The Buffalo Beauts have been making a lot of noise in free agency. The Beauts already have 13 players under contract, which is six more players than the NWHL’s other four teams have inked collectively. With 25 spots per team, Buffalo’s busy June means they’ve filled 52 percent of their roster. Yeah, the Beauts are not playing around.
At first glance, the biggest change for the Beauts has taken place in the goal crease. Amanda Leveille, the reigning NWHL Goaltender of the Year, signed with the Minnesota Whitecaps after the Beauts inked Olympic gold medalist Nicole Hensley. But that isn’t the only big change for the 2017 Isobel Cup Champions.
General manager Nik Fattey has signed new forwards Dani Cameranesi, Kelly Babstock, Annika Zalewski, and Julianna Iafallo. He also re-signed Hayley Scamurra, Maddie Elia, Corinne Buie, and Jordan Juron. In other words, the Beauts are just one body shy of having three forward lines — and it’s not even July yet.
Erik Wollschlager from Die By the Blade recently reflected on Fattey’s aggressive start to the offseason after the Babstock signing. Wollschlager believes that Jess Jones, who attended the Beauts’ free agent camp, would be a natural fit on a line with Babstock. The Canadian duo might help each other return to the production they had two seasons ago. But first Jones — who wore an “A” on her jersey in the 2018 Isobel Cup Playoffs — needs to sign.
Regardless of what happens with Jones, Cameranesi is going to be a difference-maker in Buffalo. She put up piles of points for the Golden Gophers during her standout collegiate career. In 143 games, she had 201 points. More recently Cameranesi led Team USA in shots on goal and was a point-per-game player at the 2018 Olympics.
Defender Savannah Harmon will also add another dimension to Buffalo’s offense. Harmon is a dynamic puck-mover with tons of offensive upside. She ran the power play at Clarkson beautifully, finishing her senior season with nine primary points when the Golden Knights were on the advantage. Expect her to play a similar role for the Beauts in her rookie season.
Scamurra the Spearhead
Buffalo’s main weapon in the offense zone is expected to be Hayley Scamurra. Coming off of her Rookie of the Year season, Scamurra was the first player to sign with the Beauts this offseason. So, it’s safe to say that Buffalo is keen to build around her.
Just how good was Scamurra last season? She was a point-per-game player, the co-MVP of the 2018 All-Star Game, and was second on the Beauts in primary points. So, yeah, she was pretty darn good. One could say that Scamurra stepped seamlessly into the role of the Beauts’ resident sniper that once belonged to Kelley Steadman.
The chart above compares Scamurra’s 2018 rookie season with Haley Skarupa’s outstanding 2017 rookie campaign with the Connecticut Whale. As you can see, Scamurra really established herself as an elite player. Perhaps most notably, she finished in the 98th percentile in shots on goal and was in the 92nd percentile in primary points. It certainly looks like the Beauts picked the right player to build their offense around.
What Comes Next
The Beauts already have 11 forwards under contract, but there’s still room to bring back a few familiar faces.
Jess Jones, Kourtney Kunichika, Rebecca Vint, Kristin Lewicki, Kaylyn Schroka, and Taylor Accursi were all major contributors for Buffalo last season; they are also all free agents. Presently, the Beauts have room for one more goalie and 11 more skaters. But, about half of those skater spots need to go to defenders. The Beauts only have three blueliners signed: Harmon, Lisa Chesson, and Jacquie Greco.
It’s no secret that NWHL players want to play in Buffalo because of the team’s ownership and the advantages that come with it. Does that mean Meghan Duggan might want to come back? Or Emily Pfalzer? Perhaps another young star from the U.S. women’s national team who wants to follow the trail blazed by Cameranesi and Hensley? Or maybe there’s another NWHL veteran like Babstock who is looking for a change of scenery?
Regardless of what happens next for the Beauts in free agency, head coach Ric Seiling’s team already has a dangerous looking offense. Buffalo has three forwards under contract who have had point-per-game seasons in the NWHL in addition. They also have Buie, Cameranesi, and a young trio of recent NCAA graduates led by Jordan Juron who had two points in two NWHL regular season games last year. We’re not even out of June yet and the Beauts already look stacked.