With the tragic, although unsurprising, closing of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League this past week, some of the best talents in the sport are suddenly out of work. Despite the NHL’s internal conflict regarding the inclusion of women, now should be the time that we finally see female players join NHL teams.
Yes, Female Player Are Absolutely Good Enough To Make The NHL
First off, one of the most common arguments against allowing women in the NHL is on-ice safety. Such an argument is a thinly veiled, misogynistic mask for saying that men are supposedly sooo-much stronger than women. This argument appeared often on Twitter and Instagram during the Women at the NHL All-Star Game controversy.
These thinly-masked arguments need to go, as most players whom played in the CWHL could very easily make an NHL lineup, and endure as much of a physically tasking game as those in the NHL.
Additionally, some of the best players to ever play the game are women, the most shining examples include Hayley Wickenheiser, Marie-Philip Poulin, and Natalie Spooner. All of whom are bigger than highly-touted Oilers prospect Kailer Yamamoto.
There is no longer a place for arrogance in hockey, so please just accept that women can be, and are, better than men in many regards.
Signing Female Players Is The Best Example Of Exploiting A Market Efficiency
Toronto Maple Leafs’ General Manager Kyle Dubas is, and always has been, big on the idea of exploring market inefficiencies. European markets provide some very underrated talent, such markets have been dipped into by several NHL teams and Dubas. The same goes for staff signings as well. (i.e. Hayley Wickenheiser -> Leafs’ development staff, Jarmo Kekalainen->CBJ’s GM)
Although I’m a firm believer in signing European talent, many examples haven’t turned out (i.e. Vadim Shipachyov with Vegas, Jan Kovar with the Islanders). One of the most common, although a little effortless, knocks on Europeans is their inability to adapt to the North-American regulation ice. Such a knock cannot be used on female players, as the best players have played in the CWHL or NWHL, both NA leagues. Thus, there is little reason to not sign women to NHL contracts, even less when considering the pure quality of these players.
Who Would Go Where?
Marie-Philip Poulin, whom is 28 years-old and in the prime of her career, has scored an absurd 184 points in just 93 total CWHL games and has captained Canada’s international teams for 4 years. Not to mention, she is considered by Sidney Crosby to be the best athlete outside of the NHL. Thus Marie has earned admiration from peers, exemplified great leadership, and has fantastic production while still being so young. Overall, Poulin is most comparable to the likes of Johnny Gaudreau. A small, speedy playmaking centre, Marie-Philip Poulin is a perfect fit for the New Jersey Devils. Although the Devils have some strong prospects down-the-middle, as pointed out numerous times by Kyle Pereira, they lack many solid NHL-quality centres. Poulin would fill a much needed role in the Devils’ top six forward group, and would add much prestige to the Devils organization.
Natalie Spooner, also 28, is an excellent player. Strong on the puck and can play all forward positions, Spooner can provide a Ryan Getzlaf like presence. Spooner has also displayed leadership both internationally and in the CWHL respectively. Known more as a sniper, Natalie Spooner has a total of 69 goals and 117 points in 115 CWHL games. Spooner would be a good fit with teams like Edmonton (although the name ‘Spooner’ does not evoke good thoughts in Edmonton) and New Jersey, as both teams need useful depth on the wings.
Erin Ambrose, a 24 year-old defender, was one of the best young players in the CWHL. Named the CWHL’s best defender in 2019, Ambrose is a right-handed, puck-moving defender. The best NHL comparable would be Samuel Girard, a small, offensively-minded pass-first defender. Ambrose would fit many teams’ needs, most notably the Toronto Maple Leafs, as I’m sure many Leaf fans would much prefer a player of her calibre over that of Nikita Zaitsev.
Emerance Maschmeyer, whom is also 24, just finished the 2018-19 season as the best goaltender in the CWHL, with a .935 SV% in 20 games. Although, it’s not like Maschmeyer was a slouch the previous seasons of her young career, as she posted a .934 SV% in 51 career CWHL games. It’s difficult to determine an NHL comparable for goaltenders, although Maschmeyer has a reputation for being positionally sound and calm. Few teams are really begging for goaltending, although the Carolina Hurricanes could be in need of one this offseason (both McElhinny and Mrazek are UFA). Adding Maschmeyer could improve depth and add a solid NHL goaltender for many years to come.
With most arguments against female NHL players proven to be thinly veiled and some just plain incorrect, along with the increasing smaller skill gap between players of the two genders, there is little to no reason for women to not be signed by NHL teams. And the unfortunate closing of the CWHL opened a brand new opportunity to add these players.
Statistics retrieved from eliteprospects.com, lastwordonsports.com, and NHL.com