Top Three: what the Beauts should look for ahead of Free Agent Camp
Buffalo will be looking for key players in its free agent camp
The Buffalo Beauts are back at Northtown Center for the weekend, and they have their work cut out for them to be competitive in Season Seven. While they head into their Free Agent Camp June 5-6 with a few key players all shored up, there are still some pieces left to gather before the puck drops for 2021-22.
So what should the Beauts be looking for?
More offensive skill to complement Taylor Accursi
It’s no secret that the weakest of weak spots for Buffalo in Lake Placid was its offense. After losing captain Accursi before even getting to Herb Brooks Arena, the biggest question mark hanging in the air was who would fill her shoes?
Well, unfortunately, no one was quite able to do the job. Though rookie Autumn MacDougall had a solid couple of games alongside Jordan Juron and Kristin Lewicki, there wasn’t much else going on in front of the blueline. In fact, the Beauts managed just 1.2 goals per game in Lake Placid. Moreover, notorious secondary scorers like Erin Gehen and Iveta Klimášová were quiet over the course of the six games. What the Beauts truly need is another finisher, someone who can round out the top six and take some of the pressure off of Accursi’s shoulders.
A veteran defender to anchor the blue line
The defense was not nearly as weak as the offense this past season, but they were marked by their collective youth and inexperience, and it certainly showed.
Marie-Jo Pelletier entering her third season in Buffalo bodes well for the blueline, but some more experience is always a valuable asset in a growing league in terms of parity. With no word on any other defenders having been signed (namely, veteran Lisa Chesson), you can bet general manager Nate Oliver will look closely at which blueliners would best work out alongside MJP.
Buffalo Beauts sign Marie-Jo Pelletier, first of NWHL free agency
With that said, Buffalo should still look to bring back Dominique Kremer, Whitney Dove, and Alyson Matteau. The future of the blue line looks bright but it wouldn’t hurt to have a veteran there to help the younger players develop.
Help down the middle
Cassidy MacPherson’s re-signing is a great start to the Beauts rebuilding their depth up the middle of the ice. MacPherson was one of the top faceoff specialists in Lake Placid with a 49 percent success rate; however, she’s most comfortable centering the second or third lines. With the absence of Corinne Buie and now (most likely) Jordan Juron comes the need for a true top-line center. One who can skate, protect the puck, and really drive the play and anchor Accursi and Lewicki (should she re-sign).
A first-line center who can make plays and set up natural finishers like Accursi and Stacey should be a top priority for the Beauts this offseason. With any luck, they’ll find a player or two that can compete for that role in camp or elsewhere.
Both free agent camp days will take place between 12-2 p.m. ET at Northtown Center in Amherst.