The upcoming NWHL season has the potential to bring a lot of new faces. With more money to go around, more roster spots open as some players return to their national team duties ahead of the Olympics, and leagues preparing to play full seasons again, there’s likely to be a swell of interest in the NWHL from free agents. Outside of this year’s draft class and NWHL players returning from previous seasons, here’s a look at some of the best professional women’s hockey players in North America and where they might fit in if they signed in the NWHL.
- Cristine Chao
Who she is: The 24-year-old Toronto defender finished an all-star career with the University of Toronto in the spring of 2020 before joining the Professional Women’s Hockey Player’s Association as an independent player outside of any of the organization’s practice hubs. Chao led all defenders at the University of Toronto in points her senior year and finished with 69 points in 119 games in the University Sports system. Ontario University Athletics named Chao the defender of the year in her final season.
Where she might end up: The Toronto Six operated with five defenders for all of season six and had little in the way of defensive depth. With the possible departure of Kristen Barbara and few NCAA players available in the draft, someone like Chao going to get some buzz. Chao’s offensive-minded play and strong skill set as a puck-moving defender make her a good fit for her hometown team. The Connecticut Whale is another team that could throw their hat in the ring to help ease Tori Howran’s workload and help bring more blue line offense.
- Katelyn Rae
Who she is: Rae established herself as a fantastic two-way forward at Merrimack University, where she recorded 113 points (71 goals – 42 assists) in 140 games. In her senior year, Rae led the team in points with 40 and led all forwards in blocked shots with 31. Deployment on special teams was an area Rae excelled at, with 20 power-play goals and 8 short-handed goals, per USCHO. Rae didn’t play professionally the last season but was part of the PWHPA’s Greater Toronto Area hub in 2019-2020, including playing in a Toronto showcase.
Where she might end up: Merrimack alumni that played with Rae are scattered throughout the NWHL, between Dominique Kremer (Buffalo), Paige Voight (Metropolitan), and Mikyla Grant-Mentis (Toronto.) However, Buffalo’s proximity to Ontario and their severe need to add scoring depth means the Beauts are likely to be the most interested.
- Logan Land
Who she is: Land is a shut-down defender who graduated from Rochester Institute of Technology a year ago, recording 37 points in 135 games. During her college career, she had just over 280 blocked shots, including one season where she blocked 103 shots in just 35 games. Land spent time on the power play and penalty kill during her career at RIT and had 3 power-play goals in her senior year.
Where she might end up: Logan Land was selected in last year’s NWHL draft by the Buffalo Beauts, a draft in which teams tried to select players they thought they had a good chance of signing. Land ultimately did not sign with the Buffalo Beauts and instead went to the independent faction of the PWHPA. However, with the knowledge that the Beauts were likely in contact last offseason alongside the increased salary cap and a more traditional season coming up, the Beauts could have another chance to add Land. The Connecticut Whale are another team who could be interested, playing a style that focuses on blocking shots and possibly needing to replace Shannon Doyle.
- Josiane Pozzebon
Who she is: Hailing from Ottawa, Pozzebon is a defender with experience at the international level as well as with the Clarkson University Raiders. The two-time NCAA Champion recorded 69 points in 161 games and was one of Clarkson’s power-play quarterbacks with 8 goals on the player advantage. Pozzebon was never afraid to get physical, and her high-intensity play earned her looks on the Team Canada development roster as well as on the U18 team, where she earned a silver medal back in 2015. During the last two seasons, Pozzebon has played with the PWHPA, first with the Toronto hub and then independently. She has not suited up for a tournament this season.
Where she might end up: With news that the Boston Pride might be losing fellow Clarkson alumni Taylor Turnquist, Pozzebon could be a fit for the Pride to fill that role. Pozzebon’s offense-minded defense and physical play is not unlike Pride star Kaleigh Fratkin and she’d fit perfectly in Paul Mara’s system. The Toronto Six is another choice for Pozzebon if she wants to stay close to her home country and town.
- Terra Lanteigne
Who she is: Another RIT alumni, Lanteigne is a goaltender currently listed as an independent player for the PWHPA. Lanteigne holds the record for most saves in RIT’s program with 2,392. In a particularly fantastic junior year, Lanteigne set the single-season record for most saves with 1,175 in 35 games and had a .944 save percentage to lead all division one goaltenders. She’d finish her college career with a .929 save percentage and 2.59 goals-against average despite a shaky RIT team in front of her that went 27-57-12 during her career.
Where she might end up: The Metropolitan Riveters have signed a lot of players out of RIT in the past, and while goaltending was a strength for them in their limited games this year, Lanteigne’s talent is hard to pass up. Besides, they already have a goaltender named Tera, and a Terra/Tera goaltending duo could be wonderfully confusing. The Buffalo Beauts are another team who should be interested. While Carly Jackson put up a phenomenal performance in season six, strengthening the team’s tandem should be a priority with a 20+ game season on the horizon.
Photo Credit: Katelyn Rae’s Twitter