When the NWHL announced its expansion into Toronto on April 22, 2020, the league announced five players who had already signed for the 2020-21 season. Since those first five signings were announced, the Six have inked eight more players — seven of which are natural forwards. As rock solid as Toronto’s goal crease looks with Elaine Chuli and Sam Ridgewell in the fold, the forward core is even more impressive.
Shiann Darkangelo has four years of pro hockey experience and can play both center and wing — a trait shared by many of the Six’s forwards. She’s an ideal forward to build around and that is exactly what president Digit Murphy and general manager Mandy Cronin have done.
Darkangelo won gold at the Women’s Worlds with Team USA in 2016, an Isobel Cup with the Buffalo Beauts in 2017, and has played overseas in China with Kunlun Red Star. While it’s true that her production dipped during her last season in the CWHL with the Furies — six goals and four assists in 27 games — she has produced at every level of the game and has a nose for the net.
Joining the 5-foot-11 forward are fellow veterans Kelly Babstock. Jenna McParland, and Taylor Woods. Babstock is the highest-scoring Canadian-born forward in NWHL history (60 points in 65 GP) and McParland scored eight or more goals in three of her four seasons in the CWHL with the Brampton/Markham Thunder. Woods won a Clarkson Cup with McParland in 2018 and was effective as a two-way forward for the Thunder for three seasons.
As a potential trio, Darkangelo, Babstock, and McParland could be a real handful for even the best defenders in the NWHL. All three of them are skilled puck carriers who are as comfortable making plays as they are skating through contact. What Babstock lacks in the size department — McParland is 5-foot-9 — she more than makes up for tenacity as evidenced by four consecutive seasons earning at least 22 PIM.
Make no mistake, the Six will not be a one-line team. Despite the fact that Toronto missed out on Jaycee Gebhard — the team’s first round pick of the 2020 NWHL Draft — the Six added several promising young forwards.
At the top of that list is Mikyla Grant-Mentis who made her NWHL debut with the Buffalo Beauts last season. In her senior season at Merrimack in 2019-20, Grant-Mentis had primary points on 19 of the team’s 33 even strength goals. That’s a staggering percentage that suggests she was, by far, the main catalyst of the Warriors’ offense. If you’re looking for a player to be a breakout star for the Six, look no further.
Digging in to some great work done by @scootszn99. @BuffaloBeauts' rookie forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis attempted 18.38% of @MerrimackWIH's total shot attempts - that was the highest % in the nation.— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) April 3, 2020
Patty Kaz winner Elizabeth Giguere finished 2nd with 16.77% of @CUknights's TSA. pic.twitter.com/Nd1gnCBO2u
Brooke Boquist will be a new face in the NWHL but she has two years of SDHL experience under her belt. In Sweden, Boquist averaged 1.20 Pts/GP and built on the reputation she earned during her collegiate career at Providence as a goal-scorer. She led Leksand with 14 goals in 24 games in 2019-20 and had 11 goals in 17 games with MODO the year prior. Regardless of which line she lands on, she is sure to produce for the Six.
Sarah-Ève Coutu-Godbout is another young forward coming off a big year. Coutu-Godbout piled up 16 goals in 36 games with Quinnipiac last season after scoring 16 goals in her sophomore and junior campaigns combined. That number might not jump off the page, but 11 of those goals were scored at even strength and she led the Bobcats in power-play goals (5) and SOG/GP (3.47).
Rounding out the Six’s forward depth are two forwards selected in the 2020 NWHL Draft — Natalie Marcuzzi and Amy Curlew. Marcuzzi’s estimated ice time (eTOI) in her senior season at RMU, per pick224, was 15.7 and Curlew had an average eTOI of 17.24 at Cornell. Curlew is coming off of a career year where she picked up 22 points in 32 games, so she could find herself on a scoring line for the Six. Marcuzzi is more of a defensive forward — as evidenced by her 37 shot blocks in 2019-20 — so it’s a safe bet she’ll be on the third line and potentially kill penalties.
The Six have a promising blend of established pros and youngsters with a lot of potential. Even more importantly, Toronto will be strong down the middle thanks to an abundance of players who can play center: Darkangelo, Babstock, Grant-Mentis, Boquist, and Marcuzzi. If five years of NWHL hockey have taught us anything, it has taught us the importance of both center depth and scoring depth and the Six have both in spades.
With the exception of the Boston Pride, the rest of the NWHL has a lot of catching up to do to match what the Six’s offense looks like on paper. Of course, all the skilled forwards in the world can only accomplish so much without chemistry and defenders who can move the puck. Right now, the biggest needs for Toronto is blueliners who can move the puck, an established power play quarterback, and a coaching staff to guide them.
Data courtesy of pick224.com and collegehockeyinc.com.