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NWHL

Connecticut Whale practice players: Who earned a roster spot?

Kate Buesser warms up at NWHL Buffalo Beauts at Connecticut Whale. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

April 1 is the start of a restricted free agency period for the NWHL, where teams get first crack at re-signing their roster players and likely at deciding whether practice players proved themselves valuable enough to earn a roster position for the 2016-17 season.

By the time May 1 rolls around, which of these practice players will have been offered a permanent spot on the Connecticut Whale?

Kate Buesser

Strengths

Flexibility, hockey IQ, work ethic. Buesser stepped up when she had to, filling in on defense (which she had never done before – but who could tell?) or as a wing or center when needed. For the record, Buesser’s natural position is at center. She made smart moves with the puck and was regularly wherever the action was on the ice.

Weaknesses

Interestingly enough, Buesser was part of the half of the Whale team that demonstrated a negative Corsi-For percentage, a statistic that measures shots-for and subtracts shots-against. At it’s base it determines whether a team is more offensive when a player is on the ice, or whether it is constantly defending, allowing readers to see who has the puck more often: the player’s team, or their opponent. Buesser weighed in at 42.61 percent, one of the lowest of the practice players. This dropped as the season went on, which speaks to the importance of being able to attend practices.

Did she earn a roster spot?

Despite mixed reviews, yes, though a review of her skills at training camp might be a good decision. Buesser was already offered a roster position for the 2015-16 season and turned it down. As a full-time medical student at Yale, Buesser wanted to continue to play hockey at a level suited to her abilities but at the beginning of the season, at least, wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in hockey.

Has she changed her mind? Only time will tell.

Anya Battaglino

Strengths

Battaglino started the season off strong, with the highest Corsi For percentage on Connecticut. She was injured in an on-ice collision with Devon Skeats in a November game in Buffalo, and while she was recovering Battaglino became one of the voices of the Whale. She has a strong personality and an ability to bring the team together in the room.

Anya Battaglino warming up at NWHL Boston Pride at Connecticut Whale Jan 31 2016. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

Anya Battaglino warming up at NWHL Boston Pride at Connecticut Whale Jan 31 2016. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

Off the ice, she became a valuable marketing tool for the Whale on social media and even as a color commentator at times.

Weaknesses

Battaglino’s injury left her sidelined for the majority of the rest of the season; when she returned it was not as smooth a fit as it had been before her injury and her Corsi For percentage dipped down to 42.74 percent, one of the lowest on Connecticut. This may simply be due to conditioning and time off from skills training but it may also be that she didn’t fit as well with the new system in place under new coaching.

Did she earn a roster spot?

Battaglino might be a good player to review in training camp before offering a roster position. If the stutter steps she took after her return were simply due to being out of practice, training camp will demonstrate as such.

 

Katia Pashkevich

Strengths

Pashkevich was the oldest player to step foot on the ice in the entire league at 42, and her age showed in her inability to keep up with younger players for more than a period. Although she demonstrated tremendous guts and determination in signing up for a practice player slot, it didn’t help as much on the ice as hoped.

Weaknesses

Pashkevich’s age held her back, stamina-wise, but she also was used to a form of hockey that wasn’t quite so systems-based. Pashkevich regularly found herself being beat by younger, more skilled players who had very high levels of systems and skills training. In the end, Pashkevich finished the season with at 12.5 Corsi For percentage. While Pashkevich was on the ice there were seven shots-against and zero shots-for.

Did she earn a roster spot?

Pashkevich only played in one game (two periods) for the Whale and left the team and league shortly after. While her performance did not warrant a roster spot for Connecticut, whether or not she deserves one may be a moot point as it appears she is uninterested in continuing to play at this level.

 

Tara Tomimoto

Tara Tomimoto turns to follow the play during NWHL Buffalo Beauts at Connecticut Whale. Dec. 6 2015. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

Tara Tomimoto turns to follow the play during NWHL Buffalo Beauts at Connecticut Whale. Dec. 6 2015. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kaitlin S. Cimini

Strengths

Her puck possession, like many others on this list, was sub-par (her Corsi For percentage came in at 48.84 percent), with Tomimoto being on the ice for 72 scoring chances for opponents, and only 61 for Connecticut. However, her puck possession was the highest among practice players and her willingness to step up and take a spot when necessary speaks to her drive and dedication.

Weaknesses

Scoring and playmaking is not a big part of Tomimoto’s game. Despite being on defense, Tomimoto only generated a single goal and no assists for the season.

Did she earn a roster spot?

The numbers say Tomimoto should be promoted if possible. She’s a strong depth player.

The question with Tomimoto is: can she take a roster spot. Like Buesser, Tomimoto was offered a roster position at the beginning of the 2015-16 Whale season; she accepted only to have to turn it down due to visa issues.

Tomimoto attended the majority of practices, however, and played in close to half the games over the course of the season, likely due to Lindsay Berman’s leg injury at the beginning of the season, which kept her out for most of the regular season. Berman only returned to play with two games left in the regular season. Tomimoto clearly was interested in a roster spot. Whether she can accept one or not is a different question.

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