2018-19 CWHL Preview: Five returning players poised for a breakout year

We take a look at five veteran skaters ready to elevate their game.

The 2018-19 CWHL season will commence this weekend with all six teams in action. There has been significant change in the league since the Markham Thunder hoisted the Clarkson Cup as champions last March. While many are eagerly awaiting the arrival of exciting rookies and international superstars, there are a few returning players poised for breakout performances who deserve some attention.

For the purposes of this list, I will examine players with limited CWHL experience who showed promise in small sample sizes. While the list includes a few household names, there are a couple under-the-radar skaters who could be catalysts for their teams during the upcoming season.

The following list is presented in alphabetical order — not in an ordered rank.

Megan Bozek - Defense, Markham Thunder

Megan Bozek’s rookie season in the CWHL came back in 2014-15 with the Toronto Furies. The American blueliner scored three goals and ten points in 22 regular season games for Toronto that year before jumping over to the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL for the 2015-16 season. Bozek put forth brilliant campaigns in the NWHL across two seasons, totaling 23 points in 32 games and earning an Isobel Cup championship.

Bozek returned to the CWHL last season for the Markham Thunder, for whom she scored four goals and nine points in 10 regular season games. Despite going pointless in the playoffs, she helped shut down the opposition and raised her second championship trophy in two years from two different leagues.

Markham is striving to be the first repeat Clarkson Cup champions since the Montreal Stars accomplished the feat in 2012. Their blueline may very well be the envy of the league, further bolstered with Bozek’s chance to build off of her brilliant return to the CWHL.

Alex Carpenter - Forward, Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays

Alex Carpenter had a well-documented, intriguing year. The American phenom was able to make the most out of her CWHL debut for Kunlun Red Star last season, appearing in 13 regular season games and registering five goals and seven assists in them.

While one could extrapolate that performance into a potential MVP-worthy season given Carpenter’s talent and professional pedigree, she will have to make some adjustments for the upcoming season. Elite teammates Kelli Stack and Zoe Hickel will not return for a second season with the Chinese franchise, leaving Carpenter to lead the group. The pressure is on, but Carpenter has the skill to rise to the occasion.

Melodie Daoust - Forward, Les Canadiennes de Montreal

No one can blame you if you did not know that Mélodie Daoust is technically a returning CWHL player. The reigning Olympic MVP last played in the league in 2010-2011, appearing for a cup of coffee in two games in which she tallied three assists.

In the interim period since that brief rookie season, Daoust has set the hockey world ablaze. She was a standout at McGill University and has represented Canada at major international tournaments, including the 2014 and 2018 Olympic Games. Her return to the CWHL should surely be a continuation of an incredible career.

Les Canadiennes de Montreal are perennial contenders for the Clarkson Cup and feature some of the most recognizable stars in women’s hockey — including Marie-Philip Poulin and Hilary Knight. Adding Daoust as “depth” to the forward corps is a borderline obscene display of offensive firepower.

Shiann Darkangelo - Forward, Toronto Furies

Shiann Darkangelo, owner of perhaps the best name in women’s hockey, put forth a strong rookie season last year for Kunlun Red Star. The defender put up 18 points in 27 games for the Chinese club after having spent the previous two seasons in the NWHL where she totaled 25 points in 29 games played between the Connecticut Whale and Buffalo Beauts.

This offseason, Darkangelo signed with the Toronto Furies. The club is eyeing a return to the top of the standings after they struggled last year and missed the playoffs. Their scoring woes were a key contributor to their downfall — the team finished with only 56 goals in 28 games.

The American forward with a nose for the net and a knack for knocking pucks home could be a difference maker providing much needed additional scoring.

Nicole Kosta - Forward, Markham Thunder

Nicole Kosta burst onto the CWHL scene last season for the Markham Thunder. Her eight points in 12 regular season games were impressive, but it was her playoff performance that will be remembered by Thunder fans for years to come. The Ontario native registered four points in the three playoff games, with none being more important than her primary assist on the Clarkson Cup-winning goal scored by Laura Stacey.

Prior to her rookie year in the CWHL, Kosta scored 17 points in 18 games for the Connecticut Whale of the NWHL. Her return to Canada proved to be a good decision given the new hardware she brought back to her home province. Kosta is primed to build off of her strong rookie season and incredible playoff performance playing alongside star players such as Jamie Lee Rattray and Laura Stacey.

Drop the Puck!

The 2018-19 CWHL season is set to be a thrilling campaign featuring star-studded rosters and developing storylines in the continued growth of the game. While established veterans and promising rookies are likely to dominate the headlines, do not be surprised if the preceding players find their way into conversation over the course of the year. All that is left now is to drop the puck.