NHL 23 rankings released — NCAA updates — Sami Jo Small joins the Six
The IX: Hockey Friday with Eleni Demestihas, Sept. 30, 2022
Happy Friday, everyone!
NCAA D1 women’s hockey got into full swing last week with non-conference play and exhibitions. After Penn State upset Wisconsin in the first game of their series, Wisconsin came back and pummeled them 9-1. Penn State should still be absolutely psyched about that first win, but Wisconsin need not worry (in case anyone thought they needed to). As of today, University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) captain Ashton Bell has four goals and three assists in three games, which makes her the current top scorer.
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On Thursday, unranked St. Lawrence University (SLU) took UMD (4) to overtime. Although SLU did lose the game, to hold a team ranked that high to an overtime win is an impressive achievement and it was a great game. NEWHA and WCHA begin inter-conference play this weekend, with Post playing St. Michael’s and defending NCAA champions Ohio State opening their season against Minnesota State, in Minnesota. As far as non-conference games to keep an eye on, I would point out Colgate vs. Mercyhurst and Boston College v. Quinnipiac.
Speaking of Boston College, check out freshman Kate Ham’s first NCAA goal:
PHF season is slowly approaching, and meanwhile, a few key pieces are still falling into place. The Toronto Six just announced that Canadian Olympic goalie Sami Jo Small will be the team’s President, which is probably my favorite hire of the offseason. Small didn’t play NCAA D1 hockey— she went to Stanford University on a track and field scholarship. Although she played for the men’s hockey team, her primary sport at the time had her competing in discus throw, hammer throw and javelin throw events. Then she went on to play for Team Canada at the Olympics, super casually.
She played in the CWHL and was later the GM of the CWHL’s Toronto Furies before the CWHL folded in 2019. In January, the PHF invited Small to be a coach during All-Star Weekend. Clearly both parties felt good about the possibility of Small staying involved with the league. She was a great GM for the Furies and she’ll be a great President for the Six. As a matter of fact, two players on the Six were also players she signed to Furies contracts: Shiann Darkangelo, currently the Six captain, and all-star caliber Six goalie Elaine Chuli.
Sportsnet’s Kristina Rutherford also published a piece on September 28 about Brianna Decker’s transition from playing in the PWHPA to being the team and player development adviser for the PHF. In this article, Decker is quoted as saying that she absolutely would have played in the PHF this season, if she felt healthy enough to compete.
I had heard—though was unable to confirm on the record—that the Whitecaps had interest in Decker this offseason, and the interest was mutual. I wouldn’t be surprised if she does eventually take the ice for a PHF team, which is just another example of something I keep repeating: most of these players just want to play. It’s clear that as players like Decker and others who competed in the PWHPA get closer to the PHF, many of them are realizing that the PHF, while imperfect, has a lot to offer them. I expect this trend is likely to continue, although I don’t know whether it will have any impact on the PWHPA’s plans for their own league.
The video game NHL 23’s rankings were released last week as well, which were hotly debated, as always (in any sport). Poulin remains at the top of the chart with a 94 overall rating, which I have no quarrel with. She may pick and choose when she turns her skill up to eleven nowadays, but she’s still, to me, unquestionably the best in the game.
After that is where it falls apart to me. Kendall Coyne-Schofield and Hilary Knight are both ranked at 93, which in and of itself doesn’t bother me necessarily, except that they’re both, in 2022-2023, ranked above Sarah Fillier (92) and Sarah Nurse (91). I don’t think that Sarah FIllier should be ranked below anyone but Poulin at this point in time. Knight and Coyne-Schofield are incredible players who are definitely in the top ten in the game, but having just watched Worlds, I cannot say that either of them is presently a better, more complete player than Fillier. I don’t think many players are. Jenni Hiirikoski is the only European in the top ten. As far as the goalies go, I have absolutely no problem with Desbiens being the highest-rated goaltender in the game, because I think she’s definitely the best in the world today. That being said, having not one but three American goaltenders in the top ten tells me that whoever did the ratings probably doesn’t watch a lot of games that don’t include a North American team.
Of the American goalies, I agree that Hensley should be the top-rated. Andrea Braendli should be in the top five, I would swap her with Maschmeyer, and I would say that today I would rank Campbell above Maschmeyer even for the Canadians. I would not rank Rooney above Raisanen or Braendli today, although I would have in 2018 or 2019. Now, the ratings in video games rarely match up with how good players actually are, and I don’t mean to suggest that they need to. That being said, I think it’s pretty obvious looking at these ratings that EA needs to spend a little more time looking outside the gold medal games of major tournaments if they’re going to go through the trouble of adding women’s national teams to the game.
I’ve seen calls for EA to add the PWHPA and the PHF to the game, which I totally understand and I think would be very fun. That being said, licensing player likenesses and jerseys and arenas are things that require relatively complicated contracts, and those kinds of contracts have not been done for a women’s professional hockey league before. It’s going to take time, and a team of lawyers on each side, to make something like that happen, and it opens a whole can of worms that I would hesitate to touch before either the PWHPA or the PHF has a legitimate union set up.
One last thing to round out your week. I previously mentioned that Toronto Six goalie Carly Jackson is the co-host of a podcast called ‘More than Five Percent.’ They dropped their debut episode on Thursday, so give it a listen!
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