On Oct. 9, the Boston Pride made the Emily Fluke signing official after the former Connecticut Whale All-Star was spotted in street clothes at the Pride’s season opener last Saturday against the Metropolitan Riveters.
Even for a team with as much talent on its roster as Boston, Fluke’s signing is a big deal. On a Whale team that was starved for production, the Middlebury College alumna and Massachusetts native posted back-to-back 11-point seasons and led the Whale in scoring in her rookie campaign in 2017-18. To date, Fluke has scored 18 of her 22 points at even strength and has averaged 2.22 SOG/GP. That level of production made Fluke an All-Star in each of her past two seasons.
Through her first two seasons in the league Fluke has averaged 0.72 GS/GP (game score per game) – which is level with two-time Isobel Cup champion and Buffalo Beauts captain Corinne Buie. Among forwards who have played at least 30 regular season games in their NWHL career, Fluke’s 0.72 GS/GP ranks inside of the top-20 all-time. It’s also worth noting that her average game score would be significantly better if penalties drawn was included in my most recent formula.
Last season, Fluke drew 12 penalties in 16 games while taking just two minor penalties of her own. That penalty differential was elite in a league filled with members of the United States women’s national team. The fact that Fluke was able to earn that many power plays for the Whale, a team that has routinely been dominated in puck possession, is nothing short of remarkable. It’s also undeniable proof that Fluke is the NWHL’s premier agitator, especially with Maddie Elia no longer in the league.
For the past two seasons, the power play has been a weakness for the Pride, which is surprising considering all the talent on Boston’s roster. Head coach Paul Mara’s team defeated the Riveters 4-2 in their first game of the season despite failing to finish on six power play opportunities, including an extended 5-on-3.
“I feel like historically we’ve had a tough time on the power play, I don’t know if that’s just in my head,” Pride captain Jillian Dempsey told The Ice Garden. “We’ve got to find a way, plain and simple. If you’ve got a strong [penalty] kill and a strong power play, it’s going to be tough to beat you, so we know we need to tighten up that power play … we need to be sharper and find ways to get more pucks to the net.”
Spending more time on the advantage should help the Pride find a way to get it working. The same could be true of having Fluke raising hell and looking for rebounds around the net. If Mara wants to spread the wealth in his lineup, he can play Fluke on the second or third line at even strength, but there is definitely a case to be made for her getting significant ice time on Boston’s power play. She plays much bigger than her 5-foot-5 frame and her modest production in her first two seasons was directly tied to the Whale’s lack of options on special teams.
With all of that being said, it will be interesting to see how Fluke adapts to being a cog in the machine as opposed to the engine that an entire offense is relying on. Both at Middlebury and with the Whale, Fluke was relied on to carry the puck into the zone and serve as the catalyst for the offense. She’s a true play-driving winger. Having her on the second or third line could be a huge luxury for Mara, especially with two rookie centers in the lineup behind Dempsey. Alternatively, Mara could plug her in opposite of McKenna Brand on the top line to see if she can create some space, draw penalties, and do all of the other things that Emily Fluke does so well.
Disclosure: The author of this story is currently employed by the NWHL.