Jennifer Botterill, 2001 and 2003.
Angela Ruggiero, 2004.
Julie Chu, 2007.
Brianna Decker, 2012.
That’s just a sample of the winners of the award, which has been given to the top female college hockey player in the United States since 1998. All of the players listed above, and all others who have won the award, have been amazing players in women’s hockey.
But none of them accomplished what Daryl Watts did in 2018 when, at the age of 18. Watts became the first-ever freshman (or NCAA rookie) to win the top award in women’s college hockey. The Canadian player won the award after leading the NCAA in scoring with 82 points as a member of the Boston College Eagles, including 42 goals. Watts set numerous records, including points in an Olympic year (the previous high was 71), and most points in a Hockey East season with 55 and goals with 30.
Watts’ incredible season led to her also being named Hockey East Player of the Year, Hockey East Rookie of the Year and a First Team All-American. The play-making forward, who has a fantastic shot, says she loves playing creatively and credits her skilled BC teammates for helping her put up the tremendous numbers.
“The biggest reason why I put up such great numbers was my teammates,” says Watts. “I have never played on a season team before with such skilled players. The whole Boston College women’s hockey program is an environment where it’s really easy to be successful because all of the team members are so skilled. And the coaches help you on the ice so you’re put in a position to succeed.”
Watts has also been turning heads on the international stage and is quickly becoming known as one of Canada’s up-and-comers. After winning back-to-back gold medals at Canada’s National Women’s Under-18 Championship (in 2015 and 2016), Watts represented Canada at two IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women’s World Championships (silver medals in both 2016 and 2017). In mid-August, Watts took another step forward with the Hockey Canada program when she competed for Canada’s National Women’s Development Team in a three-game series against the United States.
Canada dropped its three games to the United States during the series in Calgary but Watts knows that every experience she has to play for Canada will help her in the long run. Her goal, just like most Canadian girls who fall in love with the game of hockey, is to win a gold medal for her country at the Olympics.
She lists Marie Philip-Poulin, arguably the best female hockey player in the world, as her favourite athlete. When asked what it would mean to maybe skate alongside Poulin in the Olympics one day, Watts paused before providing this thoughtful answer.
“That would be a dream come true; that would really just be the most amazing experience ever,” says Watts. “Since I was a little kid, I’ve always wanted to be an Olympian and represent Canada at the highest stage and win a gold medal. Being on the same team with Marie-Philip Poulin, who is the best female hockey player, and playing in the next Olympics would absolutely be a dream come true.”
She knows there is a lot of work ahead in order to make that dream a reality. Cracking the development squad was a good step, now her focus is back to Boston College and trying to one day make Canada’s national women’s team for the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship.
Despite her record-setting freshman season of 82 points, Watts isn’t setting a personal goal and says it’s all about the team. She wants to help Boston College win an NCAA women’s hockey championship for the first time.
“I came in as a freshman not having set any points standards for myself and I didn’t set any expectations, I just wanted to help the team win. This season, my focus is just to win a national championship because we have such a great chance,” Watts says.
Boston College is currently second in the Hockey East standings and ranked sixth nation-wide in the women’s college hockey poll.
In the meantime the three finalists for this year’s Kazmaier Award have been selected: Loren Gabel (Clarkson University), Megan Keller (Boston College) and Annie Pankowski (University of Wisconsin).