The PWHL is here, bringing together all of the world’s best women’s ice hockey players into a single professional league.
It’s been a long time coming, to say the least, and as the players prepare to take the ice together in competition for the first time, we take a closer look at the rosters and some of the many storylines within them.
From rookies fresh out of college to international stars making their first break in North America to veterans making a fresh start, we’ve highlighted 10 intriguing players to keep an eye on as the PWHL begins.
Kristen Campbell, goalkeeper, Toronto
Campbell’s illustrious collegiate career saw her help Wisconsin to two WCHA titles and a national championship while earning multiple individual awards – and caught the attention of Team Canada in 2020-21. Third on the national team rankings behind Ann-Renee Desbiens (PWHL Montreal) and Emerance Maschmeyer (Ottawa), she couldn’t crack the goal crease as a starter, but now as the No. 1 option in Toronto, the crease is all hers. Can she take advantage of this opportunity and lead a team to victory again?
Ann-Sophie Bettez, striker, Montreal
Bettez has played her entire hockey career at home in Montreal and it’s only fitting that she should start her PWHL career there too. At 36, she’s one of the oldest players in this brand new league, but it’s not just her long and local resume that makes her an intriguing player to keep an eye on this season: Bettez and Team Canada- Captain Marie-Philip Poulin will have a chance to rekindle past chemistry from their time in the CWHL.
Akane Shiga, striker, Ottawa
One of the best aspects of a unified women’s hockey league is the influx of international talent into the PWHL’s six markets, giving fans their first look at some of the players we only see in international tournaments. The Japan national team’s brightest young star, Shiga is the only Japanese player in the league and is already generating a lot of excitement among his teammates – just ask fellow striker Daryl Watts:
“She is unbelievable. Hard shot, really smart, really skilled. She’s fun to watch,” Watts says of Shiga.
Emma Soderberg, goalkeeper, Boston
Boston hockey fans know a thing or two about elite goaltending tandems, so it’s only fitting that the market’s PWHL club boasts the best duo in the league. The team acquired Aerin Frankel from Team USA via the first free agency period and then secured perhaps the biggest steal of the draft in Soderberg – a tenth-round pick despite being a top player as a goalkeeper for the Swedish national team. Frankel is the presumptive starter here, but all eyes should be on Soderberg, who will undoubtedly take every opportunity to fight for the top spot.
Susanna Tapani, forward, Minnesota
In a sea of Minnesotans, Finnish forward Susanna Tapani brings a unique resume to the State of Hockey. Tapani’s playing time in North America is limited to a single college season at the University of North Dakota a decade ago. Her illustrious career was played exclusively abroad in Finland, followed by a short stint with the KRS Vanke Rays in Russia. Until now, most North American players and fans have only been able to see her play at international tournaments, where she averaged nearly a point per game in three Olympic tournaments.
Madison Packer, forward, New York
A fan favorite during her numerous seasons as captain of the PHF’s Metropolitan Riveters, Packer honored a PWHL camp invitation by securing her roster spot in New York. The 32-year-old is known for her leadership abilities and her veteran presence should be invaluable in a squad with a young core.
Kali Flanagan, defense, Toronto
Toronto’s blue line should be a major strength, and Flanagan is a big reason why. While Team Canada’s top pairing of Renata Fast and Jocelyne Larocque are (presumably) locked in for Toronto, Flanagan’s presence gives head coach Troy Ryan a blue-chip puzzle piece that can make a big impact regardless of his D-partner. The former Team USA rearguard is used to playing against Canada’s stars, but as one of only two Americans on a roster full of Canadian talent, it will be fun to see her nail the chemistry and plays from the blue Line advances.
Jillian Dempsey, striker, Montreal
You can’t tell the story of the PHF without Jillian Dempsey, who was the league’s all-time leader in games played, goals, assists and points during her nearly decade with her hometown Boston Pride. Although she never expected to play anywhere other than Boston, PWHL Montreal fans will be glad to have her – the 32-year-old has a nose for the net and the ability to play alongside some elite talent from Quebec to play, it will be fun to see how the best of the PHF carve out a new place in a market that is new to them. Just don’t expect her to shed her Boston roots with a trip to Tim Hortons any time soon: “I’m not one of those obsessive people who has to have something, but if I had the choice, it would definitely be Dunkin.” She says.
Daryl Watts, forward, Ottawa
This time last year, Daryl Watts was considering a return to hockey after retiring shortly after college, initially negotiating with Toronto on a historic two-year contract that would make her the highest-paid player in women’s professional hockey , and aimed for a championship with the six. They won the cup, but were no longer able to use this deal after the league was bought out. Now the former Patty Kazmaier winner and collegiate hockey champion finds herself in the nation’s capital with Wisconsin as a midfielder who still has a lot to prove if she wants to get back to the top of the women’s hockey world.
“With the commitment for one year, I hope to prove myself in the league,” she says.
Sophie Jaques, defense, Boston
It’s been quite a year for Jaques, who helped lead No. 1 Ohio State University to the College Hockey Finals last spring, winning the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top college player in the process – only his second Defender to ever win the award and the first since the great Angela Ruggiero in 2004. Draft 10Th The fourth college player overall to come to Boston, Jaques brings elite skills and plenty of offense to a blue line full of young talent as she makes her move to the professional ranks.