The CWHL is back in action this weekend after the league’s holiday break. With half of the 2018-19 season in the books and a new year of hockey ahead of us, it’s the perfect time to make some midseason predictions for the CWHL’s Awards.
MVP — Marie-Philip Poulin
At the CWHL’s holiday break, Marie-Philip Poulin shared the CWHL scoring lead with her longtime teammate Ann-Sophie Bettez. Through 15 games this season, Poulin has 26 points. Of course, everyone knows that her value to Les Canadiennes de Montréal goes far beyond her point production. Poulin is a generational talent. After being away from the CWHL for Olympic centralization last year, she’s back and better than ever.
Poulin won the CWHL’s MVP award and the Jayna Hefford Trophy in 2015–16 and 2016–17. So, in many ways, those honors are hers to lose, even though Jamie Lee Rattray — the winner of last year’s Jayna Hefford Trophy — is still in the league and playing with the Thunder. Poulin is currently riding a six-game multipoint streak and has been kept out of the box score just three times this season.
Rookie of the Year — Sarah Nurse
Sarah Nurse and Victoria Bach currently share the rookie point lead, but Nurse has scored her 17 points in two fewer games.
Nurse has eight goals in her last eight games after going four consecutive games without scoring a point. Her six power-play goals lead all CWHL skaters, and she has scored goals in four of the Furies’ seven wins this season. Toronto needed Nurse to be an impact player, and that is exactly what she’s been for them.
Defenseman of the Year — Erin Ambrose
Erin Ambrose’s 21 points in 15 games is well ahead of the rest of the pack. Ambrose is also leading all defenders in game-winning goals and power-play assists this season. She and Emma Woods of the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays are tied for first among defenders in goals with five each.
Ambrose is just two points shy of the 22 points that Cathy Chartrand had last season — her last in the CWHL. Chartrand won the Defenseman of the Year award last year and led all blue liners in plus/minus and power-play points. For Ambrose, both of those accomplishments are well within reach. The only defender with a higher plus/minus at the holiday break is Brigette Lacquette of the Calgary Inferno.
Goaltender of the Year — Emerance Maschmeyer
Look out, Noora Räty, because Emerance Maschmeyer is coming for your throne.
Maschmeyer took a big step in the right direction last season with Montréal, and that has only continued in 2018–19. Through 13 games this season she has earned 10 wins, posted three shutouts, and has a dazzling .938 Sv%. Because of her play this season, Maschmeyer has tied Geneviève Lacasse in all-time CWHL wins and is now third place all-time in CWHL shutouts.
When she hasn’t been absolutely brilliant, Maschmeyer has been both composed and reliable for Les Canadiennes. She has allowed one or zero goals in nine of her 13 appearances this season, and she’s allowed more than three goals just once.
Coach of the Year
Honestly, this one is an absolute toss-up. The CWHL’s two most-successful teams underwent surprise coaching changes before the holiday break, which likely makes Jim Jackson of the 9-6-2 Thunder the leading candidate for Coach of the Year. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s coming off of a Clarkson Cup Championship victory.
Another contender could be Toronto’s Courtney Kessel. In her first year as the Furies head coach, she has led a young roster to a record just shy of .500 at the holiday break. That, in and of itself, is praiseworthy. The Furies haven’t posted a .500 record or better since the 2013–14 season, which just so happens to be the last year that a Toronto coach (Sommer West) won Coach of the Year honors.
Chairman’s Trophy — The Calgary Inferno
The Inferno are currently on top of the CWHL’s standings, so they’re an easy pick for the CWHL’s Chairman’s Trophy — which is awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season. The big test for the Inferno will be the their three-game road trip in China that concludes their 2018–19 season.
With that being said, Calgary has no real weaknesses on paper. They have a stacked blue line, great goaltending, and outstanding forward depth. If anything, the Inferno probably have another gear or two they can hit before the season wraps up.