I’ve covered (extensively) the 2020 NWHL Draft, and all of the talented players that will join the league whenever Season Six is able to get underway as a result. But what if I told you that this was only scratching the surface? With a little assistance from Nayan Patel’s played cards, here’s an undrafted rookie free agent signing for each team to keep an eye on in Season 6:
Boston: Carlee Turner
I’ve waxed poetically about Carlee Turner numerous times already. Her vision is spectacular, she’s an immensely intelligent skater, and she is incredible in the faceoff dot. What should make her opponents terrified of her upside, however, isn’t any of this. Nor is it the presence of 3 former teammates on the Pride. It’s that she performed her entire collegiate career with a significant shoulder injury and had that surgically repaired over the offseason. She’s dynamic and plays with some nastiness. Basically, she’s everything the Boston Pride embodies as an organization.
Buffalo: Whitney Dove
The Beauts have a few really interesting undrafted free agent rookies. I’ve been a big Caty Flagg fan for quite some time. She consistently faced one of the most difficult workloads in the country in Division III and managed to put up sparkling numbers regardless. Neve Van Pelt is an intriguing, defensive-first forward, but the offensive is virtually nonexistent. Having both Accursi sisters is extremely interesting to me, but Hunter is difficult to project given she’s spent her entire career to this point in USports, and we just don’t have a large enough sample of data to make an accurate prediction. But how in the world Whitney Dove went undrafted is beyond me. She makes her name primarily as an offensive defender, but her defense is actually even better. She was in the top echelon of defensive defenders in the NCAA last season, settling in the 99th percentile in terms of defensive wins share. She’s no slouch offensively either, and has legitimate powerplay upside. She likely won’t supplant All-Star Marie-Jo Pelletier on the top unit for the Beauts, but joining her or quarterbacking the second unit would make taking penalties against the Beauts even more dangerous than it already is. Given that they have also returned two of the league’s most effective agitators in Iveta Klimasova and Meg Delay, I would be extremely wary of engaging in classic Beauts shenanigans.
Connecticut: Abbie Ives
Ives intrigues me, and it’s not just because she catches right-handed. She didn’t see a particularly difficult workload at Quinnipiac, but was stellar for the Bobcats when called upon, and has flashed the ability to make a spectacular save when needed. Moreover, pairing her with Brooke Wolejko should give Connecticut a much improved goaltending tandem, something that haunted them at times last season. Entering a league as the 3rd rookie goaltender, she doesn’t have the name resume of #3 pick Carly Jackson, or the name recognition of Riveters’ 3rd Rounder Tera Hofmann, but she absolutely will compete with both to be the best rookie goaltender of the crop.
Metro: Jayne Lewis
While I’m immensely intrigued by Sammy Kolowrat, she technically doesn’t qualify given she WAS a Riveters’ draft pick in 2018. And Jayne Lewis did suit up for the Rivs at the end of the season last year. But I don’t think it was discussed enough how impactful her signing might be for the team. Lewis plied her craft at Sacred Heart, which spent her first three seasons technically being an independent team, before the creation of the North East Women’s Hockey Association conference was finalized her senior year. For this reason, her production was likely overlooked when discussing high impact players. But regardless of where she played, her win share contributions are too strong to ignore. She’s an elite goal scorer, sitting in the 98th percentile nationwide as a senior in goals per game, and was worth a team–high 2.3 win shares, in the 95th percentile across the country. She was dynamic in her brief professional debut, and I have no doubt that it will continue in Season Six.
Toronto: Sarah-Eve Coutu-Godbout, Lindsay Eastwood
Toronto might have swung and missed on their #1 Draft Pick in Jaycee Gebhard, but they did some tidy business with undrafted free agents that should offset that quite nicely. Sarah-Eve Coutu-Godbout is part of a large contingent of Quinnipiac alums who signed with the Six, and she might be one of the more underrated players in this year’s rookie crop. She doesn’t come in with a ton of national attention, but she was still an elite point producer in her time at QU, and, arguably more importantly, an elite play driver. The defense is a touch spotty, but it’s passable for her transition play, and I’m really curious to see how it translates to the next level.
Toronto has ANOTHER high-profile UDFA on their roster in defender Lindsay Eastwood. She brings something naturally that few other players in the league can boast – size. At 6’1”, she’s already one of the tallest players in league history. Syracuse is not a program with a lot of national prestige, but Eastwood, a multi-year captain for the Orange, is an absolute force everywhere on the ice. She’s got a powerful shot from the point, and good vision on the back end. Even at her size, she is a consistent play driver and offensive threat, something that is rather unique in the NWHL. I really appreciate the smoothness of her stride, there isn’t a lot of wasted movement with her longer limbs, and she generates a lot of power. I can’t wait to see how much her physical gifts allow her to dominate at the pro-level.
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