When you think of the term “All-Star”, what comes to mind? The biggest names? The most accessible players? Stats only? Highlight reels? It could be a mixture of all or only some of these things, but for me, when I consider the best of the best in the league, there are a few names that immediately come to mind. However, those names didn’t seem to be quite on the PHF’s guest list for Jan. 29.
Barring the obvious uncertainty clouding the All-Star Showcase in Toronto later this month — thanks, Omicron! — there were some other questions swirling like the snow currently outside my window regarding the 30 players the league’s coaches and general managers selected to join the festivities. Particularly, there were a few players I was shocked to see not on the roster at all, and instead they now have to duke it out in the fan vote.
Let’s discuss some names, shall we?
Amanda Leveille, Minnesota Whitecaps
Lev has faced more rubber than literally any other goaltender in this league — and despite facing nearly 40 shots against per game, she still has a sparkling .917 save percentage while also starting every game for the Whitecaps. Her stats are simply unbelievable for that workload, and the fact that she now has to battle with Carly Jackson for that last goalie spot in the fan vote just seems so unfair to me (since we know Jackson has the fury of about 9,000 baby gays on her side, and I say that with all the love and pride in the world). No shade to Katie Burt or Abbie Ives, who are both solid netminders, but neither of them have had to deal with the dearth of support in front of them that Leveille has had to face so far this season.
Amanda Leveille holding the line late in the 1st period! pic.twitter.com/WR8UikIiOg— PHF (@PHF) December 19, 2021
Also, just thinking of the hijinks she and Jackson could have gotten up to makes me sad. Speaking of...
Carly Jackson, Buffalo Beauts
Y’all know I was not going to leave CJ or her mullet off of this list. Not only are her numbers amazing for the number of shots she’s faced so far (.904 save percentage), but she is easily one of the most likable players in this league and has presented herself, shall we say, beautifully as an athlete, a leader, and a teammate. Blessed with both a strong skillset and a great sense of humor, she can entertain fans on more than one front — and we all know that’s just as important as raw talent in the PHF.
Amanda Conway, Connecticut Whale
Yes, yes, I know — the Whale already have seven players on their roster. But Conway has made an impact and tied Emma Vlasic for fourth in Whale scoring with six points, despite playing two fewer games than her. (More on Vlasic a little later.) She has the size and scoring touch to really put on a show in a showcase like this, and I wish the league had thought to give her some of that shine too.
Colleen Murphy, Metropolitan Riveters
So she might not have the goal-studded stat sheet of some of the other defenders on the list, but Murphy has definitely proven herself a capable playmaker and puck mover with five assists in six games played for Metro. She ranks fourth amongst defenders in scoring for her efforts, and if we’re gonna be frank here, it makes as much sense to omit her from this lineup as it does to include Kali Flanagan after just two games played (name and obvious talent notwithstanding).
Kendall Cornine, Riveters
Cornine is right behind her All-Star mates Madison Packer and Rebecca Russo in both points (4) and shots on goal (22) in six games played, and she is one of the most consistent forwards in this league — I know I cringe whenever I know the Beauts have to play her team, simply because she can pose a threat wherever she’s at. Plus, she already has some experience being mic’d up — and it’s a hell of a lot of fun to listen to:
Cassidy Vinkle, Beauts: Vinkle has been a revelation for this Beauts team in her rookie campaign. With nearly a point per game (4 points in 5 games), she has really catapulted the Buffalo offense to a new level, bringing speed, physicality, and a fearlessness that helps her make things happen for her linemates. Plus, I still have fond memories of that improbable overtime goal against Metro... sue me.
Saroya Tinker, Toronto Six: OKAY, HERE ME OUT. Yes, I know the Six are tied with the Pride for the most faces at this event with eight apiece, but Tinker deserves a look in more ways than one. She is a terrific defender who maybe doesn’t have the flashiest style, but is still dependable in her own zone. Also, she has a similar quality to CJ in that she is accessible and uses her platform for so much good. It would have been a serious show by the league of standing by its pledge it took during last season in Lake Placid to advocate for change, and give one of its most vocal members an even bigger stage to promote that advocacy.
Emma Vlasic, Whale: Another player I just brace for impact with when it comes to playing the team I cover on a regular basis, just because she always manages to find the open person or patch of ice to create chaos for her opponents. Vlasic has some serious all-around skill but particularly excels in the faceoff circle, and she can pass as well as take it to the net herself. Lots of fun to watch, and I’m hoping the fans can make some magic happen so she can display it at York Canlan.