One season after awarding the first Rookie of the Year, the NWHL has changed the name of the award to “Newcomer of the Year.” Any player in their first season of NWHL play was eligible to be nominated for the award.
The finalists for the award this year are Minnesota Whitecaps forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield and Jonna Curtis, and Buffalo Beauts goaltender Shannon Szabados.
Coyne Schofield is in her first season in a professional league. She was drafted in the 2015 NWHL Draft before her senior season at Northeastern. After she graduated, she opted to play for the then-independent Whitecaps and prepare for the 2018 Olympics with Team USA. Following her Olympic gold in PyeongChang, she signed in the offseason with the Whitecaps. Coyne Schofield had 14 points in 12 games (7g, 7a). She was named an All-Star and won the Fastest Skater Competition.
Curtis graduated from University of New Hampshire in 2016-17 where she was the Wildcats’ leading scorer in her last two seasons. The Minnesota native signed with her home team, and then she took the league by storm. Curtis finished the regular season with eight goals and 19 total points, leading the Whitecaps in both categories. She also finished in the top-five in points and goals for the league.
Szabados, who is also nominated for Goaltender of the Year, was a surprise signing for the Buffalo Beauts and the NWHL. The three-time Canadian Olympian had previously played in men’s leagues between stints with the national team. Her 1.49 goals against average with Beauts was a league best. She was also named an All-Star and took home the All-Star Game MVP in her first season of professional women’s hockey.
Prior to last season, the NWHL did not award a Rookie of the Year as there was a case to be made that almost every player was a rookie. Last season, Hayley Scamurra of the Beauts was named the inaugural Rookie of the Year.
A panel of 20 media members and broadcasters (including myself) voted on the Newcomer of the Year Award in cooperation with the Women’s Hockey Media Association.
The winner will be announced sometime after the Isobel Cup Final on March 17.