One of the best defenders available in the upcoming CWHL draft is Clarkson University standout, Erin Ambrose. She is a decorated puck-moving defenseman who went unsigned after being drafted in the NWHL in 2015.
If you closely follow Canadian women’s hockey Ambrose’s name is one that you have likely heard before.
In 2009, she was just the second 15-year-old defenseman to make Canada’s U-18 roster. She is also the highest scoring defender in PWHL history. She scored 88 points in 121 games with the Toronto Aeros.
Ambrose has won gold twice and silver once with Canada in U-18 Women’s World Championships. More recently she won gold with Canada at the 2013 Meco Cup, the 4 Nations Cup in 2014 and the 2015 Nations Cup.
Her NCAA career provides the largest sample size of data and paints a clear picture of her offensive prowess. Through four seasons at Clarkson Ambrose was more than a point per game player. She is also the top scoring defender in Clarkson history.
In her sophomore season, Ambrose scored 50 points (14 goals, 36 assists) in 37 games. She led all NCAA Division I defensemen in scoring that year and was eighth in points among skaters. As a sophomore, Ambrose was lethal on the power play with the Brampton Thunder’s Jamie Lee Rattray.
The Golden Knights won the 2014 National Championship in Ambrose’s sophomore year. She was named a First Team All-American and a top 10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award. But she missed the team’s playoff run and historic victory over Minnesota with an ankle injury.
Ambrose missed significant time with injuries in both her junior and senior seasons. Injuries and roster turnover prevented her from approaching the numbers she put as a sophomore. Ambrose missed seven games as a junior and ten as a senior but still led Clarkson in blue line scoring both seasons.
Ambrose moves the puck well both on the blue line and in her own zone. Her passes regularly created rushes for the speedy Golden Knights. She possesses all of the tools necessary to be a dynamic power play quarterback. She has a low, quick shot that has been a key part of Clarkson’s attack for four years.
There are harder and faster shots in women’s hockey than Ambrose’s, but not many that are more productive. Under head coach Matt Desrosiers, forwards at Clarkson learned to screen and deflect Ambrose’s shots. Quite a few of her assists have come from tipped pucks or rebounds created from her stick.
But it isn’t just offense that Ambrose offers. She led the Golden Knights in blocked shots as a senior and was a finalist for the ECAC Best Defenseman Award. Ambrose has the best plus/minus rating in her University’s history. When Ambrose is on the ice good things happen for her team.
The biggest concerns that CWHL teams should have with Ambrose is her size and injury history. Standing at 5’5” Ambrose can be overpowered in front of her net or in the corners. She doesn’t have the long reach that many upper-echelon defenders have to help keep attackers at bay. But she reads the play well and has been trustworthy going up against the opposition’s best while at Clarkson.
She doesn’t let her height get in the way of her will to win games. The same tenacity that puts her in shooting lanes to block shots has also led to some injuries. It would be unfair to call Ambrose fragile at this point in her career, but the injury concerns are real.
Puck-moving defenders like Ambrose are incredibly valuable. In addition to excelling at keeping pucks out of her own net she also creates offense. Ambrose knows where to move the puck to create scoring chances. Every team in the CWHL should have her name near the top of their lists on August 21st.