25 (tie) | Sarah Potomak | Forward | Team Scotiabank (PWHPA)
This year, Sarah Potomak was a significant contributor to team Scotiabank’s offensive success in her second PWHPA season. She played in just three showcases this year, two with Scotiabank and one with Adidas from Minnesota as a loaned player. She regularly made herself a scoring threat in-tight as she crashed the net. The highlight of her season was an overtime winner against Minnesota, which sent her team to the Toronto showcase final.
Potomak is an assistant coach with the U Sports Canada West Division’s newest team, the Trinity Western Spartans. She trains full-time with the university team in addition to joining her PWHPA counterparts in Calgary.
Though her professional appearances were limited this year, Potomak continues to prove why she’s one of the top young players in the world.
- 2014 U18 Gold
- 2015 U18 MVP
- 2015 U18 Silver
- 2016 NCAA Champion
- 2017 Patty Kazimierz
- 2017 World Championship Silver
What comes next
Potomak will continue to be a valuable teammate wherever she plays. In addition to her elite skill, Potomak also has high-level coaching experience and will soon have multiple university degrees under her belt. The hockey community will be blessed to continue to be able to watch her dazzle on the ice; however, I don’t doubt she has a variety of paths she could choose to take moving forward. Whichever she decides to take, she will continue to be an inspired and impactful member of her community.
Too high or too low
It is challenging to evaluate players who see so little ice time in a season- something that exists with the current state of the PWHPA. What is even more challenging is to grasp the way players have taken steps forward, a critical consideration when evaluating young players. Potomak’s accomplishments in the little ice time she’s had absolutely warrant her being included on this list. She never fails to step into a situation and find a way to score. However, I think she’s rightly placed at the lower end of this list because of the limited sample size and her game not taking an obvious step forward over the last two years.
25 (tie) | Loren Gabel | Forward | Team Scotiabank (PWHPA)
Loren Gabel continued her PWHPA success with a blazing hot 12 points in nine games played. Her unmatched speed allows her to crash the offensive zone and choose to make a play or leverage her scoring power. All of this allowed her to end up tied with three other players for the most points in the PWHPA for 2021-22, and was first in the assists race.
I think Gabel’s success went under the radar this year. She made substantial contribution loan to other PWHPA teams and showcases that didn’t feature Toronto and continued to score even when Toronto was struggling.
Gabel was a surprising omission from the World Championship and Olympic training camps for Team Canada, especially after her astonishing six goals in seven games at the 2019 World Championships.
Though her point total might not suggest it, I don’t think Gabel fully hit her stride this year. She never seemed to find perfect chemistry with her linemates or system. I think her ceiling is very high, and with more game time, we could see her talents used for even more success.
- 2017 NCAA Champion
- 2018 NCAA Champion
- 2019 Patty Kazmaier Winner
- 2019 World Championship Bronze
What comes next
Gabel will be highly sought after by any team looking to acquire elite talent. the future of the PWHPA is foggy, but if the league becomes more transactional, teams will give a great number of assets to bring her talents to their roster. I think Gabel is personally determined to show hockey Canada that she is a player that deserves a spot in those training camps. She will be seeking every opportunity to train harder and demonstrate in games that she is national team material. If her play continues to produce goals the way it has, it seems hard to believe she wouldn’t be given more opportunities at the highest level.
Too high or too low
Loren Gabel has been ranked far too low, in my opinion. In an extremely small sample size, she’s demonstrated an incredible ability to score and generate chances against elite PWHPA opponents. Gable’s speed is rivaled by few on this list - a characteristic that elevates her game higher than many other players can accomplish. Opposing defenders can’t keep up, and goalies don’t have time to think when she’s making a move. She adds a punch to a roster that other players just can’t bring, which is why I think she should be very highly ranked.