PWHL Toronto forward Natalie Spooner wins league MVP, Forward of the Year


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Toronto forward Natalie Spooner was named the inaugural PWHL MVP at the league’s award ceremony Tuesday afternoon.

The 33-year-old was the favorite to win the award — named the Billie Jean King MVP — after she led the PWHL in goals (20) and points (27) this season.

Spooner also won Forward of the Year. She was the most dominant power forward in the league and was a critical driver of Toronto’s offense all year. In the regular season, Spooner scored 29 percent of Toronto’s goals and factored into 39 percent. Nobody in the league scored more game-winning goals (five), first goals (five) or insurance goals to put a game out of reach (four) than Spooner.

Spooner scored the first goal of the PWHL playoffs for Toronto, the No. 1 seed, but suffered a knee injury in Game 3 against Minnesota and missed the remainder of the postseason. Toronto, without Spooner in the lineup, scored one goal in the final two games of the semifinals and was eliminated by Minnesota, the eventual champion.

Spooner said on her social media last week that she had successful surgery. At the draft on Monday night, she said her goal is to be back for the start of Toronto’s season.

“I always say nothing can be as hard as childbirth, so I’m up for another challenge,” she said.

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Spooner already won the league’s point and goal titles at the conclusion of the regular season. And Minnesota’s Taylor Heise won the Ilana Kloss Playoff MVP after she led the postseason in points (eight) and goals (five) en route to Minnesota’s Walter Cup championship.

The PWHL announced the winners of seven awards on Tuesday. Here are the results and the finalists.

Note: An 18-person selection committee voted on this year’s awards, submitting their ballots between the conclusion of the regular season and the commencement of the playoffs. The Athletic had one of those ballots.


Rookie of the Year: Grace Zumwinkle (Minnesota)

Zumwinkle, 25, led all rookies with 11 goals this season and was tied for the lead — with Emma Maltais — in scoring with 19 points.

Finalists: Emma Maltais (Toronto) and Alina Müller (Boston).

Coach of the Year: Troy Ryan (Toronto)

Toronto had a rough start to the season and turned things around, big time, rising to the top of the league standings and winning the regular season title and No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Goalie Kristen Campbell started playing better after the first few weeks of the season and players started to find the back of the net, but don’t discount coaching in that turnaround. Ryan made adjustments — like simplifying a breakout that wasn’t effective — that worked. Toronto led the league in goals scored (69), had the fewest goals against (50) and the best penalty kill (91.8 percent).

Finalists: Kori Cheverie (Montreal) and Courtney Kessel (Boston).

Defender of the Year: Erin Ambrose (Montreal)

Ambrose did everything for Montreal this season as a true No. 1 defender, often playing between 25 and 30 minutes per game. She was critically important to Montreal’s blue line, which used Leah Lum, a forward in the Premier Hockey Federation last season, as a defender, and lost Dominika Lásková — another forward-defense hybrid player — to LTIR in February.

Finalists: Megan Keller (Boston) and Ella Shelton (New York). 

Goaltender of the Year: Kristen Campbell (Toronto)

Campbell led all starting goalies this season in wins (16), and goals against average (1.99). Her .927 save percentage was third.

Finalists: Aerin Frankel (Boston) and Corinne Schroeder (New York). 

Forward of the Year: Natalie Spooner (Toronto)

Finalists: Alex Carpenter (New York) and Marie-Philip Poulin (Montreal)

Billie Jean King MVP: Natalie Spooner (Toronto)

Finalists: Alex Carpenter (New York) and Marie-Philip Poulin (Montreal)

Community Award: Maureen Murphy (Montreal).

Murphy spent 200 hours, league vice president of communications and external affairs, Mandy Gutmann said when presenting the award, in the community in Montreal this season volunteering primarily with a focus on health and wellness. She spent time with the red cross and a girls’ youth hockey association. Murphy also brings her dog to provide pet therapy to help people cope with physical and mental conditions.

The community award was voted on by league leadership and staff. The winner of the award will choose a charity “dedicated to growing the game of hockey,” according to the release, and Scotiabank — the awards presenting sponsor — will make a $10,000 donation to further their initiatives.

PWHL All-Rookie Team

Goalie: Emma Söderberg (Boston)
Defender: Sophie Jaques (Minnesota)
Defender: Ashton Bell (Ottawa)
Forward: Grace Zumwinkle (Minnesota)
Forward: Emma Maltais (Toronto)

PWHL Second Team All-Stars

Goalie: Aerin Frankel (Boston)
Defender: Megan Keller (Boston)
Defender: Renata Fast (Toronto)
Forward: Sarah Nurse (Toronto)
Forward: Grace Zumwinkle (Minnesota)
Forward: Brianne Jenner (Ottawa)

PWHL First Team All-Stars

Goalie: Kristen Campbell (Toronto)
Defender: Erin Ambrose (Montreal)
Defender: Ella Shelton (New York)
Forward: Natalie Spooner (Toronto)
Forward: Alex Carpenter (New York)
Forward: Marie-Philip Poulin (Montreal)


The PWHL provides performance bonuses as laid out in the collective bargaining agreement.

Most valuable player: $5,000
Forward of the Year: $4,000
Defender of the Year: $4,000
Goalie of the Year: $4,000
Rookie of the Year: $4,000
The Community Award: $4,000

This story will be updated.

(Photo of Natalie Spooner: Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images)





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