Editor’s Note: This article is solely the opinion of its writer. It does not reflect the rest of the DAB staff. These opinions are also made based on who is SIGNED for the upcoming season only. If they are unsigned they are ineligible because it is unknown if they will return.
Signings have seemed to quiet down in Riveters Nation. So now seems as good a time to look at who the best players are in the National Women’s Hockey League. This will be broken down into three sections: forwards, defenders and goaltenders, leaving us with a grand total of six players.
Goaltender- Shannon Szabados (Buffalo Beauts)
The new Buffalo Beauts netminder has been widely considered the best female goaltender in the world. The 32-year-old has two gold medals and one silver for Team Canada at the Olympics. While she does not have any NWHL numbers we can compare with other contenders like Katie Fitzgerald or Amanda Levielle, the medals and level of competition she has faced in all three olympics speak for itself. This debut season will be a great test for Szabados to prove why she is considered the best.
Defenders- Courtney Burke (Metropolitan Riveters), Lee Stecklien (Minnesota White Caps)
Stecklein is 24 with Olympic gold and silver, along with four other gold medals from the World Junior Championships under her belt. That is a very impressive resume and she certainly was a contributing factor to all six of those medal-winning teams, otherwise they would not keep retaining her on the roster. Stecklien will be joining the Minnesota Whitecaps this season, and it will make for an interesting story line as to how many other Olympians they can add in addition to the three currently signed.
Burke is turning 24 in September. She was by far the best defenseman in the league last season, and there is no reason to doubt she will be in the top rankings again. She had the second-most points in the entire league with 19 (2 G 17 A). She is a phenomenal puck handler and the game film will prove those claims. It does not matter which game you watch. There is no doubt she will have another outstanding season for the Metropolitan Riveters in hopes of defending their Isobel Cup title.
Forwards- Amanda Kessel (Metropolitan Riveters), Kendall Coyne Schofield (Minnesota White Caps), Hannah Brandt (Minnesota White Caps)
There is a reason these three individuals get chosen to represent their Olympic team, because they are simply the best. Now of course Riveters fans are familiar with Kessel as she played here in the 2016-2017 season. She then took the next year off to train for Peyongchang but during her first and only season in the NWHL, Kessel tallied 24 points (9,15). She also missed six games with an injury so those numbers are in just 12 contests, an average of two points per game. She is a force to be reckoned with as she makes her return.
Coyne Schofield, 26, another Team USA Olympian will be joining the Whitecaps. She was one of the most impactful players during these recent games. There is no doubt she will be bringing all of that talent she displayed in Korea back with her to Minnesota and the rest of the league’s arenas. Expect her to have a big year much like the rest of her team as they look to make a serious push for the cup in their inaugural season.
Brandt is also suiting up for Minnesota and just edges out her soon-to-be competitor Dani Cameranesi (Beauts). They were both Olympic teammates, but ultimately I feel Brandt will make more of an immediate impact to her team. At this moment, the Beauts have greater depth so the offense will be more widespread than the Whitecaps. Of course everything can change once the roster is finalized, but for now this is how it stands.
It will be interesting to see who will make the biggest impact this season as the NWHL sees a lot of new talent coming in. There is going to be plenty to watch for and season four should be the best yet now that there is a fifth team. No roster is finalized yet so even this article could change, but for now this is how it stands.