It isn't surprising to have the league's best team lead the way for individual award nominees and Les Canadiennes are no different. The Chairman's Trophy winners (for having the best regular season record) had four nominees in addition to Marie-Philip Poulin winning the Angela James Bowl as leading scorer.
Poulin is the favourite for the MVP award where she was nominated alongside Natalie Spooner of Toronto and Laura Fortino of Brampton. Poulin led all scorers with 46 points (23 goals, 23 assists) in 22 games. Her addition to Les Canadiennes turned them into a middle-of-the-road offence to leading the league in scoring and it wasn't particularly close. They scored 17 more goals than the second place Calgary Inferno and had the league's top four point getters.
There is little doubt that Poulin is the league's best player and perhaps the best player in the world. She does things on the ice that you have to see in person to believe and the scary thing is she may even get better.
Spooner and Fortino also had really good years, Spooner notably had points on 30 of Toronto's 59 goals scored this season even though she missed two games. Fortino led all defenders in points with 28 and finished one point behind teammate Jamie Lee Rattray for the team lead.
For Defenceman of the Year, Montreal had two of the three nominees. Lauriane Rougeau and Julie Chu were nominated alongside Fortino.
Rougeau led Montreal defenders in points with two goals and 17 assists in 22 games. She is part of Montreal's top pairing alongside fellow nominee Chu and was part of Canada's 2014 Olympic team and is expected to be part of the 2018 squad. She doesn't have one incredible attribute but rather does everything well. She has great skating skills and can handle the puck as well as make great passes. She doesn't have a cannon of a shot but she can score from the point.
Chu only played 15 games this season due to responsibilities she has as a coach with the Concordia Stingers women's hockey team. Despite that, she still was almost at a point-per-game pace with three goals and nine assists on the season. In addition to her scoring numbers which is not unusual for the former forward, Chu only took four minutes in penalties all year. She also is hard to miss on the ice always putting her body on the line to block a pass or a shot in the defensive zone.
She plays on the power play with Rougeau and the two of them can feed passes to the scorers all day long.
We talked about Fortino in the MVP conversation and she has to be considered the favourite for the award.
Charline Labonté is set to defend her Goalie of the Year award. She is nominated with Erica Howe of Brampton and Geneviève Lacasse of Boston.
Labonté led CWHL starting goaltenders in wins (17), save percentage (.925), goals against average (1.52) and shutouts (five). Quite simply, there was a reason Montreal allows the least goals of any team in the league.
And the first star, @Labonte32 ! @LesCanadiennes clinch first place in the #CWHL with the win. Congratulations! pic.twitter.com/0ltumo6sVJ— CWHL Gifs (@CWHLHighlights) February 14, 2016
She expects perfection from herself and that pushes her to get better with every game. The fact that she leads the league in save percentage is even more amazing when you realize she faces the least amount of shots of any starting goaltender and regularly faces under 20 shots which means she has to be almost perfect throughout which isn't always easy when you have players like Spooner and other top players shooting.
Erica Howe led Brampton from last place to third as part of a great goaltending tandem with Liz Knox. Howe had a 9-5 record, 2.68 GAA and .915 sv %. Lacasse faced over 1100 shots this season, setting a new league record for saves with 1023. Her numbers alone aren't great but saving 90% of shots when you face as many as she does is unbelievable.
Les Canadiennes also had a nominee for rookie of the year in Katia Clement-Heydra. Clement-Heydra was Montreal's second round pick and had seven goals and 13 assists for 20 points to lead all Montreal rookies. She moved her way up from the third line to the second line and increased responsibilities throughout the season. It's rare you watch a game where she doesn't have a scoring opportunity.
She will be going up against Elana Lovell of Calgary and Rebecca Vint from Brampton.
Vint came on the scene out of nowhere. Her second half of the season was among the league's best. She just simply didn't stop scoring. She finished the year 19 goals and seven assists for 26 points and tied for the rookie scoring lead with Lovell. She was recently moved to Brampton's top line with the injury to Candice Styles and continued her strong tear. She was a third round pick in this past draft.
Want more @theUHWK POV fooage? We've got you covered. Here's a goal from @bvintt24's point of view #CWHL pic.twitter.com/lgk7Ez2Jwy— CWHL Gifs (@CWHLHighlights) February 23, 2016
Lovell was drafted even later than Vint - she was a seventh round pick. She was among the league's top scorers with Calgary from the start of the season and benefitted from playing with some of the best players in the National team program. She finished the year with 14 goals and 12 assists and is part of the insane forward depth in Calgary.
Although Poulin and Brianne Jenner were drafted this year, they were not eligible for the rookie of the year award as they had previous CWHL experience before going to university.
The awards will be handed out on Friday March 9 as part of the CWHL's Clarkson Cup weekend.
You can see all these Canadiennes in playoff action starting Friday evening at 6:45 p.m. at the Etienne-Desmarteau Arena. You can get your tickets here. If you are unable to attend the games, the CWHL also has a playoff streaming package available for 10$ here.