2024 PWHL Montréal Season Recap: Strong Leadership From the Captain and Management

Montréal set a world record for attendance in the sport and finished the regular season in second place.

2024 PWHL Montréal Season Recap: Strong Leadership From the Captain and Management
Don't bet against "Captain Clutch" Marie-Philip Poulin | Photo Credit: PWHL

The inaugural season of the PWHL saw new highs for women’s hockey in Montréal. A new world record for attendance in the sport highlighted a thrilling first year that saw PWHL Montréal finish second in the standings. Although the season didn’t end on a high note, the players, staff, and fans of PWHL Montréal can be proud of what the team accomplished this year and excited for what’s coming next.

Team Record: 13-5-6, 41 points

PWHL Montréal finished second in the regular season with 41 points, six behind PWHL Toronto and six ahead of Boston and Minnesota. They earned 13 wins, including three overtime wins. Finishing with three overtime wins and five overtime losses, Montréal was one of only two teams to have a negative overtime record. They were also one of only two teams with a positive goal differential, coming in at +3.

In the postseason, Montréal scored only four goals across three games as they were swept by PWHL Boston.

Team MVP

At the start of the season, one may have predicted Marie-Philip Poulin as PWHL Montréal’s MVP, and even as league MVP. Betting on "Captain Clutch" is about as safe a bet as one can find in sports. This year, the safe bet was the right one.

Poulin tied for second in the PWHL with 23 points and 1.10 points per game. She led the league in faceoff draws and wins, and led her team in +/-. With her elite skating and hockey IQ, Poulin was a force to be reckoned with both offensively and defensively, playing over 20 minutes per game in all situations. When Poulin was injured in March, the team lost all three games without her.

As captain of PWHL Montréal, Poulin’s leadership was invaluable. She is a massive figure in the sport and in the province. She is a finalist for the PWHL’s Forward of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.

An honorable mention needs to be made for Elaine Chuli, who led the PWHL’s goaltenders in goals against average and save percentage. In eight starts, Chuli recorded six wins, a regulation loss, and a shootout loss. She allowed one goal in four of those games, two goals in three games, and three goals in one game. Although she served as PWHL Montréal’s backup goalie, her performance was that of an elite starter.

Top Rookie(s)

On the front end, Maureen Murphy finished fourth on PWHL Montréal in scoring with 16 points in 24 games. She tied for third in scoring among the league’s first-year pros. Seeing time in the top six and on the power play throughout the season, Murphy had the opportunity to grow while skating alongside players like Poulin, Laura Stacey, and Erin Ambrose. However, her success was not just a product of playing with those veteran players; her skill and creativity made her an offensive threat wherever she played in the lineup.

On the back end, Mariah Keopple averaged over 20 minutes of ice time a game playing on the top pairing with Ambrose. In a defensive role, Keopple’s reliability allowed Ambrose to play her elite game. Keopple’s game improved through the season, and she saw ice time in all situations. Although she recorded only three points on the season, all assists, she was a big contributor to the success of the team in her rookie season.

Who Is Still Under Contract?

Although only three of Montréal’s contracts are guaranteed, nine players are set to return to the team on paper. Poulin, Stacey, and goaltender Ann-Renée Desbiens are the three players signed to the team before the PWHL’s inaugural draft, whose contracts cannot be dissolved for on-ice performance. They are all under contract for the next two seasons.

Also going into the second year of three-year contracts are forwards Kristin O’Neill and Murphy and alternate captain Ambrose.

Returning for the second year of two-year contracts are forward Kennedy Marchment, and defenders Dominika Lásková and Kati Tabin.

Biggest Surprise

PWHL Montréal’s best performance of the year may have come off the ice. Losing players like Lásková, Marchment, and Ann-Sophie Bettez could have had a significant impact on the team, but the front office compensated extremely well. They displayed excellent preparation when reserve players like Mélodie Daoust and Catherine Dubois were able to jump in and contribute. They took a flier on a midseason free agent in Mikyla Grant-Mentis, and that paid off as she earned roles on the top six and the power play. With additional firepower up front secured, they were able to make a big trade, sending one of their top scorers, Tereza Vanišová, to Ottawa for puck-moving defender Amanda Boulier.

PWHL teams have limited reserves, and several teams this year saw enough injuries that they had to sign multiple reserves to one-year Standard Player Agreements and sign new reserve players from the free agent pool. PWHL Montréal’s staff deserves recognition for utilizing the resources available to them better than any other team this year. The league does not have a GM of the Year award, but if it did, Danièle Sauvageau would have a compelling case.