Natalie Spooner Named IIHF Player of the Year

How did The Ice Garden vote for the 2024 IIHF Player of the Year?

Natalie Spooner Named IIHF Player of the Year
Credit: PWHL

Natalie Spooner, fresh off PWHL MVP honors for her huge year with PWHL Toronto, was named the IIHF's Female Player of the Year yesterday. Spooner is the first Canadian woman to earn the honor. Last year, Hilary Knight won the inaugural IIHF Player of the Year Award, which is awarded to one player in the women's game and one player in the men's game.

Per the IIHF's release, Spooner ran away with over a third of the vote, with her closest competition being Team USA and PWHL New York's Alex Carpenter. Per the IIHF's description, this award is intended for a player who excelled both at the IIHF level and in the top domestic league of the country they are competing in. In Spooner's case that is, of course, the PWHL.

  • Natalie Spooner - 33.6% of the vote
  • Alex Carpenter - 14.6%
  • Marie-Philip Poulin - 11.5%
  • Alina Muller - 9.1%
  • Jenni Hiirikoski - 8.3%
  • Sandra Abstreiter - 7.9%

Spooner, 33, had one goal and three assists in 7 GP at the 2024 Worlds to help Canada bring home the gold. Those four points were good for a tie for fifth on Canada in scoring but we all know Spooner made a bigger mark in the PWHL with 20 goals and seven assists in the 24-game inaugural season. In addition to being named league MVP, she also earned honors as the top forward in the league.

The Ice Garden was fortunate enough to have two staff members vote on the award. You can read about who they voted for and why they earned those votes below.

Mike Murphy

I voted for Alex Carpenter.

For the record, Spooner is absolutely deserving of this award, just as she was deserving of the honors she took home for her performance with PWHL Toronto. With that said, I voted for Carpenter because I felt she had an outstanding PWHL season and 2024 Worlds, whereas Spooner's 2024 Worlds campaign was merely great.

Carpenter was one of three players with 10 points at the 2024 Worlds, which led the player pool in scoring. She also tied for the tournament lead in goal scoring with Laila Edwards, picking up six goals in 7 GP on her way to a silver medal. Furthermore, she earned the nod as Best Forward and was named to the Media All-Star Team.

In the PWHL, Carpenter was New York's MVP. She finished tied for second in the league in scoring with 23 points in 24 games. New York's second-highest-scoring forward, Jessie Eldridge, had 14 points in 24 games. That's a big gap and that gap tells the story of Carpenter being the main driver of New York's offense and whatever success they were able to find in their inaugural season – along with the play of Ella Shelton and Corinne Schroeder.

If New York made the PWHL playoffs, this award would have been Carpenter's. She was one of the top three or four players at Worlds and in the PWHL this year. For me, that's what this award should be about – excellence at the pro (or collegiate level) and on the world stage.

Angelica Rodriguez

It took me a while to really narrow down my choices from all seven of these players, whom I admire for separate reasons. What Natalie Spooner has been able to accomplish alone could fill a book, and I think from the perspective of her play within the PWHL, it makes a lot of sense for her to be awarded… by the PWHL. Which she has been. This award, though, needs to take into account international play as well as domestic league performance, and that's why I ultimately went with Jenni Hiirikoski. 

Looking at her play at Worlds, Hiirikoski tied Renata Fast for second in scoring by a defender with six points in seven games played and captained Finland to their first bronze medal in three years. She followed that up by captaining Luleå to a record-breaking sixth consecutive SDHL championship, contributing 33 regular season points (24 of them assists). While it wasn't her strongest season productivity-wise, her ability to compete and remain successful at age 37 cannot be overlooked, especially in the wake of a terrifying injury last season in the SDHL final that jeopardized her ability to play at Worlds. Unbelievably, she's barely missed a beat, and has proven herself as one of the best defenders the sport has ever seen, in my opinion.