On the heels of the 2012 CWHL draft, the balance of power in the league has shifted. With the change comes new heroes and renewed optimism for fans. Every team in the league has improved, and no one can be taken for granted.
In the nascent history of the league, there has never been a rookie crop that has made such an immediate impact on every team.
The impact of the draft is the key theme in observing the first half of the CWHL season. Many of the top performers from the first half are still rookies, but their ability to adapt to such a high level of play means that fans will be spoiled for years to come as the CWHL is poised to enter a golden age.
The league’s youngest franchises, Team Alberta and the Toronto Furies have seen the draft pay remarkable dividends. In hoping to keep up with the Blades and the Stars, the Furies' offense has been rebuilt on the strength of NCAA legends such as Rebecca Johnston, Natalie Spooner, Jenn Wakefield and Catherine White. Team Alberta has bolstered their blue line with key picks Jocelyne Larocque and Tara Watchorn.
A remarkable youth movement has taken place in Brampton. Whereas the team once relied heavily upon Lori Dupuis, Jayna Hefford and Gillian Apps, new superstars have eased the load. Second-year player Vicki Bendus leads the CWHL in scoring. Bailey Bram and Laura McIntosh have renewed the hopes of Brampton fans that one of the most storied teams in women’s hockey history can finally claim the elusive Clarkson Cup.
Even a three-time Clarkson Cup champion like the Montreal Stars have benefitted from the infusion of new blood on their team. Wisconsin Badgers legend Carolyne Prevost represents a great future for the proud franchise. The triumvirate of McGill alumnae Charline Labonte, Ann-Sophie Bettez and Cathy Chartrand are looking to bring their winning ways from McGill to the Stars.
Sitting firmly in first place, the Boston Blades have seen the impact that the 2012 draft has made on its franchise. Hilary Knight has established herself as an offensive force, while Genevieve Lacasse continues to establish herself as an elite backstop. The two NCAA legends have been key factors in bringing a dynamic and exciting brand of hockey to New England fans.