Having a tough defence may be key for Ottawa’s professional women’s hockey team as the new league it’s part of gears up to start its season in early 2024, hockey analysts say.

The Professional Women’s Hockey League team — as yet unnamed — has already filled 18 of 23 roster spots during free agency and a recent draft. The rest will be filled through tryouts and training camps.

In a post-draft interview, General Manager, Michael Hirshfeld, said Head Coach Carla MacLeod “was really emphatic on having a top pair of defencemen who can lock down the other team’s best line.”

Ottawa took defenders with the team’s first three draft picks: first-round selection Savannah Harmon, second-round pick Ashton Bell, and third-rounder Jincy Dunne-Roese.

“This Ottawa team is not going to be fun to play against. They are a team that is physically tough. They are a team that is fast and they are going to pretty aggressively chase you and the puck,” Simon Hopkins, a local journalist who covers women’s hockey, told Capital Current.

Two of Canada’s top players, Emily Clark and Brianne Jenner, are expected to instil a sense of leadership and motivation in Ottawa alongside their coach.

Ian Kennedy, manager of The Hockey News’ women’s site, told Capital Current Coach MacLeod was a great choice for Ottawa. He said he believes she will inspire the team and create a successful culture in a way only a few coaches can.

“Carla MacLeod is a difference-maker in every way, shape and form for Ottawa’s franchise,” he said. “That may have been the most significant signing that the organization could have made.”

Photo of Brianne Jenner reaching for the puck while laying for team Canada
Brianne Jenner, a Canadian national team player, is considered a great addition as she is expected to use her experience to help her teammates excel. [Photo courtesy Andrew Lahodynskyj/COC]

“Brianne Jenner is going to be somebody that will lead the team with her experience, as she has played the best with Team Canada. She will bring this experience, her structure, and defensive play, but she could really push the pace as well,” Shannon Donnelly, 67’s AA general manager, told Capital Current.

Aside from defenders Harmon, Bell and Dunne-Roese, Ottawa has added forwards Hayley Scamurra, Katerina Mrázová, Gabrielle Hughes and Daryl Watts and Olympian goalie Sandra Abstreiter.

Kennedy believes Ottawa’s roster contains intriguing and underrated players. In a Hockey News article, he wrote that one player who could be a steal is Audrey-Anne Veillette, because of her youth and scoring skill in the Ontario University Athletics program.

In The Hockey News, he writes that he believes Maschmeyer is another good pick-up. Because of the signing she’s looking at three years of steady work in goal and will want to prove herself as the No. 1 goalie.

Ottawa has solid players and will play off hustle, defence, and teamwork, Hopkins said. “They are physically tough, fast, aggressive and are going to be an exhausting team to play against.”

Picture of Emily Clark in action for team Canada
Ottawa picked up Canadian star Emily Clark during free agency to start building the team’s foundation [Photo courtesy Andrew Lahodynskyj/COC]

“Clark is a menace to play against; she is sassy, she plays with her elbows up, she is a battler, and she can be really effective,” said Hopkins.

Post-draft, the team may lean toward grabbing some top veteran forwards such as Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Madison Packer, according to The Hockey News.

“We are going to look really good and it is a great group of people and amazing hockey players,” Hopkins said Hughes told him in a post-draft interview.

Picture of Emerance Maschmeyer in net for team Canada
Ottawa picked up Canadian born goal stopper, Emerance Maschmeyer during free agency [Photo courtesy Andrew Lahodynskyj/COC]

“I think I am joining a really established strong foundation group and I am really happy to be a part of it,” Harmon also told Hopkins in an interview.

Ottawa’s first game will be in January, 2024.

“I just can’t wait to be a part of a team and build towards playoffs and hopefully get a chance to go deep in playoffs and build a fan base,” said Jenner in a CBC article.

The city of Ottawa already has dedicated hockey fans with the OHL’s 67’s, and the NHL’s Ottawa Senators.

How well can the women’s team do in its six-team league? On CBC Radio’s All In A Day recently, Emily Clark said “We have a lot of hard work [ahead] between now and puck drop.”

PositionsNamesBirth YearBirthplace
ForwardsGabrielle Hughes1999U.S.A
Hayley Scamurra1994U.S.A
Daryl Watts1999Canada
Katerina Mrázová1992Czech Republic
Kristin Della Rovere2000Canada
Audrey-Anne Veillette2000Canada
Lexi Adzija2000Canada
Emily Clark1995Canada
Brianne Jenner1991Canada
Caitrin Lonergan1997U.S.A
DefendersSavannah Harmon1995U.S.A
Ashton Bell1999Canada
Jincy Dunne-Roese1997U.S.A
Aneta Tejralová1996Czech Republic
Zoe Boyd2000Canada
Amanda Boulier1993U.S.A
GoaltendersEmerance Maschmeyer1991Canada
Sandra Abstreiter1998Germany
CoachCarla MacLeod1982Canada
Ottawa’s roster post draft