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The PHF’s new stars are shining bright

Newcomers and familiar faces in new places stole the show in November

Michelle Jay

The first month of the 2022-23 PHF season is in the books and, in many ways, it belonged to the league’s new stars. Our first Player of the Month is a newcomer, Corinne Schroeder, and the three stars of the week from the first three weeks have been new faces to the league.

  • NOV 22 Player of the Month: Corinne Schroeder (BOS)
  • Nov. 26-27: Jade Downie-Landry (MON), Ann-Sophie Bettez (MON), Fanni Gasparics (MET)
  • Nov. 18-20: Sarah Bujold (MET), Corinne Schroeder (BOS), Leah Lum (TOR)
  • Nov. 5-6: Corinne Schroeder (BOS), Brittany Howard (TOR), Élizabeth Giguère (BOS)

As of today’s date — this may change when some box score discrepancies are resolved — the league’s top four scorers are in their first year in the PHF. Brittany Howard is leading the league in goals with 7 in 6 GP, Sarah Bujold is leading the Riveters with 8 points (5 goals, 3 assists) in 5 GP, and Jade Downie-Landry is averaging 2.0 Pts/GP after the Montreal Force’s first two weekend series. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Six of the 11 players who have 5 points or more after the first three weekends of PHF hockey are new to the league. New goaltenders have 15 of the 28 possible starts — 6 of those starts belong to Schroeder who set the league on fire with three consecutive shutouts to start her pro career. Through 319:42 of hockey, she has a .953 Sv% against an average workload of 36.22 SA60. It seems like new faces have made an immediate impact on every team with the possible expection of the Connecticut Whale who have still only played one game.

The thing is, the stars so many PHF fans know and love still looked very much like themselves — Jillian Dempsey has 5 points in 6 GP, Madison Packer has 3 goals, and Jonna Albers has points on half of the Minnesota Whitecaps’ 8 goals. We’re also seeing longtime PHFers like Kelly Babstock and Kaleigh Fratkin pile up points in the earlygoings. But it’s the newcomers and the familiar faces in new places like Kati Tabin and Tereza Vanišová in Toronto who have had the most eye-catching starts.

Much of this was to be expected with the influx of European stars, North Americans who were playing in Europe, and players who were in the PWHPA last season signing for 2022-23. There’s also the Montreal Force, which has a roster of 20 newcomers and former Buffalo Beaut Brooke Stacey. In other words, there are a lot of new faces in the league. If ever there was a year to finally have the distinction between Rookie of the Year and Newcomer of the Year when we get to awards season, this is it.

However, the story here isn’t that new players are taking over the league. The true story is there’s more talent than ever before in the PHF — yes, that includes the first two seasons. The women’s game has only advanced since 2016-17 and three more teams have joined the league since then. That’s more talent, more stars, and more potential than ever before and the product on the ice isn’t watered down. If anything, we still don’t have enough teams to feature the best the women’s game has to offer even with 100 players playing on the four teams in the PWHPA.

Turnover is nothing new to the PHF but there’s something about this year that feels different and it’s not just the expansion into Montreal. There’s something about pro women’s hockey this year that feels different. Every team has new stars and greater potential than it did a year ago. Every fanbase has something to be buzzing about right now. It’s a fun time to be invested in pro women’s hockey.