[Originally written March 2017, when the Premier Hockey Federation, PHF, was called the National Women’s Hockey League, NWHL]
With the NWHL having only just completed its second season, “rookie” is a loose term to use. Many of these players have plenty of hockey experience under their belt, having competed at world championships and seen ice time in the CWHL. Having said that, it is still their first season in the NWHL, so it seems only fitting that there be an award for Best Rookie of the Year.
Hayley Skarupa, 11G, 11A, 22Pts in 16 Games.
Drafted 6th overall back in the 2015 draft and aged just 23, Skarupa is more of a traditional rookie but that hasn’t stopped her producing the numbers. She has slotted perfectly into the high scoring offensive minded team of the Connecticut Whale. With three of the Whale players reaching ten goals in the season, and Skarupa being one of them she showed that she has the skill to make it in this league. In the Whale’s 8-4 loss to Boston on the 27th January, she registered a hat-trick which included a power play goal, a shorthanded goal and an even strength goal. A hat-trick which I have since dubbed, ‘The Skarupa hatty’.
Katie Fitzgerald, 15GP, 0.901% Save Percentage, 2 Shut Outs.
Having already won the league’s best goal tender award, it might surprise you that she is also a rookie. It may surprise you even more that she started the season as the third goalie for the Rivs. However, she got a shot due to injuries and she took full advantage of it. On the 20th November 2016 she registered the franchise’s first shutout as they defeated the Whale 4-0. Fitzgerald would then go on to finish third in the league save percentage and be one of just three goalies to register a shutout.
Alex Carpenter, 9G, 20A, 29Pts in 17 Games.
Another member of the 2015 draft class, Carpenter was drafted first overall by the New York Riveters, but was traded to Boston and made her league debut on the 7th October. Since then she has been lighting it up, leading the league in points for the majority of the season (only pipped at the last minute by a red hot Brianna Decker). The only thing she fell short on was reaching the 10 goal marker for the season, but if that’s all the criticism I can find, she’s done just fine for her first season. Now she has a year under her belt, it’s going to exciting to see what she can do in the coming years.
Amanda Kessel, 4G, 14A, 18Pts in 8 Games.
With a silver medal from the Sochi Olympics Games amongst other medals and awards, Kessel is one experienced rookie. Having only played in eight games this season – missing the rest due to injury – it has left many fans wondering ‘what if’. Despite missing so much ice time she still put up incredible numbers, finishing the league third in assists in half as many games as most. Kessel is also the only NWHL player to have registered at least one point in each of the games she’s played in. On top of that, she led her All-Star team to victory, picking up a hat-trick and the All-Star MVP award along the way.
So there we have it, the four finalists for ‘Rookie of the Year’, awarded by Over the Blue Line. I am happy to announce that the winner for the 2016/17 season is….
She put up ridiculously high numbers for her first season, and produced consistently all throughout. She certainly was crucial in helping Boston to go 16-1-0 on the season.
If Amanda Kessel had been healthy for the majority of the season, I think she would have given Carpenter a run for her money. Next year is going to be an even more interesting rookie race, as many of the league’s veterans will be off to the Olympics. This will leave plenty of roster spots for new talents to have a shot at proving themselves in the pro league.