played before the league shut down.
Part of Fluke’s success last season comes from being on a dominant team, but before the Pride, she put up 23 points in 34 games in two seasons with a Whale team that only won 5 games in that period. Fluke captained the team in her sophomore year, where she played alongside new Beauts’ player Kayla Meneghin. She has clear leadership skills that could be valuable to a small group of Beauts veterans leading a large group of rookies.
Other possibilities; Jordan Juron (F), Kim Brown (F), Kandice Sheriff (F)
(12) Forwards: Kaycie Anderson, Amanda Conway, Kayla Friesen, Nicole Guagliardo, Grace Klienbach, Maddie Bishop, Katelynn Russ, Melissa Samoskevich, Sarah Schwenzfeier, Emma Vlasic, Janine Weber, Alyssa Wohlfeiler
(8) Defense: Elena Orlando, Taylor Marchin, Hanna Beattie, Maggie Lague, Victoria Howran, Lauren Hill, Shannon Doyle, Jordan Brickner
(2) Goaltenders: Abbie Ives, Brooke Wolejko
Possible Addition: Mariah Fujimagari
Okay, this is kind of a cop-out answer. Mariah Fujimagari is already practicing with the Whale, and will probably be offered a contract if an injury occurs to a Whale goaltender. However, there aren’t any other places the Whale can really add, so let’s look at why the possibility is good.
The starter for last season’s Buffalo Beauts team and the Worcester Blades’ starter the season before that, Mariah Fujimagari has seen it all. The Worcester Blades did not win a single game the season she played for them and while Fujimagari’s next season with the Beauts started better, the team fell to fourth place and an early playoff exit due to struggles on defense.
What stands out about Fujimagari is how confident she stands regardless of her team’s situation or place in the standings. One weekend with the winless Blades team included Fujimagari facing 73 in two games, allowing only 4 goals for a .945 save percentage.
With two very young, very talented goaltenders on their team, a veteran goaltending presence like Fujimagari could help guide Wolejko and Ives.
(13) Forwards: Theresa Knutson, Emily Janiga, Paige Voight, Kendall Cornine, Cailey Hutchison, Madison Packer, Brooke Avery, Tatiana Shatalova, Kelly Babstock, Rebecca Russo, Jayne Lewis*, Mallory Rushton*, Kate Leary
(7) Defense: Kiira Dosdall-Arena, Saroya Tinker, Sammy Kolowrat, Rebecca Morse, Bridgette Prentiss, Leila Kilduff, Sam Fiesler
(2) Goaltenders: Sonjia Shelly, Tera Hofmann
*Lewis and Rushton are technically both forwards and defense and can play defense in case of injury.
Possible Addition: Helen Cooney
A local goaltender from just outside of Philadelphia, Cooney finished her college career with a cumulative .932 save percentage in 71 games, despite a 26-35-5 record. Cooney was Neumann University’s starter for the past two seasons and provides an option for a third goaltender who is close enough to practice with the Riveters and has solid experience both as a backup and a starter. With an already competitive Riveters team, a player like Cooney ensures that the team will stay in top shape if Hofmann or Shelly experience an injury.
Other possibilities: Alyssa Peterson (G), Gina Moriello (G)
(13) Forwards: Allie Thunstrom, Jonna Curtis, Corinne Buie, Audra Richards, Meaghan Pezon, Meghan Lorence, Haley Mack, Stephanie Anderson, Lauren Barnes, Nina Rodgers, Halea Schmid, Lynn Astrup*, Brooke White-Lancette
(8) Defense: Amanda Boulier, Winny Brodt Brown, Maddie Rowe*, Sara Bustad*, Lisa Martinson, Rose Alleva, Chelsey Brodt-Rosenthal, Emma Stauber
(2) Goaltenders: Amanda Leveille, Allie Morse
*Rowe, Astrup, and Bustad can play forward and defense, but are sorted into where they’re expected to play primarily.
Possible Addition: Mekenzie Steffen
Despite having a lot of great defenders, the Whitecaps have yet to find a replacement for Sydney Baldwin to help out offensively on the back end with Boulier. Steffen’s 85 points in 153 NCAA games on defense puts her as a favorite for the role.
Last year’s Badgers’ captain’s resume includes an NCAA Championship, a World Juniors Championship, and ranking fifth for most points by a Wisconsin Badgers defender. Of her 20 career goals, 7 of them came on the power play, including 3 in her senior year, a number that would certainly ease the pain of Baldwin and her 4 power play points not returning.
Other possibilities: Hailey Herdine (F), Courtney Ganske (D)
(10) Forwards: Shiann Darkangelo, Sarah-Eve Coutu-Godbout, Brooke Boquist, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Jenna McParland, Amy Curlew, Natalie Marcuzzi, Breanne Wilson-Bennett, MacKenzie MacNeil, Emma Woods
(5) Defense: Taylor Woods, Kristen Barbara, Emma Greco, Lindsay Eastwood, Sarah Steele
(2) Goaltenders: Elaine Chuli, Samantha Ridgewell
Taylor Woods may be playing as a forward once the season starts and just on defense for practices, but regardless, Toronto is the only team that doesn’t have a game-day lineup and desperately needs defense. So, who could step in?
Possible Additions: Jenna Gray
Graduating after the 2018-2019 season at York University and immediately jumping behind the bench as an assistant coach, Jenna Gray is not only a great defender, but a great leader. In her final year playing in Canada’s USports, Gray earned a spot on the Ontario University Athletics First-Team All Star after her 14 point season tied her for third-most among defenders in the conference. She captained the first-ever York University team to play in a USport’s National Tournament in program history.
By the end of her college career, Gray would have 39 points in 120 games, receive two awards (Lions Legacy Award and USports Marion Hilliard Award) for her contributions on and off the ice, as well as leading York Women’s ice hockey program to a historical season.
Other possibilities: Kat Hughes (F), Tristyn Svetek (D), Cayle Dillon (D), Abby Benning (D), Ève-Audrey Picard (F)
For more NWHL thoughts and opinions from Kacey, check out their author page.
Image Source: Associated Press Images