CWHL’s Race for Rookie of the Year

Laine Schuck/CWHL

Every season offers a new set of contenders for the CWHL’s Rookie of the Year Award, which comes with a $1,000 bonus, previously upped from $500. This year, however, the competition is extra stiff.

Each franchise in the five-team league can offer up at least one contender for the title; no one player in particular has pulled away from the pack.

Calgary is a standout, with not one, but two players positioning themselves for the Rookie of the Year award. Calgary, Alta. native Emerance Maschmeyer, one of three goalies on the Inferno, has distinguished herself by earning the highest save percentage in the entire league, even with only a 0.571 winning percentage.

Maschmeyer has faced 196 shots and saved 184 of them, posting a 0.939 save percentage over seven games. To boot, Maschmeyer has done so by starting every third weekend in a rotation with Genevieve Lacasse and Delayne Brian.

Her in-team competition comes from Iya Gavrilova, one of Calgary’s key forwards. Gavrilova is the highest-scoring freshman in the league with 20 points (11 goals, 9 assists) and looks like she has plenty left in the tank for her final weekend of play.

She’s not just the highest-scoring rookie in the CWHL, she’s also the highest in point production, and at the end of her first season, ranks among the top nine in the league in points. What’s more, Gavrilova ranks seventh in the league in points per game, emphasizing her offensive danger.

Laura Stacey (#7), hits the brakes as the Calgary Inferno host the Brampton Thunder in Canadian Women's Hockey League home-opener action at the Markin McPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Alberta on October 8, 2016. (Photo Credit: Dave Holland/CWHL)

Laura Stacey (#7), hits the brakes as the Calgary Inferno host the Brampton Thunder in Canadian Women’s Hockey League home-opener action. (Photo Credit: Dave Holland/CWHL)

On the Brampton Thunder, Laura Stacey (whose offensive prowess we covered last week) gives both Gavrilova and Maschmeyer some strong competition for the title. She exploded out of the gate her freshman year in the CWHL and has made her way to the top-ten in the league in points; Stacey is also the second-highest rookie in points earned. It would not be difficult to make a case for her.

Toronto features Carlee Campbell (née Eusepi), who was named to the CWHL’s All-Star Game as a freshman. Campbell doesn’t rank the highest in points, goals or assists but she’s notched an impressive 8 assists from Toronto’s blue line, adding to the Furies’ offensive pressure at a distance of 200 feet. This comes after six years of retirement; Campbell is clearly an enormous asset to her team and the league.

Also on the Furies, Sarah Cava has also made a name for herself in Toronto, coming in second in points only to Natalie Spooner. Cava ranks third-highest rookie in points in the league behind Gavrilova and Stacey, and has a coveted spot on the power play where she has notched three goals and two assists, making Toronto’s special teams one of the strongest in the league.

Even the lagging Boston Blades can submit a contender this season with Blades forward Kate Leary making a case for herself as the highest-scoring player out of New England this season with 12 points (8 goals, 4 assists) in 22 games. That is an impressive feat for a rookie in the league, particularly one on Boston, which features only one Olympian — the fewest in the league — and is in the midst of a rebuild.

Blades netminder Lauren Dahm should be a contender as well for her performance between the pipes in Boston. Although she has posted only a 0.883 save percentage through 21 games and just two wins, much of that is due to the fact that her team, while deeper than last season, still isn’t particularly strong. Dahm is frequently hung out to dry in the third period while her young team struggles to keep up with CWHL clubs whose rosters are composed of more experienced skaters who drive possession well.

Sitting right behind Leary is Sarah Lefort, a Montreal Canadiennes forward who broke Marie-Philip Poulin’s scoring record at Boston University last season. Lefort was predicted roundly to be Rookie of the Year at the start of the season.

Oddly, Lefort has not made a real name for herself this season, netting only 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) in 20 games. She is surrounded by elite players, leaving her with a little less playing time than she’s used to, but also Lefort’s performance has been less dynamic than usual.

Cassandra Poudrier, however, can carry the flag for Montreal. The defender has earned 11 points in 22 games (3 goals, 8 assists) and 0.5 points per game overall. Poudrier is a trusted member of the first power play unit and has posted two points (1 goal, 1 assist) while on the power play. Her ability to find a passing lane out of the defensive zone has helped Montreal convert on a number of plays that might have otherwise fizzled.

All in all, the league will have its work cut out for itself this year in deciding who should take home the hardware.

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