When Les Canadiennes selected Sarah Lefort with the fifth pick in the 2016 CWHL Draft it didn’t seem fair. The best offense in the CWHL was able to reunite Marie-Philip Poulin, the league’s MVP, with her college winger — one of the most dangerous duos in recent NCAA Division I hockey history. And as a result many were prepared to call the rookie scoring race over before it had even begun.
But through the first 10 games of the season Lefort isn’t leading rookies in scoring.
Michela Cava of the Toronto Furies is.
And although she is currently chasing Cava, she is by no means off to a bad start in the CWHL. In her first 10 games as a professional she has seven primary points with Les Canadiennes, following up an NCAA performance where she broke Poulin’s scoring record at Boston University. But Lefort has cooled off after scoring seven points in her first five games.
And, on the other side of the coin, Cava is rolling. She is currently riding a five game point scoring streak that includes a goal and an assist against Montreal on the weekend of November 19th. Only seven skaters in the CWHL have more points than the rookie. It’s safe to say that her professional career is off to a promising start.
The Toronto Furies selected Cava in the third round of the 2016 CWHL Draft. Five other forwards, including Lefort, were taken before her. But she outscored all five of them last year in the NCAA.
Cava split her NCAA career with the Connecticut Huskies and the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. She transfered to be closer to home and to play on a more competitive team but found herself lost in the Bulldogs’ bottom-six. Cava didn’t break out offensively until her senior season when she scored 19 goals and 19 assists in 37 games.
“Last year was definitely tough,” Cava reflected during her senior year at Minnesota-Duluth. “There’s not many ways to describe it. I just took everything I could learn from it and [took] it into this year. I went home last summer and worked as hard as I could to get to the position I am in now. It was so hard not to take that season negatively but I tried to take everything I could and bring it to this year.”
Cava scored just six points in 33 games while battling for ice time in her junior season. And earlier this month she was centering the Furies’ top line and helping Toronto hand Les Canadiennes their first and second losses of the season. What a difference two years can make.
Her play has been superlative on a Toronto team that is dependent on big contributions from rookie skaters. She has moved around the lineup quite a bit, but that hasn’t stopped her from getting on the scoreboard. Cava trails only Olympian Natalie Spooner in points for the Furies this year.
For the first time in… ever… Furies sweep Montreal in a 2-game series. pic.twitter.com/xlLIdFJhTm
— Toronto Furies (@TorontoCWHL) November 20, 2016
Cava will have her work cut out for her this weekend if she intends to defend her narrow lead in the rookie scoring race. The Furies will be on the road this weekend in Brampton, playing the underrated Thunder. Meanwhile Lefort and Les Canadiennes will be looking to break the goal lights in Boston after going 1-2-1 in their last four games.
The 2016 CWHL Draft flooded the league with an abundance of talent. But few were expecting Cava to be one of the best rookie stories of the 2016-17 season. She is, at the very least, a leading competitor for the best hidden gem of her draft class. But the small center from Thunder Bay, Ontario has the potential to be so much more.
Lefort and Iya Gavrilova are playing for the CWHL’s two powerhouse franchises that boast stacked offenses. And that makes Cava the underdog for coming out on top at the end of the rookie scoring race. But don’t count her out just yet. Playing the role of underdog has worked out pretty well for her so far.