Last season, Amanda Boulier established herself as one of the NWHL’s elite puck-moving defenders in her first year with the Minnesota Whitecaps. Boulier, who might be one of the most gifted skaters in the game, shared the scoring lead among defenders last season with 2019 NWHL Defender of the Year Blake Bolden. More importantly, she was named an All-Star and played a key role in the Whitecaps’ Isobel Cup Championship victory.
In 2017-18, Boulier broke into the league with the Connecticut Whale. A natural defender, she played both on the blue line and as a center for the Whale after completing an impressive career at St. Lawrence University. The Whale were routinely dominated in possession, but Boulier managed to pile up eight points – seven of which were primary – in 12 games. When she was out of the lineup, Connecticut simply had no way to replace what she brought to the team both at even strength and on the power play.
It’s safe to say that Boulier was one of the most underrated players in the league that year. On a team that was starved for offense, she added vision, speed, and the ability to quarterback a power play.
When Boulier moved to the Whitecaps last year she landed on Minnesota’s top defensive pair with Team USA star Lee Stecklein. The 6-foot tall Stecklein and the 5-foot-1 Boulier may have looked like the odd couple at first glance, but they certainly didn’t play that way.
The Whitecaps’ top pair was almost certainly the best in the league last year. Together, Boulier and Stecklein served as the bellows that fed the puck up the ice to the Whitecaps’ blazing fast group of forwards. The duo combined for 13 primary points – 12 of which came at even strength – thanks in large part to Boulier’s scoring touch and knack for getting pucks on net through traffic.
Minnesota had no shortage of weapons last year, with Kendall Coyne Schofield, Hannah Brandt, and Jonna Curtis in the lineup. So, it was somewhat surprising when Boulier emerged as one of the team’s most dangerous players. She scored a league-leading five goals from the blue line last year and finished second in the league among defenders with 2.50 SOG/GP. The eight primary points she piled up at even strength are an even greater indication of Boulier’s impact on Minnesota’s offense; no other defender in the league last year had more than five.
Boulier began the 2019-20 campaign with an exclamation point.
She picked up five assists – three of which were primary – in the Whitecap’s home opener against the Metropolitan Riveters on Sat., Oct. 12. The very next day, she buried a shot from the right point, where she has scored the majority of her NWHL goals. Unsurprisingly, she’s leading all defenders in scoring through the first two weeks of the NWHL season.
It goes without saying that it’s still early, but Boulier was a favorite to take home Defender of the Year long before her five-assist game. For better or worse, defenders in the NWHL are often measured by their counting stats. Through 29 career games as a professional, Boulier now has 27 points. Unless something wildly unexpected happens, she’s going to be the player that every other defender in the league is trying to catch in the scoring race.
All data courtesy of NWHL.zone and the author’s own tracking.
Disclosure: The author of this story is currently employed by the NWHL.