Toronto, ON- Toronto The NWHL is coming to Canada! With the league’s announcement that they’ll be bringing a team to Toronto in the 2020-21 season comes a new opportunity for U Sports players.
Although many details of the team have yet to be finalized, including where the new team will play, the NWHL’s Canadian expansion is a larger opportunity for more U Sports players to continue their careers after graduation.
There are many factors that players consider when deciding whether or not to sign with an NWHL team but one of the biggest factors in whether a player signs is location. NWHL players don’t make enough money from hockey alone to justify moving for their hockey careers. Therefore, it’s incredibly common for players to stay in the cities where they played their collegiate careers or have otherwise found employment. Teams like Boston and Minnesota are able to recruit stronger players due to their close proximity to NCAA powerhouses.
There’s also the matter of work visas. It’s a lot simpler for an American NWHLer to find a second source of income than it would be for a Canadian who’s relocated and is prohibited by their athlete visa from earning money in the United States outside of the NWHL.
That’s where Toronto comes in. Not only is it more convenient for players who have already gone to school in or around the GTA to continue to play in a city that they’re already familiar with, they will also have a much easier time securing a secondary stream of income as citizens of the country they’re playing in.
With all that being said, there are many players who stand out among U Sports graduating seniors as individuals who could potentially crack an NWHL team lineup.
Taytum Clairmont, University of Waterloo
Clairmont is a fascinating player within U Sports in that she’d played three full seasons of NCAA hockey at Northeastern before coming to Waterloo. She graduated with a degree in communications and a minor in business. In her two years at Waterloo, she obtained a Masters in Business Entrepreneurship and Technology. Clairmont has expressed an interest in playing professionally and would make a strong addition to a Toronto team. She led the OUA in points and assists in 2019-20 and has a tenacious and tough style of play. In 23 games, she scored 28 points, 17 of which were assists and 11 of which were goals.
She’s an OUA player of the year, forward of the year and a first team all-star. Which is to say, she’s really good.
Clairmont would make an excellent addition, both for her physicality and her scoring touch. She’d fit right in amongst players like Madison Packer who had 34 goals in 24 games and also led the league in penalty minutes with 48. The NWHL is a league that rewards tenacity as well as physicality and Clairmont would bring both of those teams to Toronto.
Lindsey Donovan, St Francis Xavier University
Donovan still has one year of U Sports eligibility though she would technically be eligible for the NWHL draft provided she has graduated and finished her collegiate career. She’s played the past four years with the St. Francis Xavier X-women. She had 26 points in 28 games as a defender this season, the fifth most of anyone in the AUS. Donovan is from the maritimes so it might be a stretch to ask her to relocate to the GTA. If she wants to play professionally though, Toronto would be a stellar opportunity to add her skills to what’s no doubt going to become a stacked offense.
Toronto has already locked up Emma Greco on defense but Donovan has the potential to become an offensive threat on Toronto’s blue line whereas Greco is more of a defensively responsible but less offensively minded player.
Kryshanda Green, Ryerson University
The NWHL ought to take a serious look at players from Ryerson, York and UofT. They’ve already signed Kristen Barbara who played for York before making the move to the CWHL, so it’s safe to say that these schools are on their radar. It will be far easier to convince players who already live in the city to sign with the NWHL than it will be to convince players who’ll have to relocate or commute for practices and games.
Kryshanda Green captained the Ryerson Rams this season, scoring 19 points in 24 regular season games, 13 assists and six goals. Green has proved her persistence and determination on and off the ice. She hadn’t played hockey in nearly three seasons when she started at Ryerson after being unable to make the transition to student athlete in her freshman season at Western. She dropped out after a season. Her second kick at the can has gone considerably better with Ryerson. She’s proven that she’s able to adapt to change and her leadership lead Ryerson to the semi-finals of the McCaw cup playoffs.
Green has not only the scoring ability to make a splash in the NWHL but she’s also proven that she has the determination and persistence to adapt to a new style of play. She’s a solid play-maker with knowledge and passion for the game.
Jensen Murphy, Brock University
Toronto has already signed Elaine Chuli who will most likely start in net for them, but signing Murphy would give them a solid tandem. Murphy has spent five years at Brock and she’s been the definitive starter for four of them. Murphy made the most saves in the OUA with 646 in 2019-20. She started all but one game for the Badgers this season and played more minutes than any other goaltender in the league, earning her the title of OUA’s goalie of the year this past season.
Murphy’s a unique case because she could go to either Buffalo or Toronto. Buffalo’s a shorter commute from St. Catharines where she played her university career and she’d be joining her old teammate, Kim Brown on the Beauts.
Either way, if any NWHL team can nab Murphy, they’d be getting a solid option between the pipes.
Annie Berg, Brock University
I will acknowledge that it might be a little bit of my own school pride that’s led me to put two Brock grads on this list, but Brock is a school with some decent NWHL ties. In addition to Kim Brown, the Beauts have a superstar in Taylor Accursi and her younger sister, Hunter has played for the Badgers for the past three seasons. Brock is also pretty good middle ground in terms of commute between Buffalo and Toronto.
Annie Berg is a player who’s flown slightly under the radar for the past four seasons. Berg was originally scouted to play NCAA division 1 for the St. Lawrence Saints but opted to stay closer to home in attending Brock.
She’s played for team Canada, both as a U18 and at FISU’s Universiade in 2019. She won silver with the U18 team in 2016 and again at the Universiade in 2019.
She’s been the Badgers leading point scorer in all but her sophomore year when she was their second leading point scorer. She finished this season with 20 points in 24 games despite a nine game goal drought.
Berg has a killer shot which is only enhanced by her incredible hockey IQ. She generates high danger chances, not just for herself, but for her teammates as well, finishing the season with 11 assists. Berg spent a lot of time on the top line at Brock, but she’s proven that she can make herself useful in a depth role in her Team Canada appearances.
Whatever ends up happening, the NWHL should seriously consider looking into some U Sports talent as they expand into Canada.