With the 2021 NWHL Draft in the rearview mirror now, our attention shifts back to roster building for the league’s six teams. Over the past week, we saw only two signings announced, but we also saw the departure of one of the six GMs and a bit of clarity on that same team’s roster.
So far a total of 26 players across four teams have signed for Season 7 in the NWHL and we’d expect that number to double by the end of July. Boston and Minnesota have yet to announce any signings as of press time. Players who were drafted have two weeks to sign with the team that selected them before becoming unrestricted free agents.
Taylor Made For Buffalo
On July 6 the Buffalo Beauts announced the re-signing of their captain Taylor Accursi for her fifth season with the team and in the NWHL. Last season Accursi was unable to participate in Lake Placid due to her commitment as an Ontario Provincial police officer. She will enter the NWHL’s Season 7 as the Beauts’ franchise leader in goals (26), points in a single season (25), and goals in a single season (16). Her 42 career points (26g-16a) are tied with Kourtney Kunichika and Corinne Buie for most in franchise history, so with her next point, she will have the record to herself.
“Having to watch from home while the girls were in Lake Placid was hard. But it gave me an extra year to get even better, faster, and stronger for Season 7. I can guarantee that nobody will be more hungry for the Cup than me this season,” said Accursi in the press release announcing her signing. Per the release, the contract was signed during the league restricted free agency period (before May 15). “I will be focused on scoring goals and supporting teammates in hopes of a successful and fun-filled season! It’ll be time to celly hard!”
Accursi was a 2020 NWHL All-Star after two separate five-game point streaks (in which she scored a total of nine points during each streak) during the 2019-20 season. On Dec. 28, 2019, the 26-year-old scored not one, not two, not three, but four goals in a span of just over seven minutes during the outdoor Buffalo Believes Classic. She has one assist in five career playoff games.
“We definitely missed Cursi’s scoring touch in Lake Placid,” said Beauts GM Nate Oliver. “That type of goal production just cannot be replaced. We are very excited to have her back in 2021-22, and it’ll be great on a personal level to see her secure that franchise record for points and own it all to herself.”
Accursi is the 12th player signed by Buffalo for the upcoming season. She joins forwards Amy Budde, Autumn MacDougall, Cassidy MacPherson, Erin Gehen, and Cassidy Vinkle, defenders Marie-Jo Pelletier, Lisa Chesson, Dominique Kremer, and Emma Keenan, and goaltenders Carly Jackson and Caty Flagg.
On June 30, the morning following the 2021 NWHL Draft, the Toronto Six announced that they had signed the first of their three first-round picks – Boston College forward Maegan Beres, who was the third overall pick. Beres, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia was a team captain during her senior year, capping off four seasons with the Eagles.
“I’m extremely excited to join an organization that allows me to help pave the way for the next generations of girls while furthering my athletic career,” she said in the press release announcing her signing. “I can’t wait to play with the Six in the NWHL and continue to grow the game.”
Beres finished her collegiate career with 38 points (8g-30a) over 132 games and had a total of 79 blocked shots during her final two seasons at Boston College. “I couldn’t be more excited to play for the Six under some of the greatest female hockey ambassadors, and to grow the game for future generations.”
She is the seventh player signed for Toronto’s second season in the NWHL. Beres joins forwards Shiann Darkangelo and Mikyla Grant-Mentis, defenders Emma Greco, Taylor Woods, and Saroya Tinker, and goaltender Elaine Chuli.
As we reported last week the Boston Pride won’t have Lexie Laing (30 points in 31 NWHL games) next season as she pursues other opportunities. This past week we also learned that Tereza Vanisova will be taking her talents to the SDHL for the upcoming season as the Czech forward prepares for the upcoming Olympics. Forwards Carlee Turner and Mary Parker also won’t be returning in Season 7 for the NWHL’s defending champions. Over the weekend we also learned that GM Karilyn Pilch is leaving the Pride after accepting a job with the Chicago Blackhawks in their scouting and player development department.
“She has been an amazing GM for the Boston Pride and was instrumental in the team’s success over the past two years. We will all miss her, but wish her all the best in her move to the NHL,” said Pride Head Coach Paul Mara.
Boston is expected to name a new GM before the start of Season 7. The forward losses will likely be offset by the two players drafted by the Pride (Finley Frechette, Abby Nearis) and the group still has the amazing trio of Jillian Dempsey, McKenna Brand, and Christina Putigna in addition to assumed returners Sammy Davis, Taylor Wenczkowksi, and Tori Sullivan. We expect Mara to have a few tricks up his sleeves to replace the depth that was crucial to the team’s success, and with his track record, we also expect Boston to be contenders again.
“I owe each one of my players and staff members a debt of gratitude for all they have done as we worked together these past two seasons,” said Pilch in a statement released by the Pride. “From the challenges to the celebrations, draft day to raising the Cup, this truly amazing group of individuals has made me a better professional, and instilled a confidence in me that I will rely on to be a successful member of the Chicago Blackhawks – and for that, I am forever grateful.”
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.