NWHL Roundup: 2021 Award Winners, New Salary Cap

The NWHL had two big announcements on Apr. 28 – first announcing that the salary cap was significantly increasing for Season 7, and then later that night the league announced the winners of its 2021 Awards. The ceremony was streamed live on Twitch for the first time in league history and the replay can be watched here: 2021 NWHL Awards hosted by Katie Gaus.

With the previous week’s announcement of the start of free agency, and now the announcement of the salary cap, we should start getting some signings trickling in any day now.


On May 4 the Buffalo Beauts announced that they have created their own award – the Debra A. Cresanti Memorial Award. It will be awarded annually to the Beauts player most actively involved in the Western New York community, as voted on by the team’s captains.

Buffalo Beauts
The Buffalo Beauts huddle up before a game in Connecticut. (Photo Credit: Bryan Johnson Photography)

The award is named for the Beauts super-fan, who passed away unexpectedly in Feb. 2021. The team’s full press release can be viewed here.

“Deb was so much more than a fan of the Beauts,” said Captain Taylor Accursi, who has been with the Beauts since 2017. “She invested her time into the game and the team she loved. It didn’t matter if the Beauts were playing at home or away, you would look into the stands and Deb would be there. Her energy at practices, games, and team events was contagious.”

Related: Taylor Accursi Inspiring Fans Near & Far

“She loved women’s hockey, but the Beauts were where her heart was. The Buffalo organization meant a lot to Deb, and Deb meant a lot to this organization. Every time I’ll put that jersey on, I know Deb will be cheering for us to bring home the Cup. Maybe not in the stands, but with a view with less mesh.”

Taylor Accursi Buffalo Beauts
Taylor Accursi has become the heart and soul of the Buffalo Beauts. (Photo Credit: Mike Hetzel).

It’s hard not to be touched by the powerful words of Accursi, and the incredibly kind gesture by the Beauts organization. These are the reasons why we love the game so much – the good people who are a part of it. From all of us at THW: rest in peace Deb, may your memory be a blessing to all who knew you.

Dolla Dolla Bill Ya’ll

The salary cap for the NWHL’s seventh season is double what it was in season six – jumping from $150,000 to $300,000 per team. This is the highest the salary cap has been during the existence of the league. The move is an interesting one considering that there was limited revenue during the truncated sixth season, and no fans in the stands for any of the games played. But the league did have its playoff games broadcast on NBCSN, had a plethora of new sponsorship deals (mainly Discover), and combined the games drew over two million views on Twitch.

And the Award Goes To:

2021 NWHL MVP: Mikyla Grant-Mentis (Toronto) won her first NWHL MVP after putting up 11 points (6g-5a) over seven games (regular season + playoffs). She also took home three other awards this season and is the first player to win four awards in one off-season. 

Past winners

2019-20: Jillian Dempsey (Boston), Allie Thunstrom (Minnesota)

2018-19: Maddie Elia (Buffalo)

2017-18: Alexa Gruschow (Riveters)

2016-17: Brianna Decker (Boston)

2015-16: Brianna Decker (Boston)

Amanda Leveille
Amanda Leveille is the first two-time winner of Goaltender of the Year. (Photo Credit: Bryan Johnson Photography)

2021 Goaltender of the Year: Amanda Leveille won her second Goaltender of the Year Award after backstopping the Whitecaps back to the Isobel Cup Final for a third consecutive season. She is the league’s all-time leader in wins (45) and shutouts (6), and only two-time winner of the award.

Past winners

2019-20: Lovisa Selander (Boston)

2018-19: Shannon Szabados (Buffalo)

2017-18: Amanda Leveille (Buffalo)

2016-17: Katie Fitzgerald (Riveters)

2015-16: Brittany Ott (Boston)

2021 Defender of the Year: Kaleigh Fratkin won her second consecutive Defender of the Year Award and is the only two-time winner of the award. One of the Original NWHLers, Fratkin posted 11 points/assists in nine games (regular season + playoffs) to help Boston win their second Isobel Cup and her first one.

Past winners

2019-20: Kaleigh Fratkin (Boston)

2018-19: Blake Bolden (Buffalo)

2017-18: Courtney Burke (Riveters)

2016-17: Megan Bozek (Buffalo)

2015-16: Gigi Marvin (Boston)

2021 Rookie/Newcomer of the Year: Toronto’s Grant-Mentis took home the award in her first *full season in the NWHL. She played two regular season games and one playoff game for the Buffalo Beauts before suiting up for all seven of the Six’s games.

Past winners

2019-20: Kate Leary (Riveters)

2018-19: Jonna Curtis (Minnesota)

2017-18: Hayley Scamurra (Buffalo)

2021 Denna Laing Award: Despite only seeing action in three games Riveters rookie defender Saroya Tinker won the Denna Laing Award which is given to the player who most exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to their sport. Her efforts off the ice have truly made an impact in the hockey community.

Past winners

2018-19: Jillian Dempsey (Boston)

2017-18: Jillian Dempsey (Boston)

2016-17: Ashley Johnston (Riveters)

2015-16: Denna Laing (Boston)

Mallory Souliotis Boston Pride
Boston Pride defender Mallory Souliotis in a “You Can Play” jersey talks to a youth team before a game. (Photo credit: Michelle Jay)

2021 NWHL Foundation Award: Each team has a player given the Foundation Award that most actively applies the core values of hockey to their community as well as growing and improving hockey culture. Boston’s Mallory Souliotis won the award for the second time in her career, joining Michelle Picard & Lexi Bender as the only two-time winners. Other winners for 2021 include Grant-Mentis (Toronto), Leveille (Minnesota), Carly Jackson (Buffalo), Tinker (Riveters), and Grace Klienbach (Connecticut).

Past winners

2019-20: Allie Thunstrom (Minnesota), Emma Ruggerio (Buffalo), Rebecca Morse (Riveters), Jordan Brickner (Connecticut), Lexi Bender (Boston)

2018-19: Mallory Souliotis (Boston), Hannah Brandt (Minnesota), Sarah Hughson (Connecticut), Kimberly Sass (Riveters), Kelly Babstock (Buffalo)

2017-18: Michelle Picard (Riveters), Jacquie Greco (Buffalo), Lexi Bender (Boston), Rachael Ade (Connecticut)

2016-17: Michelle Picard (Riveters), Elena Orlando (Connecticut), Kelsey Neumann (Buffalo), Alyssa Gagliardi (Boston)

2015-16: Denna Laing (Boston)

NWHL Fans’ 3-Stars of the Season: This year’s winners voted on by the NWHL fans were Carly Jackson (Buffalo), Mikyla Grant-Mentis (Toronto), and Mallory Souliotis (Boston).

Past winners

2019-20: Amanda Leveille (Minnesota), Marie-Jo Pelletier (Buffalo), Brooke Wolejko (Connecticut)

2018-19: Amanda Boulier (Minnesota), Madison Packer (Riveters), Katerina Mrazova (Connecticut)

2017-18: Harrison Browne (Riveters), Hayley Scamurra (Buffalo), Sophia Agostinelli (Connecticut)

2016-17: Harrison Browne (Buffalo), Rebecca Russo (Riveters), Anya Battaglino (Connecticut)