History Begins: NWHL 2015-2016 Season Preview

The day is finally here for the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) and it came really quickly. Back on March 26 when news formation of the league broke, October seemed really far away, and the league had a lot of work to do.

Sure there have been some bumps and bruises along the way, as is expected of a fledging start-up, but they’ve made it to puck drop. And the first checks received by the players last week have cleared the bank.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know ahead of today’s NWHL debut. See the rosters (and how much they’re making), who to watch, and which goalies are expected to be No. 1 for their respective teams.

League Overview

Commissioner: Dani Rylan

Regular Season: Oct. 1, 2015 – Feb. 14, 2016, games on Saturdays and Sundays

Ultimate Prize: Isobel Cup

Roster Size: 18 players (15 skaters, 3 goalies)

Salary Cap: $270,000 per team

Three Strengths of the League:

1) Paying players. This is what has garnered the most attention for the league up to it’s debut. What they make may not be a living wage in the United States, but it’s a start in the right direction. The league will provide equipment to players that need it, and even brought in a stick company to customize twigs for the women who aren’t sponsored by a major retailer. Players also receive 15-percent of jersey sales.

2) Social Media and public relations campaign. In order to get eyeballs on your league nowadays, you have to reach fans where they are. The NWHL and the players who have joined it have been constantly Tweeting, Instagram-ing, blogging for various websites, doing numerous interviews, making tons of appearances, helping raise money, etc. in order to get people talking. Dani Rylan has been literally everywhere. She even had time to write for The Players Tribune.

3) Team USA connection. What better way to continue to grow women’s hockey in the United States than to scatter Olympic medalists, past-World Juniors players and World Championship athletes across the rosters.

Three Challenges to the League:

1) They’re new. The first games for the league may be sold out, but will that continue? Can they draw a fanbase outside the rabid hockey fans already in their market? Women’s hockey is still incrementally gaining support in the US. Think about it, if the NHL knew it was going to be a success right off the bat, they’d get their mitts all over it. 

2) Financial Stability. The league has been pretty hush hush about their financing sources which makes a lot of people nervous about the long term stability and rightfully so. Until the league can convince the fans – and more importantly, current and future sponsors – they are here to stay, the question is going to loom over them.

3) The CWHL. The mass exodus from the CWHL has NOT happened. A majority of the players who played with the league stayed there. Most of the athletes who flocked to the NWHL were former members of the Boston Blades. Can the two leagues compete for eyes and butts in the seats, especially in Boston where there are now two women’s teams?

Did You Know? Almost all the players have played college hockey at some level. If it weren’t for the NWHL or the CWHL, most of the players would be done with their careers after they graduate.

Today’s Games:

New York Riveters at Connecticut Whale, 1:30 PM ET
Boston Pride at Buffalo Beauts, 3:30 PM ET

Live Streaming: Free via YouTube on NWHL.co

Team: Boston Pride

Home Arena: Harvard Bright-Landry Center, Boston, MA

General Manager: Hayley Moore

Head Coach: Bobby Jay

Asst. Coach: Lauren McAuliffe


Name Position Team Nationality Salary
Gedman, Marissa D BOS USA $10,000
Bolden, Blake D BOS USA $15,000
Gagliardi, Alyssa D BOS USA $16,000
Marvin, Gigi D BOS USA $20,000
Bellamy, Kacey D BOS USA $22,000
Cooke, Kelly F BOS USA $10,500
Dempsey, Jillian F BOS USA $10,500
Llanes, Rachel F BOS USA $10,500
Buie, Corinne F BOS USA $12,000
Field, Emily F BOS USA $13,500
Pelkey, Amanda F BOS USA $13,500
Hickel, Zoe F BOS USA $16,000
Smelker, Jordan F BOS USA $16,000
Decker, Brianna F BOS USA $22,000
Knight, Hilary F BOS USA $22,000
Fralick, Kelsie G BOS USA $10,000
Slebodnick, Lauren G BOS USA $12,500
Ott, Brittney G BOS USA $17,000

Three Skaters to Watch:

1) Hilary Knight, F. With Team USA: 2-time Olympic silver medalist; 5-time gold medalist at the Women’s World Championship (WWC) and tournament MVP in 2015. At the University of Wisconsin: National titles in 2009 and 2011; first Team All-American honors and WCHA Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2008-09. With the Boston Blades: Clarkson Cup champion in 2013 and 2015; league MVP for 2012-13 season.

2) Brianna Decker, FWith Team USA: silver at the Sochi Olympics in 2014; WWC gold medalist in 2011, 2013, and 2015, and silver in 2012. At the Four Nations Cup tournaments she earned 3 gold, 2 silver, and one bronze medal. At the University of Wisconsin she was the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Award recipient. Won a Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades in 2015 and was named Rookie of the Year.

3) Gigi Marvin, D. With Team USA: 2-time Olympic silver medalist; played in six World Championships and seven Four Nations Cup tournaments. At the 2012 World Championship, she switched from forward to defense. At the University of Minnesota: Appeared in the Frozen Four twice and was named the WCHA’s Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year award. With the Boston Blades: won the Clarkson Cup in 2013.


Brittany Ott
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2009-2013 NCAA U of Maine  107  272  2,919  3,191  0.915  2.74 32-53-13
2013-2014 CWHL Boston Blades  17  41  475  516  0.921  2.63 10-6-0
2014-2015 CWHL Boston Blades  11  22  213  235  0.906  2.10 6-4-0
Lauren Slebodnick
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2010-2014 NCAA Cornell  88  138  1,668  1,806  0.924  1.65 68-10-5
Kelsie Fralick
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2011-2015 NCAA Connecticut College  76  148  2,016  2,164  0.932  2.06 32-32-6

Projected No. 1: Brittany Ott.  

Team: Buffalo Beauts

Home Arena: HaborCenter, Buffalo, NY

General Manager: Linda Mroz

Co-Head Coaches: Shelley Looney & Ric Seiling


Name Position Team Nationality Salary
Harrington, Paige D BUF USA $10,000
Grigg, Lindsay D BUF CAN $13,000
McDonald, Kelly D BUF CAN $13,000
Pfalzer, Emily D BUF USA $21,000
Bozek, Megan D BUF USA $22,500
Kunichika, Kourtney F BUF USA $10,000
McGowan, Hannah F BUF USA $10,000
Williams, Hayley F BUF USA $13,000
Zach, Erin F BUF CAN $13,000
Bram, Shelby F BUF CAN $15,000
Browne, Hailey F BUF CAN $15,000
Fickel, Jessica F BUF CAN $15,000
Rafter, Tatiana F BUF CAN $15,000
Skeats, Devon F BUF CAN $15,000
Duggan, Meghan F BUF USA $22,500
Sass, Kimberly G BUF USA $10,000
Makela, Amanda G BUF CAN $15,000
McLaughlin, Brianne G BUF USA $22,000

Three Skaters to Watch:

1) Meghan Duggan, FWith Team USA: 2-time Olympic silver medalist, Captain America for 2014 Olympic games, has 5 golds and 1 silver medal from the Women’s World Championships. At Wisconsin: three National Championships, won Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award in 2011, First Team All-American in 2010-11 and two-time All-WCHA First Team. With Boston Blades: Won Clarkson Cup in 2013 and 2015.

2) Megan Bozek, D. With Team USA: Olympic silver medalist in 2014, won gold in 2013 and silver in 2012 at Women’s World Championship. With University of Minnesota: Two National Championships and in 2013 was First Team All-American, First Team All-WCHA, and WCHA Defensive Player of the Year. With Toronto Furies: Selected second overall in 2014 CWHL draft.

3) Emily Pfalzer, D. With Team USA: gold medalist at WWC in 2015 and silver medalist at the Four Nations Cup in 2014. At Boston College: First Team All-American in 2014-15, two-time Best Defenseman in Hockey East, three straight Hockey East First Team All-Star, conference’s All-Rookie Team as a freshman, and only defenseman to hit 100-point mark at BC.


Brianne McLaughlin
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2005-2009 NCAA Robert Morris  119  379  3,809  4,188  0.910  3.31 31-79-8
2010-2011 CWHL Burlington Barracudas  N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A   N/A 
2008-2014 IIHF Team USA  13  20  159  179  0.882  2.20 4-2-2
Amanda Makela
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2011-2015 NCAA Mercyhurst  84  136  1,683  1,819  0.925  1.72 52-21-8
Kimberly Sass
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2008-2012 NCAA Colgate  93  261  2,502  2,763  0.906  2.87 34-38-10

Projected No. 1: Brianne McLaughlin

Team: Connecticut Whale

Home Arena: ChelseaPiers CT, Stamford, CT

General Manager: Harry Rosenholtz

Head Coach: Jake Mastel


Name Position Team Nationality Salary
Brickner, Jordan D CTW CAN $10,000
Engstrom, Molly D CTW USA $12,000
Berman, Lindsay D CTW USA $15,000
Doyle, Shannon D CTW CAN $15,000
Fratkin, Kaleigh D CTW CAN $20,000
Dougherty, Brittney F CTW USA $10,000
Long, Micaela F CTW USA $10,000
Ward, Danielle F CTW USA $10,000
Wolfheiler, Alyssa F CTW CAN $10,000
Faber, Sam F CTW USA $13,500
Darkangelo, Shiann F CTW USA $17,000
Babstock, Kelly F CTW CAN/USA $18,000
Koizumi, Jessica F CTW USA $20,500
Smolentseva, Yekaterina F CTW RUS $22,000
Stack, Kelli F CTW USA $25,000
Leonoff, Jaimie G CTW CAN/USA $10,000
Stock, Nicole G CTW USA $10,000
Laden, Chelsea G CTW USA $14,000

Three Skaters to Watch:

1) Kellie Stack, F. Highest paid player in the NWHL. With Team USA: Team USA: two Olympic silver medals, three Women’s World Championship gold medals, and named Best Forward at 2012 WWC. At Boston College: Three-time Hockey East Player of the Year, two-time conference scoring champion, and 2011-12 New England Player of the Year.

2) Yekaterina Smolentseva, F. With Team Russia: Played in four consecutive Olympic games, and has been a part of Team Russia since 1999 WWC. Has three Russian Women’s Chamionships and four Europen Women’s Champions Cups. 

3) Kaleigh Fratkin, D. First Canadian to sign with NWHL. With Team Canada: Won Four Nations Cup in 2015 and silver medalist in U-18 Women’s World Championship. At Boston University: Hockey East Conference champion, New England Division I All-Star and Hockey East First-Team All-Star in 2013-14. With Boston Blades: Won Clarkson Cup in 2015. First woman to play with Vancouver North West Giants and won a B.C. provincial championship in 2010.


Chelsea Laden
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2011-2015 NCAA Quinnipiac  88  131  1,570  1,701  0.923  1.56 51-22-12
Nicole Stock
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2005-2009 NCAA Brown  91  243  2,849  3,092  0.921  2.75 24-53-10
Jaimie Leonoff
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2011-2015 NCAA Yale  99  277  3,107  3,384  0.918  2.96 26-57-11

Projected No. 1: Chelsea Laden

(It ended up being Jaimie Leonoff in net for the first game.)


Team: New York Riveters

Home Arena: Aviator Sports & Event Center, Brooklyn, NY

General Manager: Dani Rylan

Head Coach: Chad Wiseman

Asst. Coach: Mark DeSimone


Name Position Team Nationality Salary
Figueroa, Gabie D NYR USA $10,000
Orlando, Elena D NYR USA $10,000
Dosdall, Kiira D NYR USA $13,500
Johnston, Ashley D NYR USA $14,000
Hanrahan, Beth F NYR USA $10,500
Fritz-Ward, Morgan F NYR USA $12,500
Ketchum, Bray F NYR USA $14,000
Brown, Celeste F NYR USA $15,000
Kidd, Sydney F NYR CAN $15,000
Packer, Madison F NYR USA $15,000
Ammerman, Brooke F NYR USA $16,500
Weber, Janine F NYR AUT $19,500
Belyakova, Lyudmila F NYR RUS $20,000
Fardelmann, Meghan F NYR USA $20,000
Barley-Maloney, Erin F/D NYR USA $14,000
Scrivens, Jenny G NYR USA $10,000
Lundberg, Shenae G NYR USA $15,000
Fujimoto, Nana G NYR JPN $21,000

 Three Skaters to Watch:

1) Lyudmila Belyakova, F. Team Russia: Played for national team since 15-years-old; appeared in three U-18 Women’s World Championship, winning gold in 2011, earned bronze medal at 2013 WWC and a gold medal at the Winter Universiade tournament in Granada, Spain.

2) Brooke Ammerman, F. With University of Wisconsin: Fourth all-time leading scorer in school history and two-time National Champion. As a freshman: All-WCHA Rookie Team, WCHA Final Face-off All-Tournament Team, and team Rookie of the Year. As a sophomore: WCHA Preseason Player of the Year, team Offensive Player of the Year, and WCHA All-Star. Named to the All-WCHA Third Team three times, and NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament Team twice.

3) Janine Weber, FFirst player to sign contract with NWHL. With Boston Blades: scored Clarkson Cup clinching goal in 2015. With Vienna Sabres of EWHL scored 182 points (111+71) in 83 career games and two championships.


Nana Fujimoto
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2014 IIHF Team Japan (OLY)  5  15  116  131  0.886  3.31 0-0-5
2015 IIHF Team Japan (WWC)  5  8  120  128  0.938  1.52  4-1-0 
Shenae Lundberg
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2011-2015 NCAA Union  110  306  3,023  3,329  0.908  2.98 20-77-11
Jenny Scrivens
Season League Team  GP   GA   SV   Shots   SV%   GAA  Record
2006-2008 NCAA Cornell  52  140  1,336  1,476  0.905  3.06 15-28-2

Projected No. 1: Nana Fujimoto