The NWHL continues to bring aboard players from the international ranks, and has just added one of their most exciting ones yet. Word was released on the morning of Sept. 24, 2019 that the Minnesota Whitecaps had added Yu Baiwei, captain of the Chinese Women’s National Team. The 31-year-old Baiwei is the highest scoring defender in the history of the team.
“Yu is a hard-working, tenacious defender who loves to compete,” said Minnesota co-head coach Ronda Engelhardt in the press release for the signing. “She is eager to continue to improve in the NWHL and we know she will come to each Whitecaps’ practice and game ready to go.”
Baiwei is the 23rd player to sign onto Minnesota’s 2019-20 roster, and their eighth defender overall (that number does not include Kelsey Cline and Brooke White-Lancette who have been listed as defender-forwards)
Baiwei’s International Performances
The 5-foot-4 Baiwei is a right-handed shooter. She has represented her country in international competition since 2007. From that time onward, Baiwei has participated in 12 different IIHF Women’s World Championships, as well as the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games.
Across 56 World Championship games for China, Baiwei has registered six goals and 19 assists. Her finest performance came during the 2015 Division I-B Women’s Worlds. With China playing host, Baiwei scored three goals and six assists in five games. Her nine points tied for the tournament lead, as she and her fellow countrywomen brought home the bronze. Baiwei recorded the most goals, assists and points among defenders from all countries at this particular tournament.
2015’s success came after Baiwei and China already brought home silver medals at 2012’s and 2014’s Division I-B tournaments. 2012 was also the first time that the blueliner donned the “C” for China, and she has served as a captain or alternate ever since.
At Vancouver, Baiwei played in all five games for China and earned a lone assist. She would help ensure that the Chinese would not finish last, and saw them earn a seventh place finish ahead of Slovakia.
Pro Experience in the CWHL
Just like her Whitecaps’ teammate Rose Alleva, Baiwei played the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons in the CWHL. Baiwei was an inaugural member of Kunlun Red Star, and played in all 28 regular season games and all four playoff contests in that first campaign. She would notch a goal and a pair of assists during that time.
Baiwei played this past season with the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays, a conglomerate team formed from Kunlun and the Vanke Rays. With Shenzhen, she was teammates with Alleva for the first time professionally. Once again Baiwei played in all 28 regular season games, scoring a goal and three helpers.
It will be interesting to see where the Whitecaps ultimately slot their newest defender. With eight defenders in total, plus two more skaters that can play the position in addition to forward, there will certainly be players who will not see action in every game. A typical game day roster for an NWHL team is two goalies, six defenders and 12 forwards.
The natural inclination might be to utilize Baiwei and Alleva as a pair together, given their familiarity with one another from last season. However, with Baiwei’s ability to create offense, THW also likes the possibility of putting the veteran defender with either Sydney Baldwin and/or Amanda Boulier, at least for power play opportunities if nothing else.
Here is a look at how Minnesota’s roster looks as of Sept. 24:
Goaltender: Amanda Leveille, Allie Morse.
Defense: Amanda Boulier, Lisa Martinson, Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, Winny Brodt Brown, Sydney Baldwin, Kelsey Cline (defender-forward), Rose Alleva, Emma Stauber, Yu Baiwei.
Forward: Allie Thunstrom, Jonna Curtis, Nicole Schammel, Brooke White-Lancette, Haylea Schmid, Meghan Lorence, Audra Richards, Stephanie Anderson, Meaghan Pezon, Kalli Funk, Sam Donovan, Nina Rodgers.
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.