Monday, 2 May 2016

Emerance Maschmeyer may set unique precedent on CWHL Draft day

After a valiant performance in the gold medal game of the 2016 IIHF Women’s World Championships, Emerance Maschmeyer has established herself as the top goaltender prospect in all of hockey. Poised to be a first round pick in the upcoming CWHL Draft, Maschmeyer is in a rather unique situation. Should she be drafted by the Calgary Inferno, it would mean that each league’s respective champion owns her playing rights, an unprecedented first in women’s hockey history.
In the aftermath of her junior season with the Harvard Crimson (where she helped lead the club to the NCAA Frozen Four championship game), she was the first goaltender selected in the history of the NWHL Draft, nabbed by the Boston Pride. Strategically, it was a stroke of genius by the Pride, as Maschmeyer is the type of competitor that can anchor a team’s goaltending for a decade. With the Pride having played their home games at Harvard’s Bright Center, as Brittany Ott established herself as the NWHL’s Goaltender of the Year, the chance to continue her career there at the NWHL level would appear to be an ideal situation.
Yet, there is also an ideal situation with the Calgary Inferno. Raised in Alberta, it would be the perfect pick for the Inferno, solidifying their already impressive goaltending. With Delayne Brian having established herself as the greatest goaltender in franchise history, she backstopped the club to an upset win over Les Canadiennes de Montreal in the 2016 Clarkson Cup, the first ever held on NHL ice.
Ideally, Brian and Maschmeyer would place the Inferno in the position of favorites for next year’s Clarkson Cup. Even though Brian deserves to be the starter, considering her run to the championship, it would be an opportunity to not rush Maschmeyer, while having her adjust to the CWHL style of play in a way that speaks of confident development and not urgent detriment for the team’s future.
Considering that Maschmeyer will likely be part of Canada’s centralization camp in the autumn of 2017 (in preparation for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, it would avoid any type of goaltending controversy for the 2017-18 with whichever team she chooses to sign with. Eventually, Maschmeyer will earn a starting role and it will mean a transitional one for whichever goaltender she calls a teammate in her pro career.
Although one team will lose out on Maschmeyer, allowing their current goaltender to remain a starter, it speaks volumes to the quality of goaltending in women’s hockey and the limited playing spaces. Each team in the CWHL and the NWHL features a world class goaltender between the pipes. As the game evolves, it is inevitable that even the backup goaltenders shall be equally talented.
As the existence of two leagues represents a learning curve for all teams, as dealing with player personnel takes on a whole new dimension, the signing of Maschmeyer will certainly represent a completely different aspect to the game, as this may determine how future prospects are handled by both leagues. Undoubtedly, it must avoid the kind of rivalry that defined pro football in the 1960s as the AFL and NFL were at war over top prospects, which continuously resulted in players drafted by both leagues. Considering that NWHL clubs face penalties to their salary cap for unsigned picks, Canadian superstars may be taken only in later rounds or go undrafted altogether, with clubs willing to wait for free agency.
The Maschmeyer signing will certainly result in a significant influence long term on the hockey landscape. Whether it signifies that elite players will opt to stay home in order to continue their pro careers, possibly complemented by expansion, or that rules may need to be put in place regarding non-American or non-Canadian draft prospects, the only agreed upon point is that such a situation was bound to happen. What happens afterwards shall be the defining moment in the growth of pro women’s hockey in North America.

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