The start of the inaugural PWHL season is fast approaching, and as of yesterday, Ottawa’s roster is finally set.
If you’re here, it’s probably because you plan on cheering for the Ottawa PWHL team, or at least are open to the possibility of it. As much as having a rooting interest makes sports more fun, any fan could tell you that it’s knowing a bit about the individual players that really makes a difference.
Whether you’re brand new to women’s hockey, a casual fan who watches the Olympic tournament every four years, a die-hard who’s followed every professional women’s hockey league, or somewhere in between, I can guarantee that you have a lot of new names to learn before Ottawa hits the ice.
So, today we’re starting our two-part series that dives into the players that make up Ottawa’s PWHL team. Hailing from Canada, the US, Czechia, Japan, Hungary and Germany, with experience on the International stage, in college hockey and in professional women’s hockey leagues all over the world, they bring a wide range of experiences to this Ottawa team. Some of them have known each other for years, and most of them have competed against each other at some point.
First up, the forward group, which has a lot of unknowns, and a whole lot of potential.
#8: Natalie Snodgrass (1998, USA, camp invite)
The first player on our list is a recent NCAA graduate who played one season in the PHF for the Minnesota Whitecaps, where she tied for the team lead in scoring. She's stayed just under a point per game for most of her career. In a comprehensive breakdown of her game that I'd recommend you all read, The Hockey News described her as a "power forward" who plays a north-south game and is good at getting pucks to the net. She may not have the name recognition of some of the other training camp invites, but she shouldn't be overlooked as a player who could end up being an important part of this team.
#9: Daryl Watts (1999, Canada, drafted 6th round)
Daryl Watts was a superstar in the NCAA - I'm talking first freshman to ever win the Patty Kazmaier award, very high up on the all-time NCAA scoring list, ridiculous stats like 82 points in 38 games - before a lack of options to play professional hockey forced her into an early retirement. To the delight of women’s hockey fans everywhere, Watts soon walked back her decision and signed a massive contract with the Toronto Six of the PHF. Her one season of pro hockey was unremarkable, but hopefully she can regain her college hockey form and become the steal of the inaugural PWHL draft.
#10: Becca Gilmore (1998, USA, camp invite)
According to her USA hockey profile, Gilmore is into stats and models her play after Patrice Bergeron, which is a great sign. She’s a Harvard alum, and played one season for Boston in the PHF. She’s represented the US at a few U-18 World Championships, and in 2022 earned the distinction of being the only PHF player selected to represent the US in the Rivalry Series.
#11: Akane Shiga (2001, Japan, camp invite)
At just 22, Akane Shiga is the youngest player in the league, and a strong contender for the most interesting story in Ottawa. She's never played pro hockey before (although she did sign a contract with the Buffalo Beauts before the PHF got bought out), so the only place North American fans have ever seen her play is in International tournaments, where she captains team Japan.
For anyone who isn’t very familiar with International women’s hockey: Japan is a bigger player in women’s hockey than in men's hockey, but certainly far from being a powerhouse. Shiga has been a huge standout for them; she started out playing defense like her older sister, but showed so much offensive talent that her coaches had no choice but to move her up to forward, where she was really able to shine as a goalscorer. Her skating is one of her most notable attributes, and she has a great one-timer. But there’s one big reason why she wasn’t signed or drafted into the PWHL: no one knew how she’d look when playing on a strong team against equally strong competition.
Thankfully, Shiga answered that question quickly and decisively, establishing herself as one of the best players in Ottawa’s training camp. People who covered the training camp called her the standout of the group, and so she’s definitely going to get a chance to play for the team this year. Shiga has also apparently been using a translator during training camp, so I guess we’ll get to watch her learn English this season.
#13: Mikyla Grant-Mentis (1998, Canada, camp invite)
If you’re looking for a more under-the-radar pick for your favourite player, “Buckey” is your girl. Her career has been all over the place; peaking as the PHF’s top scorer a few years ago and briefly becoming the highest paid player in women’s hockey, then falling back down to earth with "only" 21 points in 24 games last season. Despite years of dominance in the PHF, she only ever earned one invite to Team Canada’s training camp, and her stint there didn’t last long. That, plus her going undrafted in the PWHL in possibly the most shocking twist of the entire event, give her a nice underdog narrative. And she’s only 25!
#14: Hayley Scamurra (1994, USA, drafted 5th round)
The 28-year-old left winger has been around USA hockey for a few years now. After 4 years at Northeastern University, she spent 2 seasons with the Buffalo Beauts before finally cracking the Team USA roster for the first time in the 2019 world championships, then moved over to the PWHPA. Although she’s American, she has lived in Ontario before, having played in the Junior Women’s League.
#16: Kateřina Mrázová (1992, Czechia, drafted 8th round)
At 31, Mrázová is one of the older and more experienced players on this team. She’s been a bit all over the place, having represented Czechia on the world stage multiple times and played in the CWHL, NWHL/PHF, NCAA and in Sweden. She has the distinction of being the first European player to ever win the CWHL championship, and the first Czech player to pick up a point in the NWHL. This will be her first time playing in Canada.
#17: Gabbie Hughes (1999, USA, drafted 4th round)
Gabbie Hughes is another NCAA grad who’s only just started to build a name for herself in women’s hockey. She won the 2023 Hockey Humanitarian Award, for her work co-founding a charity called Sophie’s Squad that advocates for the mental health of athletes. She studied education and special education at the University of Minnesota Duluth, and made her senior national team debut with team USA at the most recent World Championships. No relation to the NHL’s Hughes brothers, by the way. It’s just a common name.
#19: Brianne Jenner (1991, Canada, signed FA)
If you’ve watched a lot of Team Canada women’s hockey, you’ve heard the name Brianne Jenner before.
For years, Jenner has been one of the top players in all of women’s hockey, but sharing the spotlight with the likes of Hayley Wickenheiser, Caroline Ouellette and Marie-Philip Poulin has forced her to fly just a little bit under the radar. Although she usually plays centre, she’s been playing wing next to Poulin in international tournaments for a few years, and features heavily in Captain Canada’s highlights. Her teammates have praised her high hockey IQ and work ethic. Fun fact: she’s also one of the many women’s hockey players who married a teammate (who retired years ago). They just had twins!
Jenner captained the CWHL’s Calgary Inferno after Wickenheiser retired, and has worn an “A” for Canada in multiple international tournaments - I’ll be shocked if anyone else gets the captaincy in Ottawa. She is the reigning Olympic MVP, and is good at showing up in big moments. She’s almost certainly the biggest name we have.
#25: Kristin Della Rovere (2000, Canada, drafted 10th round)
Della Rovere started playing hockey when she was a kid because she wanted to be like her best friend, fellow PWHL Ottawa draft pick Zoe Boyd. Yes, that’s a real story. She has a pre-medical degree from Harvard, where she captained the women’s hockey team, and was one of their top scorers, alongside another PWHL Ottawa teammate in Becca Gilmore.
#26: Emily Clark (1995, Canada, signed FA)
Emily Clark is a tiktok star and great depth player on Team Canada. She isn’t old enough to have played in the CWHL, but she’s been a feature in Canada’s bottom six for a long time now, and had a massive breakout season in the PWHPA last year. Hailey Salvian at The Athletic describes her as an “all-situations forward,” who can play a forechecking role or put up points. The PWHL should give her an opportunity to shine in a top-six role.
She is best friends with former roommate - and now PWHL teammate - Emerance Maschmeyer.
#88: Lexie Adzija (2000, Canada, drafted 11th round)
Adzija is a recent college grad who was set to debut in the PHF this year before it got bought out. She’s a bit of an unknown, having never represented Team Canada before or played professionally, but she’s a talented goalscorer and another great follow on TikTok.
#94: Fanni Garát-Gasparics (1994, Canada, camp invite)
We wrap up our forward group with the captain of the Hungarian national team, who earned a spot on Ottawa's roster out of training camp. At 29 years old, she has experience playing in Russia, Hungary, the US and Sweden. She played one season with the Metropolitan Riveters of the PHF, where she played well enough to earn herself a trip to the PHF all-star weekend.
That's it for the forward group. Click here for part 2, where we look at the forwards and goaltenders!