2024 PWHL preview

The IX: Hockey Friday with The Ice Garden, Dec. 29, 2023

A new era of women’s professional hockey starts on Jan. 1, 2024, as the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) drops the puck on their regular season.

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Mike Murphy, site manager of The Ice Garden, and Michelle Jay, senior editor of TIG, are here with a special edition of Hockey Friday to get you ready with important links, things to know and a quick preview for all six teams.

(Editor’s note: The IX was off this week, but The Ice Garden kindly contributed this timely preview to help our readers prepare for the PWHL season. The IX will return with Tennis Tuesday on Jan. 2, 2024.)

Key things to know

  • There are no team names or logos. Potential names were found via trademark filings, but the immediate public reaction to them was largely negative. Citing a short time frame to build the league, they’ve opted to refer to each team as PWHL “Location.”
  • Jerseys will all look the same, with the location going diagonally across the front.
  • Each team has 23 players on the roster and will play 24 total games with 12 home games each. Most teams have one home rink but two — Montreal and New York — will play in two different ones. New York is especially an outlier as they will play most of their games at the rink in Connecticut. 
  • There are games on the schedule with no location or time yet. The league has held steady that neutral site games were built into the schedule so it’s easy to assume those slots are for sites like that.
  • How to watch is dependent on where you live. New York and New England have regional broadcasts. Canadian fans will have to tune into three different channels all season, plus French broadcasts of all the Montréal games. Minnesota is the lone home location with no television deal. However, all games will be streamed on the league’s YouTube page for all viewers.

The Ice Garden has comprehensive team previews, so here we’re featuring two players from each team we think you should keep an eye on — a player you might know and a player you might not know.


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New York

Know: Corinne Schroeder, G

Photo of New York’s Corinne Schroeder in goal. Photo via PWHL.

Schroeder was sensational for the Boston Pride in the 2022-23 PHF season. Even though PWHL New York has Abigail Levy and Lindsey Post on the roster — two other exceptional goalies — Schroeder enters the season as the goalie to beat for the starting job. The 24-year-old had a .955 save percentage in her first pro season and lost just a single game for the Pride (she won 19). She’s a star and it will be exciting to see her compete with Levy and Post for minutes while all three develop under former pro goalie Laura Brennan.

Maybe don’t know: Johanna Fällman, D

Fällman is one of two Europeans on a very Canadian-rich PWHL New York roster. The veteran left-handed defender has a wealth of pro experience from her time in the SDHL but also played NCAA D1 hockey at the University of North Dakota. Fällman will likely not be featured on New York’s power play but she could be an important part of the team’s identity in the locker room and in the defensive zone.

Ottawa

Know: Kateřina Mrázová, F

I have said it before, and I will say it again — Mrázová has some of the best hands and moves in the game. Everywhere the Czech star has played, she has been a primary point machine — a clear indication that she is an offensive driver. The crafty veteran can play both center and wing and should absolutely be seeing puck touches on one of Ottawa’s power play units. Mrázová absolutely has the talent to be on Ottawa’s top line and be one of the team’s top scorers. Fans in Ottawa are going to fall in love with her and her game. She’s always worth the price of admission.

Maybe don’t know: Rachel McQuigge, G

I expect Emerance Maschmeyer to play most of the minutes for PWHL Ottawa, but don’t overlook a young goalie with tremendous potential: Rachel McQuigge.

McQuigge is a fascinating young goalie with a high ceiling she has foreshadowed with her play at Princeton and with the PHF’s Metropolitan Riveters. In the right environment and with the right coaching, she could develop into a franchise goaltender. All McQuigge needs is an opportunity to shine and showcase the skills that saw her post a .933 save percentage at Princeton and backstop the Riveters to four wins in a promising rookie campaign that was derailed by injury.

Minnesota

Know: Taylor Heise, F

Photo of Minnesota forward Taylor Heise skating. Photo via PWHL.

Heise is Team USA’s newest superstar. She’s a high-scoring center who has filled the vacuum left by the injury-triggered retirement of Brianna Decker. Heise can do it all. She can create and finish her own scoring chances and beats opposing defenders with her speed, skill, size and her hockey IQ. In many ways, Heise is cut from a similar player to Alex Carpenter but right now her ceiling looks higher than her PWHL New York counterpart.

Maybe don’t know: Michela Cava, F

Cava is one of those players who deserves a lot more recognition than she has. A small, creative center, Cava is something of a journeywoman. The PWHL will be her fourth pro league after the Canadian began her pro career in the CWHL with the Toronto Furies in 2016-17. Since that first pro year, Cava has established herself as a productive, big-game player. On PWHL Minnesota, she represents scoring depth and could potentially be a good linemate for superstar Kendall Coyne Schofield because of her vision, skating, and passing ability.


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Montreal

Know: Marie-Philip Poulin, F

This is probably cheating a little bit, to be honest. She’s the captain of the Canadian National Team. She’s Captain Clutch, scoring seven goals in four Olympic gold medal games, including the gold medal-winning goal in 2010 and 2014. Poulin has been slightly hampered by injury lately, but she’s still Marie-Philip Poulin and we’re all still living in her world. 

Maybe don’t know: Jillian Dempsey, F

Photo of Montreal forward Jillian Dempsey holding a stick and skating. Photo via PWHL.

This season will be the first time Dempsey suits up for a team not based in her home state of Massachusetts, after being drafted and signed by Montreal, a wild fact given how much the forward has done in her career. The 32-year-old has won a U18 Worlds gold, a senior Worlds silver medal, CWHL Rookie of the Year, CWHL Clarkson Cup, three NWHL/PHF Isobel Cups, NWHL MVP, and was the NWHL/PHF’s all-time leading scorer. From NCAA through her professional career, she averages a point per game.

Boston

Know: Alina Müller, F

The Swiss phenom. There’s not much more to say about Müller than that. She was the third overall draft pick in the inaugural draft and then signed to stay in the city where she played college hockey. At Northeastern, she was their star player on an absolutely stacked team. She finished with 254 points – 1.60 points per game. On the international stage, Müller has been to three Olympics – all before the age of 26 – and scored 12 goals across 19 games at the Games. 

Maybe Don’t Know: Taylor Girard, F

On a team of big-name forwards, Girard adds to the insane depth Boston has (at all positions to be honest). She was the first overall draft pick in the 2021 NWHL/PHF Draft for the Connecticut Whale, then went on to earn Newcomer of the Year accolades that season after posting 26 points in 22 games. Despite only playing two seasons with the Whale, Girard’s name is all over their scoring record books, proving she’s a highly effective forward.


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Toronto

Know: Sarah Nurse, F

If there was one word to describe Nurse I’d say it was consistent. Throughout her career at Wisconsin to the CWHL, the PWHPA and the Canadian National team, Nurse has been a constant point producer for every team she’s played for. In her entire career, she’s averaged around a point per game, no matter what league, team, or level. She was one of Toronto’s three initial free agency signings, and signed for three years, so it’s safe say that consistency is here to stay.

Photo of Toronto forward Sarah Nurse. Photo via PWHL.

Maybe don’t know: Hannah Miller, F

Hannah Miller hasn’t played a pro game in North America since the 2018-19 CWHL season, where she began her pro career with Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays. After her standout career at St. Lawrence University, Miller played pro hockey for Chinese clubs in the CWHL and Russia, played one year in the SDHL Djurgarden, and represented China in the 2022 Olympics. The globetrotting goal scorer will bring some serious scoring depth to Toronto and will waste little time re-introducing herself to Toronto hockey fans.

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Written by The Ice Garden