Phenom (n): a person of phenomenal ability or promise
It’s extremely difficult to make it as a professional women’s hockey player. It’s even more difficult to be considered a star. Rarer still are the superstars, the legends, the household names who shape the game.
At just 19 years old, it’s maybe too soon to say that Daryl Watts is the biggest name in women’s hockey. But it’s not too early to say that she should be the next big thing. And after just one year at the NCAA level, she has captured the attention of everyone in the women’s hockey sphere.
Watts is still early in her hockey career, but she’s made the most of her short time on the ice.
She’s played in the PWHL for three full seasons, one for the Toronto Aeros (she technically played with them for one game in 2014) and two for the Mississauga Chiefs. During her time in the PWHL, she racked up 165 points in 102 games and was also Mississauga’s captain during her second season with the team.
Watts is also in the Canadian pipeline, having suited up for Canada’s national team twice at the 2017 and 2018 U18 World Championships. She won two silver medals with the squad, falling to the US in both gold-medal matches.
But she is perhaps most well-known for her incredible rookie season at Boston College. Bursting onto the scene, Watts ran away with the NCAA as a freshman, leading all college hockey players in points (82) and goals (40). Watts was named the NCAA Rookie of the Year and became the first freshman in history to win the Patty Kazmaier Award given to the best player in women’s hockey.
Let me repeat that: Watts was named the best women’s hockey player at the collegiate level as a freshman, the ONLY freshman to win it in the award’s 21-year history.
tl;dr - Watts is good. Scary good.
I get goosebumps when I think about what Watts might accomplish in her hockey career.
Winning the Patty Kazmaier award does not automatically destine you for greatness (though it’s a pretty good indicator). Household name Hilary Knight never won the coveted trophy, nor did Marie-Philip Poulin, and both went on to become the faces of their sport.
But Watts has shown that, at the age of 18, she can play against seasoned seniors and be a difference maker on the ice. Though she hasn’t faced off against older pros, she has faced off against older collegiate players, and the NCAA is full of talent.
I would not be shocked to see Watts at the top of this list in the near future, especially if she starts getting more regular playing time with Canada’s national team.
Is This Ranking Too High Or Too Low?
My gut tells me that this ranking is too high.
Despite her historic Patty Kaz win, despite her performance in the Canadian pipeline, the fact remains that Watts has yet to compete against seasoned professionals. Watts has dazzled at the NCAA level, and it’s a level that only gets more competitive every year. But how would Watts fare against a Marie-Philip Poulin? A Hilary Knight? Could she score on Shannon Szabados or Maddie Rooney? We don’t know. And until we do, I’m hesitant to say Watts should rank this high.
But here’s the thing about Daryl Watts- she has a way of silencing the haters. All year, I watched her play and was amazed by her talent, but part of me was waiting for her to crash back down to earth. Was it just a hot streak? A flash in the pan? Could she keep this pace up?
She never wavered, proving to everyone that her talent was here to stay. For that reason, I think she earned her spot in the top three.