Under the radar: PWHLers weigh in on most underrated players

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You couldn’t have written Jamie Lee Rattray’s first PWHL goal better than it turned out.

Rattray scored on a perfect pass in front of the net from Boston teammate Sophie Shirley in front of a crowd of more than 5,200 people, including her parents, in Ottawa. Boston then beat Ottawa 3-2 in that Wednesday game, picking up three important points for a victory in regulation.

“It’s always fun to come home and always fun to win at home too,” Rattray said after the match.

Before the start of the regular season, CBC Sports asked more than 30 PWHL players who they thought was the most underrated player heading into the league’s inaugural season.

Twenty-six different names emerged, but only three players received more than one vote: Rattray and Ottawa forwards Emily Clark and Hayley Scamura.

WATCH | PWHLers weigh in on the league’s most underrated player:

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CBC Sports surveyed PWHL players to find out who they think is the most underrated player ahead of the inaugural season.

Rattray was the 13th all-around forward on the Canadian national team in recent years. She’s the type of player who can play on the first line or the fourth line.

She can also score big goals when it counts, like her shootout winner against the Americans in the preliminary round of the World Championships last year.

In Boston, where Rattray carries a letter, it is locked for the first six minutes. So far, she has turned that opportunity into nearly a point per game.

“She’s really, really tenacious,” Scamurra said of Rattray before the season started.

“(Rattray) is that player that maybe does little things that you don’t notice that lead to goals for her team. She’s just a really great person and player.”

Boston teammates Shirley and Aerin Frankel also chose Rattray. Both highlighted his work ethic.

“Obviously she’s a really, really good player, she works really hard and has a great shot,” Shirley said.

“A player like me goes unnoticed, but does everything she needs to do correctly.”

Versatility is key to Clark’s game

Clark has played a larger role with Team Canada over the years. But like Rattray, she is versatile.

A female hockey player wearing a red jersey, with Ottawa written on it, manipulates the puck along the boards.
Ottawa alternate captain Emily Clark (right) scored her first PWHL goal against Toronto last week. (Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography/PWHL)

“She’s a staple on Team Canada, but I don’t think people really realize that she could play a role on a team,” Toronto defenseman Jocelyne Larocque said after choosing Clark as the most underperforming player. estimated.

“(Clark) could be a first-line player, she could be a fourth-line player. She’s someone you want on your team.”

Clark’s play on Harvey’s Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) team last year was a good indicator that she has more to give offensively. She finished with 23 points in 20 games, second in the PWHPA behind Marie-Philip Poulin.

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In Ottawa, Clark was one of the first players the team signed in free agency and he has a chance to shine. She spends most of her time on a strong, capable line with Gabbie Hughes and Mikyla Grant-Mentis.

She scored her first PWHL goal Tuesday at home against Toronto, a game her team won 3-1.

“He’s someone who’s always been good for so long,” Toronto captain Blayre Turnbull said of Clark.

“I think this year in the PWHL you’re going to see a lot more offense from her, and people will start to understand why people who have played with her for so long have so much respect for the type of game she plays. plays. “

It’s always difficult to play against

Scamurra made history in Ottawa when she scored the team’s first-ever goal on January 2.

WATCH | Scamurra looks back on Ottawa’s first goal:

Hayley Scamurra looks back on her first ever goal for Ottawa

American forward Hayley Scamura remembers playing and scoring in front of the largest crowd ever to witness a professional women’s hockey game.

She has earned a spot in the bottom six of the U.S. national team over the past few years. Those who chose her as the most underrated noted how difficult she is to play against. Plus, it’s consistent.

“She’s tough with the puck,” said Ottawa teammate Jincy Roese.

“You wouldn’t think about it, but she’s super, super silky in tight areas. She scores big goals. Somehow she always ends up with the puck on her stick. I also hate going against her, because I always find myself on the ground. and she finds herself escaping.”

On Saturday, Scamurra scored the tying goal against Montreal, forcing overtime and securing his team a point in the eventual loss.

Hidden gems

Montreal forward Jillian Dempsey couldn’t identify a specific player who she thinks is most underrated, but said she thinks there are a lot of “hidden gems” among the players who played in the First Hockey Federation (PHF) before its closure.

“There are a lot of talented elite players who don’t always get the national team media coverage or those opportunities, but they are great players,” said Dempsey, who captained the Boston Pride of the PHF before coming to Montreal.

Two hockey players fight for a puck during a game.  We left our feet to throw ourselves into it.
Ottawa forward Mikyla Grant-Mentis (left) pursues the puck against Toronto defenseman Allie Munroe. Grant-Mentis was Premier Hockey Federation MVP in 2021 before the league shut down. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Voters who played in this league last season included Ottawa’s Grant-Mentis, New York’s Élizabeth Giguère and Minnesota’s Brittyn Fleming, among others.

Grant-Mentis, who was the PHF MVP in 2021, went undrafted to the PWHL. She took that as motivation for training camp in Ottawa, where she made the team as a free agent.

Six games into the season, Grant-Mentis has three points.

“I think she’s very underrated and she’s an incredible hockey player,” said Ottawa teammate Kristin Della Rovere after picking Grant-Mentis as the most underrated player.

“I’m excited to see her play this year and prove some people wrong and show off her skills because I don’t think she’s gotten the same attention that she deserves.”

Impressive new teammates

Several players wanted to highlight new teammates who impressed them during the first weeks of training camp.

Take, for example, rookie forward Maureen Murphy. Her Montreal teammate, Erin Ambrose, played against Murphy on the international stage, with Murphy on the American team and Ambrose as the mainstay of Canada’s blue line.

But it wasn’t until the two became teammates that Ambrose was able to see Murphy’s “full skill set” up close.

“Her work ethic, her drive and her determination to get better and I’ve only known her for three weeks,” Ambrose said before the season started. “I think she’s going to be someone that takes this league by storm.”

Murphy has seven points in Montreal’s eight games, including the game-winning overtime goal against Ottawa on Saturday. This places her tied at the top of the Montreal rankings with her linemates Poulin and Tereza Vanišová.

With many players new to each other and others taking on different roles than they played on their last team, player responses could be very different by the end of the season.

That’s one of the most exciting aspects of having a league with all the top talent in one place: seeing new, overlooked talent emerge. With professional resources, players are more likely to thrive and reach their potential.

A hockey player carries the puck across the ice.
New York forward Emma Woods scored her first PWHL goal earlier this month, a game-winning tally in overtime against Minnesota. (Kelly Hagenson/PWHL)

“There are a lot of players that, over the years, maybe have been a little overlooked,” said New York forward Emma Woods, whose first PWHL goal was a game-winner against Minnesota earlier this month.

“I think this is an opportunity for myself and maybe a lot of other girls in this league to prove themselves and make a big step for their teams.”

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