Continuing with free agent signings among the Founding Four NWHL teams, the Boston Pride recently signed forwards Emily Field and Jordan Smelker to the team. Where do they fit? We’ll examine their on-ice contributions thus far and see where they fit in the lineup.
While the Boston Pride have only signed six players so far — four forwards and two defensemen — GM Hayley Moore’s vision is already beginning to clarify itself to fans.
Smelker, a former RPI Engineer, graduated in 2013-14 with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. She captained the women’s ice hockey team her senior year, earning the team’s MVP award in the process, and was a finalist for the ECAC Hockey Best Defensive Forward Award.
She finished her college on-ice career with 86 points and 34 goals over 136 games, ranking top-two in team scoring each year she played. In between seasons at RPI the Anchorage, Alaska native played for Team USA in the 2012 U-22 Series against Canada.
After graduating from RPI, she won a Clarkson Cup with the Boston Blades of the CWHL.
Smelker came in sixth on the Boston Blades in points during the regular season, posting 15 points and eight goals, as well as a +17 ranking for the season, the same as then- and now-teammate Jillian Dempsey (who also made the jump to the Pride this summer, along with former Blades Bolden and Gagliardi) who netted four more points than Smelker.
On the ice, Smelker is an interesting mix of skills. She is a left-handed forward who can play both wing and center, and while I was unable to find more than a handful of games to watch, those games saw her mainly take right wing.
She plays an incredibly complete two-way game, never drifting at the top of the circle when she could instead block the opposing defender and prevent them from assisting on a play. She’s 5-foot-8 and uses her size to her advantage, stretching out to make herself a larger target than she actually is.
In addition to impressive defense, Smelker has a good slap pass, indicating both strength and great aim, and thinks on her feet. She’s able to take advantage of a turnover within the offensive zone and capitalize on it before the opposing defenders are able to set up in front of the net. She has a neat, effective wrister but is most dangerous on the backcheck.
She will fit in well alongside another scorer such as Dempsey or Amanda Pelkey, the first free agent to sign with the Boston Pride. Smelker’s size and offensive-defensive prowess will give Pelkey the room to move the puck through traffic without having to create it herself.
While Field is a forward, she and Smelker are not cut from the same cloth, with Field preferring the offensive portion of the forward’s game. She’s a clever player and opens up space by seeing options where others only see a wall of defenders.
Field racked up 139 points and 52 goals over four seasons at Boston College, captaining the Eagles in her 2014-15 senior season. She was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team as a freshman and named a Hockey East Honorable Mention All-Star her sophomore and junior seasons. With Field on the team, the BC Eagles won two Beanpot Championships and made the NCAA Tournament every year.
Field won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2011 U-18 IIHF World Championships, where she scored a total of nine points and five goals over five games.
Looking at her game, it becomes clear that Field’s offensive talent will benefit the Pride and fit well within the roster already in place.
Field has soft hands, a smooth, quick pass, and an ability to skate the puck up the ice while playing an effective game of keep-away. Below, at about 1:25, is a great sequence where she skates it over the line for a 1-on-2 and with some clever deking, manages to not only out-wit the opposing defenders, but create an opportunity for herself that most wouldn’t see.
Field is No. 15 in white, scoring three of BC’s four goals in the video below. While all her goals are impressive, that one at 1:25 is something else.
And that’s one heck of a celly, to be sure.
At the risk of seeming like I think there’s only one player on the team, Field would actually do very well alongside Pelkey, though for different reasons than Smelker. Both are quick players, light on their feet and take the time to think more than a few moves ahead. Both can use their sticks in imaginative ways and have a soft touch on the puck.
Putting Pelkey and Field on a line together would create an embarrassment of riches in offensive chances for the Pride; Connecticut Whale GM Chris Ardito’s plan to stack the blue line deep makes more and more sense with every signing the Pride makes.