It’s hard to believe that we’re already in August, but we are already through our first two months of NWHL free agency. With July now in the books, we have seen 49 players sign contracts — or just under 40 percent of the available roster spots — with the league’s five teams. The majority of those players are familiar faces to NWHL fans, but 22 of the players who signed in June and July are rookies (by the loosest definition of the term).
Thus far we’ve seen players from five national team programs, five NCAA D-III alumnae, and 10 players with Olympic experience sign NWHL contracts this summer. The school with the most bragging rights is the University of Minnesota, which has six alumnae signed for the 2018-19 season; Boston College is second with four alumnae in the league.
* - first year player ** - signed with different team than last season
Forwards: Emily Field, Dana Trivigno
Defenders: Alyssa Gagliardi, Toni Ann Miano*, Lauren Kelly*
Goaltenders: Katie Burt*
Perhaps the biggest news of the Pride’s offseason to date was Brianna Decker and Kacey Bellamy signing in the CWHL with the Calgary Inferno. Boston will not be able to replace what Decker brought to the team in its first two seasons. She was the NWHL’s MVP in 2016 and 2017 before winning gold with Bellamy and the rest of the U.S. team in Pyeongchang.
The good news is that Boston will likely have a lot more offense on its blue line this year. Toni Ann Miano, originally a Riveters draft selection, is sure to bring some fireworks to the Pride’s offense. But there are still a lot of big question marks surrounding Boston’s roster. Will any of the Pride’s national team players return to the team? Will Hilary Knight? What about Brittany Ott? We’re still waiting.
The Pride have just six players signed as we enter August. It appears that the Pride will look drastically different from the team we were expecting them to be after the Olympic year.
Defenders: Lisa Chesson, Savannah Harmon*, Jacquie Greco, Sarah Edney
Goaltenders: Nicole Hensley*, Julie DiTondo, Shannon Szabados*
After blowing the doors off of free agency in June, the Beauts signed just two players in July. General manager Nik Fattey brought back Canadian defender Sarah Edney to add more depth and experience to a solid looking Beauts’ blue line. He also signed former Beaut Emily Janiga who spent last season playing hockey in China with the Vanke Rays. Janiga won the Isobel Cup with the Beauts in 2017.
Heading into August the Beauts are leading the pack with 16 players signed for the 2018-19 season. We are all waiting to see whether or not Fattey has any surprises left up his sleeves before the season begins. There are still nine roster spots open on Buffalo — that leaves plenty of opportunity for a few more headline-grabbing signings.
Forwards: Emily Fluke, Sarah Hughson*, Randi Griffin*, Michelle Lowenhielm*, Katerina Mrazova*
Defenders: Rachael Ade, Hanna Beattie
Goaltenders: Sam Walther*
The Whale’s June was filled with the sound of crickets, but July was a vastly different story. Connecticut signed eight players in the second month of NWHL free agency, including five rookies. It’s also starting to look like the Whale will be the most internationally diverse team heading into the NWHL’s fourth season thanks to the addition of the first Czech and Swede in league history.
The Whale still have a lot of work to do. There are still a ton of roster spots open, including four spots on the blue line. Connecticut should also be hunting for another goaltender who can challenge or share starts with Sam Walther. If Walther is Connecticut’s starter next season, she would be the first NCAA D-III alumna to have that role in the NWHL. The situation unfolding in Connecticut’s goal crease is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Forwards: Amanda Kessel, Kelly Nash, Rebecca Morse, Audra Richards*, Miye D’Oench, Rebecca Russo, Kristin Lewicki**
Defenders: Jenny Ryan, Courtney Burke, Michelle Picard, Chelsea Ziadie*
Goaltenders: Katie Fitzgerald, Kimberly Sass, Sarah Bryant
The Riveters also signed eight players in July, including several key cogs from last year’s Isobel Cup Championship team. D’Oench, Russo, Ryan, Burke, and Picard are all back to defend the Isobel, and they are joined by a few new faces. In July the Riveters signed rookies Audra Richards (Maine) and Chelsea Ziadie (Harvard) in addition to adding 2018 All-Star Kristin Lewicki.
It’s unclear where Lewicki will fit into the lineup with both Alexa Gruschow and Erika Lawler still unsigned. Wherever she plays, Lewicki will undoubtedly make the Riveters a fast, dangerous team in transition. Please, hockey gods, give us a line of Kessel, Lewicki, and Russo, even if it’s just for one game. Please. Can you imagine it? All the zoomies on one line.
It’s also important to note that the Riveters remain the only NWHL team without a head coach. The fact that we are still waiting for Chad Wiseman’s successor is starting to become downright alarming.
Forwards: Hannah Brandt*, Kate Schipper*, Kendall Coyne Schofield*
Defenders: Lee Stecklein*
Goaltenders: Amanda Leveille**
The Whitecaps may have the fewest players signed for the upcoming season, but they have no shortage of stars. It’s pretty hard to beat Hannah Brandt, Kendall Coyne Schofield, and Lee Stecklein in terms of a core to build around. All three women won gold with Team USA at PyeongChang and are bound to be All-Stars in their first seasons of NWHL hockey.
On July 18 the Whitecaps signed Kate Schipper who should be a familiar face to NWHL fans because of her participation in the 2018 NWHL All-Star Weekend. Schipper, Brandt, and Coyne Schofield are the first three “returning” Whitecaps to sign with the team this summer. We should expect more to follow in the coming weeks.