PHF Free Agency: NCAA Pool Shrinking As Signing Frenzy Continues

phf free agency: ncaa pool shrinking as signing frenzy continues

Signing has continued at a frenzied pace in the PHF. There is no question the league is scooping up many of the top prospects in the world, and as this list continues to shift, it appears some of the remaining NCAA free agents will either be headed to Europe, hoping for a PWHPA league, or moving on to non-hockey careers.

One of those players, Nicole LaMantia, has accepted a job in the Chicago area, but also plans to continue to pursue a spot with Team USA, meaning she’ll be waiting for a PWHPA announcement to see if that group fits her plans. Due to that, LaMantia drops off our list.

From our initial Top 20 list, six players – Alina Müller and Chloe Aurard (Boston Pride), Theresa Schafzahl (Montreal Force), Andrea Brändli (MoDo), Sini Karjalainen and Jenniina Nylund (Brynäs) – signed to kick off free agency. After releasing an updated top 20 NCAA free agents to watch, another wave Emma Soderberg (Connecticut Whale), Gabrielle David (Boston Pride), Claire Dalton (Toronto Six), Sandra Abstreiter (Connecticut Whale), Sophie Shirley (Boston Pride), and Lexie Adzija (Metropolitan Riveters) signed in the PHF. Abstreiter’s signing has yet to be announced, as have the signings of Noemi Neubauerova and Catherine Skaja, who have both signed in the PHF, but are yet to be announced by their respective teams. Other names, Anneke Linser and Naomi Rogge, will not make their debut on the list because they’ve also chosen their destinations in the PHF.

With that in mind, here’s a look at who remains, and any connections they might have to teams:

  1. Sophie Jaques, D, Ohio State – She’s the biggest name remaining who has been directly tied to a PHF franchise. Jaques is the reigning Patty Kazmaier winner, and the Toronto Six are the logical place for Jaques to play, joining a league that will challenge her and continue her development toward a spot with Team Canada. Recently however, word has started to circulate Jaques might join the group of players waiting to see what the PWHPA has in store. Sadly for players of this level, that announcement could be weeks or months away, meaning that if a league is not happening, roster spots and cap space in the PHF will be gone.
  2. Taylor Heise, F, Minnesota – The world is Taylor Heise’s oyster. She could sign anywhere she wanted, but for the time being, it seems as though she’ll be sticking with her USA teammates in the PWHPA. She’ll begin collecting her Team USA stipend as an NCAA graduate meaning financially, there is no rush for Heise to sign a pro contract.
  3. Danielle Serdachny, F, Colgate – The leading scorer in the NCAA last season, it looks like a forgone conclusion Serdachny will go to the PWHPA. Similar to Heise, Serdachny’s compensation from Team Canada gives her the luxury of waiting for a PWHPA announcement. National team players are paid six figure salaries, and also receive a revenue share from Rivalry Series games.
  4. Grace Zumwinkle, F, Minnesota – After being cut from Team USA this year, Zumwinkle has uncertainty ahead. She’s a very likely candidate to earn back that roster spot, but if she’s not on Team USA, Zumwinkle’s financial situation makes a move to the PHF in the future enticing. PHF teams kicked the tires with Zumwinkle, but with little avail. 
  5. Jesse Compher, F, Wisconsin – Compher’s season was one of mixed results. She won a national title with Wisconsin, but also was cut from USA’s World Championship roster. Teams in the PHF have inquired with Compher, who after seeing teammate Sophie Shirley take a contract to play in Boston, could be a name to watch as the offseason progresses.
  6. Emma Maltais, F, Ohio State – Maltais playing in her hometown of Toronto would be fantastic for the sport. She’s a player that could conceivably make the jump to the PHF and lead the future direction of the sport, but she’s likely to remain faithful to the PWHPA until an announcement comes. 
  7. Gabrielle Hughes, F, Minnesota-Duluth – With Kendall Coyne Schofield and Hilary Knight driving the bus for the PWHPA, USA national team players like Hughes will feel the pressure to hold tight to the PWHPA’s vision. 
  8. Ashton Bell, D, Minnesota-Duluth – Bell would be an excellent add to any PHF team, but the former Canadian national team member seems headed to the PWHPA. A First Team All-American this season, Bell and Jaques will be two leading candidates to refresh Canada’s blueline. If the duo doesn’t crack that team, they’ll be leaving money on the table from PHF teams.
  9. Maureen Murphy, F, Northeastern – Murphy is from Buffalo, and with the Beauts not announcing any signings, it’s completely plausible she goes home to play in the PHF. Her teammates Alina Muller and Chloe Aurard are already in the league, so the path is paved. Murphy, who wants to make Team USA however, will likely feel the pressure from the national team members to play in the PWHPA.
  10. Abbey Levy, G, Boston College – Levy was one of the best netminders in America last year. As a USA national team member, she’ll also feel the PWHPA pull. As a goaltender however, looking at last year’s four team tour that features 13 goalies, where only four goalies played 10 games or more, Levy could choose a path to play in the PHF where she’d get more repetitions, and daily practices. The Boston Pride would be a match made in heaven, as would the Buffalo Beauts who needed a netminding upgrade.
  11. Blanka Skodova, G, Minnesota-Duluth – With Andrea Brandli, Emma Soderberg, and Sandra Abstreiter off the market, there is only one European born NCAA grad remaining that served as a starter at the World Championships in the crease, and that’s Skodova. The silence about her path is a little perplexing. She seems like a perfect fit for the PHF where most of her Czech national teammates have migrated to. If last season is evidence, she’s also willing to take a backup role, which seems to be what most teams have remaining. 
  12. Maude Poulin-Labelle, D, Northeastern – There are two PHF locations that pop to mine with Poulin-Labelle, Montreal and Boston. Boston due to her current ties to the city, Montreal due to the fact that she’s a Quebec product, and has been playing alongside many Montreal Force players in the Living Sisu Hockey League in the summers. The offensive defender would be an excellent backend addition to any club.
  13. Abigail Boreen, F, Minnesota – One of the better scorers in the NCAA, Boreen captained the University of Minnesota last season. While she is an excellent shooter, Boreen also has playmaking skills, and plays a consistent enough two-way game that she could factor into a PHF or PWHPA roster.
  14. Natalie Buchbinder, D, Wisconsin – The New York state product would be a boon for the Buffalo Beauts who struggled to defend last year. Former USA national team member and U-18 gold medalist, Buchbinder could stay in the PWHPA, but looking at USA’s blueline, there’s just no room for her, so finding a home to pay her and give her ice time to continue her development could be a better path.
  15. Cami Kronish, G, Wisconsin – Kronish wants to play pro hockey, and after sitting in the shadows at Wisconsin, finally got her chance to shine en route to a national championship. She’d be a phenomenal back up in the PHF, or as a New York product, could be a starter in Buffalo. Uses her six-foot frame well, and could surprise many as a breakout star.
  16. Madison Bizal, D, Ohio State – Former national champion and U-18 World Championship gold medalist, Bizal would look good back in her home state playing for the Minnesota Whitecaps. A solid blueliner who defends well, but can also contribute offensively.
  17. Emily Oden, F, Minnesota – How many Minnesota products can the PHF’s Whitecaps sign? Oden would be a nice addition. The two-time U-18 World Championship gold medalist played her high school hockey at Edina before playing five seasons with the Golden Gophers. Whether it’s the PHF or PWHPA, Oden is a player who could have a long professional career ahead.
  18. Isabel Heminger, D, Penn State – Five solid seasons with Penn State, culminating with Heminger sitting among the top 10 all-time in CHA scoring by a defender. The Ohio product should garner options from a variety of sources.
  19. Paetyn Levis, F, Ohio State – Yet another Minnesota product, Levis was one of the top producers in the NCAA the last two seasons, and would undoubtedly contribute at the next level. She has an excellent shot that rarely misses its target.
  20. Courtney Correia, F, Penn State – Coming from Whitby, Ontario, it would not be a surprise to see Correia sign with the Toronto Six. Her former Toronto Aeros teammate Claire Dalton already signed with the team, and Correia would be another solid pick up for the club.
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