Beginning June 1, NWHL teams can re-sign players from their 2017-18 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 fourth season of the NWHL will begin in October as the Metropolitan Riveters defend their Isobel Cup championship, and with the addition of a fifth team – the Minnesota Whitecaps – this will be the most competitive season yet.
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.
Having graduated from Northeastern University earlier this May, McKenna Brand has moved on from her NCAA college hockey career and will be playing professionally in the NWHL. On Aug. 17, 2018, word was released by the league that the 5-foot-6 forward had inked a contract with the Boston Pride. The Minnesota native was originally drafted by the Metropolitan Riveters as the 11th overall selection of the 2017 NWHL Draft. Now she will be making her pro hockey dreams come true as a member of “The Pack”.
— Boston Pride (@TheBostonPride) August 17, 2018
“It means so much to me to have been drafted in the NWHL last year and now being able to sign my first pro contract,” Brand said in the press release about her signing. “Playing in the NWHL has been a goal of mine since the league started. I am super excited to have signed with the Pride to be able to continue living in and playing for the great city of Boston. I can’t wait to get things started in September!”
Brand is only the sixth forward that the Pride have announced as being under contract. With plenty more signings still to come, THW takes a look takes a look at how this rookie forward will fit in on Boston’s roster and what she brings to the lineup.
Sizable Numbers With the Huskies
With the exception of her freshman season at Northeastern, Brand reached double digits in each of her college years with the Huskies. Her finest season was arguably her junior campaign when she averaged better than a point per game. In 37 contests that year she scored 23 goals (a career high) and 15 assists for 38 points (also a career high). Those 23 tallies were distributed evenly across the board. Three of them were power play goals, another three were shorthanded and five of them held up to be game-winners. All of that together saw her assemble a plus-22 season for plus/minus. Such a performance saw Brand be named a Hockey East First-Team All-Star that year.
While her junior year may have been her finest offensively, Brand steadily produced throughout all four of her seasons at Northeastern. By the time her college career ended at the close of the 2017-18 season, she had played in 150 games – the most in Northeastern’s program history – and had scored a total of 56 goals and 55 assists for 111 points. 11 times she scored a game-winning goal for the Huskies. Brand can indeed produce and is capable of being timely about it.
The other key aspect to Brand’s game is that when she is out on the ice it is a shooting gallery for opposing goalies. In those 150 games, she compiled a rather staggering 471 shots on goal. Averaging those numbers out you will find that Brand was good enough for better than three shots a game. She possesses no hesitancy in shooting the puck, and it would behoove Boston to try utilizing her on the power play. This also is something that Brand has recognized in herself.
“I would say that I’m a goal-scoring, power forward that takes pride in being a two-way player,” she would go on to say in the press release. “I hope to bring a lot of offensive power to the team while also being a reliable player in our own end. Going into the season, I want to focus on doing whatever I can to help the team win an Isobel Cup.”
The Pride Are Promoting a Natural Chemistry
Brand is one of a handful of Northeastern Huskies that have been signed by the Pride for the 2018-19 season. The others include defender Lauren Kelly and forward Denisa Křížová. All three were teammates at Northeastern. Throw in a multitude of other players of similar ages from Beanpot-area schools, and you have a lot of familiarity on one roster. Having Brand, Křížová, and Kelly on the same unit together could be both fun and capable of paying major dividends.
And @mckenna_brand makes 1️⃣3️⃣🦁!
— Boston Pride (@TheBostonPride) August 17, 2018
Another positive about this particular Pride roster is that it possesses plenty of youthful exuberance. Brand, Křížová, Kelly, defender Toni Ann Miano, and goaltender Katie Burt are all rookies. Add defender Mallory Souliotis into that same category too, considering that she only played two regular season games for Boston this past year and they were at the very end of the season. It is not just that these players are up tempo and energetic, but that they will each be able to hold their own against seasoned veterans and Olympians – they possess the skill and confidence to do so.
Brand and Křížová are ones who can truly snipe the puck too. While there is plenty to love about this Pride team as whole, we suggest that Boston fans be particularly excited about these two forwards. They should each score a lot of goals with a rapid fire approach.
With Brand’s signing, here is how the Pride look as of Aug. 17:
Goalie: Katie Burt.
Defense: Alyssa Gagliardi, Toni Ann Miano, Lauren Kelly, Lexi Bender, Kaleigh Fratkin, Mallory Souliotis.
Forward: Emily Field, Dana Trivigno, Denisa Křížová, Haley Skarupa, Jillian Dempsey, McKenna Brand.
General Manager of the Buffalo Beauts (NWHL). Hockey history writer “The Hockey Writers”. Credentialed media for the NHL Combine and 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships in Buffalo, NY, USA. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Lifelong hockey fan for over 40 years. Proponent of the women’s game.