Given the rapidly changing situation of COVID-19 and its lasting impacts, the Toronto Six announced on Thursday morning the acquisition of two draft picks in exchange for Kelly Babstock.
Sending her to the Metropolitan Riveters, the Six receive a 2021 first-rounder as well as a second-rounder in 2022. Babstock joined the organization, her hometown team, on the second of May, however, with puck drop pushed from November to January, this presented a roadblock to her arrival in Toronto.
For Babstock, 2020-21 will be her fifth pro season in the NWHL. She made her debut back in 2015 upon having graduated from the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Now 27-years-old, she spent last season playing for the PWHPA after 16 appearances with the Buffalo Beauts.
Doing so in 2018, she had also been named to the NWHL All-Star Game. That was her second appearance, having also been recognized in 2017. Looking now at her collegiate hockey days, Babstock would finish her career as the all-time leader for the Bobcats in goals.
Achieving this with 95 goals, she also became the all-time leader in points and assists with 107 and 203. As if that wasn’t enough, the lefty, in her freshman season, was also awarded ECAC Player of the Year. Topping off her list of accomplishments, Babstock, in her senior season, was named as a finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
The award, which is handed out annually, is given to the best college player in the nation. As such, before signing with Connecticut, she was also named to Second Team All-America.
Growing up in the Greater Toronto Area, Babstock played junior hockey with the Aeros and Chiefs in the PWHL. Spending three years in the league, Babstock would make the playoffs each season, recording 32 points on 15 goals and 17 assists. As for her totals in the regular season, Babstock amassed 154 points, recording 66 goals along with 88 assists.
As this saw the veteran marked as a power forward, Babstock adds offence to the Riveters, joining Emily Janiga and Rebecca Russo as depth pieces. With this deal now in the books, the Riveters, coached by Ivo Mocek, have 22 players signed to contracts for season six.
While Babstock didn’t practice with the Six, she is expected to debut this week at Montclair State Ice Arena. As their forward count now rises to 13, Babstock joins her fourth team in the NWHL. From Toronto’s end, the team loses offensive depth as they continue to prep for their inaugural season.
As cited by Mike Murphy of The Ice Garden, their roster now dips to 17 and 11 forwards signed to contracts for season six. While in one sense, this may set Toronto back, the Six are winners long-term if you look at the bigger picture.
As per the official press release, the Toronto Six now own the rights to eight selections in the 2021 NWHL Draft. Along with five picks of their own, the Six made a trade on April 28th, acquiring a 2021 first and second round pick from the Boston Pride. While a source told The Puck Authority on October 2nd that nothing was imminent with regards to future signings, that could now quickly change with a sizeable gap left to fill on the roster.
In a statement from Digit Murphy, owner and president of the Toronto Six, she said of Kelly Babstock and the circumstances, “Kelly’s vision for the future of the NWHL and women’s professional hockey aligned with our organization perfectly, so we were excited to have her on board for the inaugural season. Her presence to our club as a veteran player and a leader who loves the game was a huge factor in choosing her to play with us. However, with the season and circumstances changing, we are glad we could get a deal done that was in the best interest for Babstock, the Riveters, and the NWHL. We wish her well in her future career.”
Due to the fact that the Toronto Six are the league’s first team in a Canadian market, their involvement in the league’s sixth season is currently pending the approval of the government. With the boarders closed to limit transmission, the hockey club is holding out hope that restrictions will ease, which will allow them to compete. At this time, schedules haven’t been released yet while an official start date for puck drop hasn’t been solidified.
Each team shares the same expectation in that the season will get going at the beginning of January. With just under three months until the new year, the Six remain optimistic in their hunt for a coaching staff before making their debut. With Tyler Tumminia named as interim commissioner, the hockey club is run by Digit Murphy, GM Mandy Cronin and owner Johanna Neilson Boynton.