Beginning June 1, NWHL teams can start signing players for the 2018-19 season. For players who have completed their college eligibility and want to continue their hockey careers, the free agency period provides them an 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 – as well as the inclusion of players who participated in the 2018 Winter Olympics, this very well could be the most competitive season yet.
My colleague Nathaniel Oliver will keep THW readers up-to-date on Boston and Buffalo’s signings throughout the summer, while I post updates on Connecticut and the Riveters. Together we will collaborate to keep readers informed of all of Minnesota’s signings.
BREAKING: The @Riveters bring back Rookie of the Year finalist and former #1 overall pick Kelsey Koelzer.
— NWHL (@NWHL) August 1, 2018
On August 1 the Riveters re-signed another key piece of their Isobel Cup championship team when they announced Kelsey Koelzer was returning for a second season in red and black. Koelzer, the first overall pick at the 2016 NWHL Draft, was named co-MVP (with Buffalo’s Hayley Scamurra) at the 2018 NWHL All-Star Game in Minnesota after a monster four-goal performance; the 23-year-old defender also won the 2018 Hardest Shot competition.
“I’m looking forward to continuing to grow with the Riveters as both an individual player, and with the team,” Koelzer said in the NWHL’s press release announcing her signing. “Having a full season under my belt – and a very successful one at that – I want to learn from the experiences and get better every day to help the team in any way possible.”
After making her debut in the 2017 Isobel Cup semifinal game Koelzer had a phenomenal rookie season that saw her put up 14 points (5g-9a) in 15 games; she was a finalist for both NWHL Rookie of the Year and Best Defender. During her collegiate career at Princeton University, she recorded 100 points (39g-61a) over 128 games.
“I’m very honored and humbled to be such an important role model to other young players in the athletic community,” added Koelzer. “Knowing that I can make a difference in a young athlete’s mind is very powerful for me and helps me push through the hard times. It definitely gives me an extra sense of motivation, and reminds me why I sacrifice day in and day out to continue playing the game I love as a part of the NWHL.”
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.