The entire landscape of women’s hockey changed this off-season with the creation of the NWHL and now the women’s game is growing in North America — at least on a professional level — at a pace that has never been seen before.
With new opportunities and more competition for jobs in the women’s pro game, there might now be a struggle between the CWHL and NWHL to keep top-tier talent. Consider this: of the top-three women’s players on our list, all three played in the CWHL in 2014-15. This upcoming season, however, the top two have jumped ship to play in the NWHL.
Brianna Decker and Hilary Knight signed contracts with the NWHL’s Boston Pride after suiting up in 2014-15 for the CWHL’s Boston Blades.
Decker and Knight are, without a doubt, the two premier players in the women’s game right now and have immediately become the faces of the NWHL. They’ll make the Pride top contenders for the first NWHL championship, too.
1. Brianna Decker, C
What Decker accomplished this past season would be like Connor McDavid breaking into the NHL next season and eclipsing the 150-point plateau. That’s how great Decker was in 2014-15, and that’s why she’s the best women’s player in the world right now.
In her rookie campaign in the CWHL, Decker, a center for the Boston Blades, had 16 goals and 32 points in 12 games. She finished second in scoring, behind Rebecca Johnston, who notched 17 goals and 37 points in 24 games. Had Decker continued her tear through the CWHL and played as many games as Johnston, she could have reached 60 points.
Not only was Decker’s first season successful, she lit it up in the playoffs, adding another five goals and eight points in three games. In the Clarkson Cup final, she managed two points to help lead her Blades to the CWHL championship. She wasn’t done there, though. At the World Championship in Malmo, Sweden, Decker finished with five goals and 11 points, good for second in scoring behind Team USA teammate Hilary Knight. When it mattered most, she came up with the winning goal in a thrilling 7-5 defeat of Team Canada in the gold medal game.
2. Hilary Knight, LW
Were it not for Decker’s performance in the CWHL, it would be hard to beat Knight. Her seven goals and 12 points were the best total at the World Championship, and there are few women more talented.
3. Rebecca Johnston, RW
Johnston’s season was tremendous and her two goals and five points helped Canada make it back to the gold medal game at the worlds. At 25, her future is bright with the Canadian national team.
4. Noora Raty, G
Like Shannon Szabados, Raty made waves as a goaltender in men’s minor pro hockey. One of the greatest women’s goalies ever, Raty suited up for 14 games in the Finnish second and third divisions. When she’s on her game, there’s no better women’s netminder.
5. Caroline Ouellette, LW
Ouellette says she’s calling it quits after an illustrious international and professional career, but after the season she had, it’s hard to put her too far down this list. In 22 games with the CWHL’s Montreal Stars, Ouellette had eight goals and 26 points.
6. Shannon Szabados, G
Everyone’s favorite SPHL goaltender, Szabados got better with each passing game in the men’s minor pro league. By season’s end, she was splitting time in goal and finished with a 3.12 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.
7. Monique Lamoureux, D
It’s not hard to understand why the Boston Blades won the Clarkson Cup with a roster that boasts Decker, Knight and Lamoureux. Not only did Lamoureux finish second in scoring by D-men in the regular season, she added five assists en route to the CWHL title.
8. Marie-Philip Poulin, LW
Poulin is the first entry from the NCAA on the list, but she’s quickly becoming one of Canada’s elite forwards. After scoring 27 goals and 54 points in 32 games with Boston U., Poulin notched another three goals and six points at the World Championship.
9. Kendall Coyne, LW
Coyne is the youngster on this list at 23, but she’s already looking like she’ll be part of the next generation of standout American women’s players. At NCAA Northeastern, Coyne had 28 goals and 52 points in 31 games and wowed at the worlds with three goals and seven points.
10. Florence Schelling, G
Schelling opened everyone’s eyes in the Swiss net during the 2014 Olympics, where she was named the tournament MVP. She followed that up with another star-making performance, posting a .941 SP and 1.78 GAA at the World Championship.