For the first time in history, 3-on-3 basketball was played at the Summer Olympics. That got us thinking, what if there was a 3-on-3 hockey tournament or games at the All-Star Weekend. So we ran with it, making small squads for each NWHL team, based on the 2020 rosters.
Picking players from each NWHL team for a 3-on-3 tournament isn’t as simple as picking each team’s “top” three skaters. Truth be told, you could even get into debates about which goalie from each team would be best based on how they perform against rushes and breakaways because 3-on-3 is all about rushes and the transition game.
With that in mind, I focused on skaters who excel at carrying the puck, making plays, and skating. The open ice of fewer players leaves little room for grinders and players who rely primarily on strength, balance, and positioning in the corners and around the net. You need to be quick to retrieve the puck in 3-on-3 and have the ability to beat players with a deke or with hot rod speed.
Having a deep gas tank is also something to keep in mind for building these teams but let’s be real, this is video game stuff. I am pretty sure that if you skate for more than two minutes you just explode. Hockey is crazy.
- Skaters: Jillian Dempsey, McKenna Brand, Kaleigh Fratkin
- Goalie: Lovisa Selander
Okay, I’ll admit, picking this team was an absolute lay-up.
Jillian Dempsey is one of the best all-around players in hockey, Brand can flat-out fly and has great chemistry with Dempsey, and Fratkin is the best puck-moving defender in NWHL history. They are all dangerous in transition, they are all great passers, and they are all fantastic at carrying the puck.
Dempsey’s ability to win puck battles and forecheck makes her an effective penalty killer and those skills will suit her well in this situation. She may not have the wheels she had when she first entered the NWHL but with experience comes wisdom and that means knowing where to be and how to conserve your energy.
Brand is one of the best players in North America at creating her own quality chances and ripping pucks into the net. People don’t seem to talk about her speed nearly as much as they should. She has the ability to beat players one-on-one and can absolutely thread passes to her linemates. Did you know that she’s tied for fourth in NWHL goals all-time (28) or that she’s 13th all-time in average game score (1.55 GS/GP)? Brand is a beast.
At times, Fratkin plays 5-on-5 hockey like it’s 3-on-3 hockey. She loves to jump up into the rush and use her playmaking ability to turn the tide and fuel the Pride’s counter-attack. She has a bomb of a shot, she’s a great skater, and is one of the best puck carriers in the league. Fratty is a no-brainer.
Between the pipes, you have to go with Lovisa Selander even though Victoria Hanson is also a great option. Selander has ice in her veins. She’s so collected and focused and never seems to be bothered by anything. She’s unflappable. I can’t think of a goalie who’d be better for the quick chaos of 3-on-3 other than perhaps Amanda Leveille.
- Skaters: Kayla Friesen, Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Tori Howran
- Goalie: Abbie Ives
Friesen is an up-and-coming young forward with great skill who really shined in Lake Placid and Wohlfeiler is a shrewd veteran who excels at creating scoring chances for others. In Lake Placid, Friesen led all Whale skaters with 5.8 entries via stickhandling per-game at even strength — Wohlfeiler was second with 4.0. I also like the way Wohlfeiler plays off the puck. She’s great at lifting sticks and picking pockets and just knows where to be. She’s played a ton of pro hockey and it shows.
Another great option for the Whale would be Janine Weber, who does a little bit of everything and is a great puck carrier. It’s a coin flip between Weber and Wohlfeiler to me, but the Austrian forward is coming off of an injury from the last time we saw her play so I’ll give Wohlfy the nod for now.
On defense, Howran is already counted among the best in the NWHL. She led the Whale in Lake Placid with a 71 CF% and has a lot of promising underlying numbers, albeit from a sample size of three games. Still, three points in her first three games counts for a lot and she is, by far, the most offensively gifted of Connecticut’s blueliners. She has to be on the ice.
Ives and Wolejko would both be great picks here but Ives has re-signed. She has a .936 Sv% in her last three regular season starts and had a .926 Sv% in nearly 6,000 minutes of hockey at Quinnipiac. Pretty, pretty good.
- Skaters: Kendall Cornine, Kate Leary, Rebecca Morse
- Goalie: Sonjia Shelly
As big of a fan of Madison Packer as I am, I’m not convinced she’d be the best pick for a 3-on-3 hockey squad. With that said, Packer has skills you just can’t teach but I worry about her foot speed here. If we are in video game world and she has an unlimited gas tank, she’d be a lock. But, because we’re not, I’m going in a different direction.
Cornine, a natural center, doesn’t necessarily stand out for her play off the puck but, for 3-on-3 action, I like her speed and playmaking ability. In Lake Placid, she led the Riveters with 2.3 zone exits via stickhandling, which indicates her ability as a puck-carrier. I like the sound of Cornine’s 25 points in 27 career games, especially because 13 of them have been primary points recorded at evens. I also like the sound of a career average of 4.48 SOG/GP.
Yep, Kenny Scorenine makes the cut. But who plays with her?
Kate Leary just needs a little bit of space to make something magic happen. She has quick hands and makes quick decisions with the puck, which has led to her having 25 primary points in 25 career NWHL games. Playing 3-on-3 hockey, she should have plenty of space to work with and she’s the kind of player you want making decisions when you’re cycling the puck, hunting for a passing lane for a quick one-timer. Pair her with Corine and you’ve got yourself a playmaker and a finisher. Printing money.
Having recently seen Rebecca Morse play in some scrimmages and drills at free agent camps where she could more freely jump into the rush I feel confident picking her as the defender here. Some might prefer Leila Kilduff, who recently re-signed with the Rivs, but what Morse lacks in foot speed she makes up for in her strength on the puck. Having covered her for her entire NWHL career, I’ve seen Morse really develop into a special two-way defender. She doesn’t get nearly as much credit as she deserves.
Data courtesy of InStat, USCHO.com, and TheirHockeyCounts.com.
Disclosure: the author of this piece owns and operates Their Hockey Counts.