After finishing second-to-last in the CWHL, the Toronto Furies bring back 17 returning players. But the Furies lost some key members on defense, and will look to mix a veteran and rookie roster together for success.
"We’re looking to build three strong lines and then a fourth, really strong checking line," said Toronto General Manager Rebecca Davies.
"Once we do get our full roster back, I think we’re going to achieve that. And we’re going to be able to complete in each game. We’re going to play a physical game this year."
Toronto struggled offensively last season and finished with the league's last penalty kill and power play. But the Furies return with last year's leading scorers Jenelle Kohanchuk, Carolyne Prevost, and Natalie Spooner, as well as captain Michelle Bonello and veteran defenders Tara French and Shannon Moulson.
The defense is Toronto's biggest weakness, Davies said.
"It’s going to be something that the whole team has to buy into and the whole team has to help to develop," she added. "I think that’s going to be one of our biggest challenges, just getting a full team buying into the defensive zone and playing the game from [the] net out."
Having Christina Kessler as the backstop will help, Davies said. Kessler played the most minutes out of any goaltender last year and finished with a .900 save percentage despite her team's lack of production.
While Davies said the forwards will be Toronto's biggest strength, the Furies will start the season without veterans Kohanchuk and Julie Allen. Both are injured and there is no timetable for their return.
"Obviously Jenelle and Julie are both key components of our offensive team," Davies said. "To lose them for as short or as long as the period is [will] definitely hurt us... I do know once we get those two players back into the lineup, it’s going to make all the difference in the world."
Davies said the team will rely on Bonello's veteran presence, along with Spooner's national team leadership. Bonello was with Toronto when the won the Clarkson Cup.
The Furies welcome four new forwards -- Emily Fulton, Ashton Hogan, Tomomi Kurata, and Sarah Stevenson. Kati Gaskin and Sena Suzuki join the team on defense, while Olivia Ross is the team's third goaltender.
Fulton, the team's first-round draft pick, is a key addition for Toronto. The Cornell alumna netted 48 points through 32 games last season.
"She’s going to be an amazing leader. And as she gets into this league and becomes a veteran, there’s no doubt in mind that she’ll be relied on heavily in that standpoint. She’s already demonstrated that," Davies said.
"She’s very committed to growing the league [and] already very committed to growing the game of hockey within the Toronto area through a lot of community [activities]."
With the young defense, Davies also pegged Gaskin as a newcomer to watch.
"I think she’s very competitively minded, and I think she’s going to truly help [add] a solid component to the back end of the team," Davies said.
(The Furies also unveiled a new logo this season to strengthen their brand identity, to which we owe this post's photo credit.)
Here's the complete roster:
F Julie Allen
F Alyssa Baldin
F Kori Cheverie
F Tara French
F Emily Fulton
F Ashton Hogan
F Jenelle Kohanchuk
F Tomomi Kurata
F Tanis Lamoureux
F Carolyne Prevost
F Natalie Spooner
F Sarah Stevenson
F Kelly Terry
F Jess Vella
F Katie Wilson
F Kristy Zamora
D Michelle Bonello
D Katie Gaskin
D Laurel Hill
D Shannon Moulson
D Michelle Saunders
D Sena Suzuki
G Christina Kessler
G Olivia Ross
G Sami-Jo Small