One of the greatest scorers in NWHL history has just signed a contract for her fifth straight season. Word was released on the afternoon of Jun. 18 that the Boston Pride had re-signed one of their original players in forward Jillian Dempsey.
A native of Winthrop, Massachusetts, the 28-year-old has played her both her entire collegiate and professional careers in Beantown. A scoring ace for sure, in Dempsey’s four seasons at Harvard University and her six playing professionally, she has reached double digits in points.
“I love being part of the NWHL’s growth,” Dempsey said in the press release for her signing. “The league has given me an opportunity to continue playing the game I love professionally and to coach young girls who have the same dreams and passion for the sport. Seeing young fans wearing Boston jerseys and cheering on the other side of the glass is one of my favorite parts of every game. It has been incredible to watch the Boston Pride fan base expand each season, especially with the Bruins partnership. The NWHL has played a significant role in the growth of women’s professional hockey, and I am excited to continue my career on the Boston Pride this coming season.”
Dempsey becomes the ninth player that the Pride have signed since the start of NWHL Free Agency on May 15.
Dempsey Is a Quintessential Talent
As the NWHL is about to head into its fifth season, Dempsey is very near the top of the all-time offensive stats columns. She shares the league’s all-time lead in goals with Madison Packer of the Metropolitan Riveters. Dempsey is also second all-time in points behind former teammate Brianna Decker.
Through Dempsey’s four previous seasons with the Pride, she has totaled 29 goals and 29 assists for 58 points in 67 games. Those 58 points were achieved from her nearly identical seasons of 14, 15, 15 and 14 points respectively. Her finest season offensively may very well have been this most recent 2018-19 season when in 16 games she scored a career-high 10 goals.
Dempsey was of course a member of the inaugural Isobel Cup-winning Pride for the 2015-16 season. As it stands right now, Boston looks to be very much an early favorite to capture the trophy once again. Her first NWHL championship followed immediately after Dempsey and many of her same teammates won the CWHL’s Clarkson Cup with the former Boston Blades the season prior in 2014-15 – only her second professional season.
There is every reason to believe that Dempsey could have a career year in 2019-20. Boston is already looking very potent with the other signings that they have made. Dempsey is their best signing yet, and one that will fully amplify the scoring dynamics of the team.
Remembering that Dempsey also scored a rather staggering 148 points (76G, 72A) in 129 career NCAA games for the Harvard Crimson, she has proven time and again that she has the finishing ability to put up big numbers. 2019-20 could see her generate her highest totals yet.
The Intangibles to Dempsey’s Game
There is a lot more that Dempsey brings to her game than buckets of goals and points. Part of it is how she scores them. Tallying 10 goals on only 47 shots this past season saw her achieve an accuracy of 21.3% shooting percentage. That was the third-best number in the entire league among shooters to have played at least 10 games. Two of her 10 goals were game-winners.
Then there is her face-off prowess. Dempsey won 55% of her draws in the circle. Her 152 wins were an NWHL fourth-highest.
Most important though would be Dempsey’s leadership skills. She has served as the Pride’s team captain for the past two seasons, and it seems most likely that she will have the “C” emblazoned on her jersey for 2019-20 as well. A winner of the Isobel Cup, Clarkson Cup, IIHF U18 gold, and World Championship silver give Dempsey plenty of experience and wisdom to impart to her squad, particularly Pride rookies like Tori Sullivan, Jenna Rheault and Christina Putigna.
The Boston roster still has plenty of room that needs to be filled from more signings. However, the combination of Dempsey and Mary Parker could pose a very formidable one-two punch for “The Pack” – one that could give all new meaning to the phrase “pack a punch”.
“It’s hard to believe that I’m going into my fifth season with the Pride,” Dempsey went on to say. “I love being from Boston! Each major sports team has won at least one championship in my lifetime, which has been an incredibly special experience for me as a sports fan. Watching the Bruins’ Stanley Cup playoff run this year definitely made me even more excited and eager for the season and for another chance to compete for the Isobel Cup.”
Here is a look at how the Pride’s roster is currently shaping out as of Jun. 18:
Defense: Kaleigh Fratkin, Jenna Rheault, Lexi Bender, Mallory Souliotis.
Forward: Tori Sullivan, Christina Putigna, Lexie Laing, Mary Parker, Jillian Dempsey.
Beginning May 15, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2018-19 roster and their draft picks. Additionally, for those players who have completed their college eligibility and want to continue their hockey careers, NWHL Free Agency provides the best opportunity to continue playing at the highest level of professional women’s hockey. The fifth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Minnesota Whitecaps look to defend their Isobel Cup championship.
My colleague Dan Rice will keep THW readers up-to-date on Metropolitan and Connecticut’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Buffalo and Boston. Together we will be keeping readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.