PWHL Toronto’s Offseason Overhaul: Building for Redemption

Julia Gosling skates with Canada in Kitchener
Photo: Heather Pollock / Hockey Canada

After a disappointing first-round exit in the inaugural Walter Cup Playoffs, PWHL Toronto looked to improve this offseason. With only six teams making picks, the PWHL Draft is full of impressive talent and Toronto got what they were looking for in this one. 

In the weeks after the draft PWHL Toronto has made many roster moves, releasing four players, extending two, and making four new additions in the span of a week. This seems to be a league-wide phenomenon, so expect your favourite team to look a little different next season.

But where is PWHL Toronto headed with all these moves?

Despite goal-scoring not being an issue last season, they did lack offensive depth. Toronto’s offense was carried by Natalie Spooner and Sarah Nurse, who had 27 and 23 points respectively. After suffering a knee injury in the playoffs, it is still unclear whether Spooner will be available to start the season with Toronto. 

Heading into the draft, it looked like this was the first issue PWHL Toronto wanted to address. And that they did. 

Toronto went after Canadian forward Julia Gosling with their first-round (6th overall) pick. Gosling just finished her time at St. Lawrence College (NCAA), where she tallied 60 goals and 68 assists across 111 games. 

The former London Devilette has also made a notable impact on the global stage. Gosling made her debut for Team Canada at the 2018 IIHF Women’s Under-18 World Championship, securing a bronze medal, and followed up with a gold medal at the 2019 tournament.

Gosling debuted for the senior national team during the 2021-22 Rivalry Series and earned a spot on the Women’s Worlds roster last spring. She netted two goals during the tournament in Utica, including a crucial one in the gold medal to help Canada secure the 6-5 overtime win over the United States. 

When it comes to her play, Julia Gosling has been compared to her international and now PWHL Toronto teammate Natalie Spooner. Whether Spooner is back in time to start the season or not, with this signing, Toronto will not be lacking a power forward in their line-up. 

Although her talent is already undeniable, Toronto’s front office is high on her because of her potential. General manager Gina Kingsbury said in a release, “She has size, an incredible shot, and is eager to continue to develop her game. Julia is an exciting player because of how high her ceiling is and how great of a teammate she is. Julia will make our roster, organization, and community better.”

With the official ink-to-paper announcement, it is looking probable that Gosling will be on the roster to start the season. Three of the four players that PWHL Toronto has released this offseason have been forwards (Vasko, Leslie, and Howard). They have already filled two of those holes with Emma Woods (F) who played for PWHL New York last season and Daryl Watts (F) of PWHL Ottawa. 

With that, it is looking increasingly likely that Gosling will fill that final spot come the beginning of the 2024-2025 season. 

On the signing to Toronto, Gosling said, “I’m so excited and honored to officially be a part of Toronto. I can’t wait to play in front of all their passionate fans and to be so close to home. I’m eager to work with their staff and players and to learn and grow from them.”

In an insider report I would love to believe is true, it was reported (Per Ian Kennedy on X) that in the days before the draft, Gosling even brought Natalie Spooner ice cream amidst her knee surgery recovery. With that, there is no doubt that she will get along well with her teammates, and more likely there will already be chemistry there with those she shared the international stage with. 

In a more interesting draft pick turned signing, PWHL Toronto selected Raygan Kirk, a Canadian goalie from Ohio State University with the final pick in the draft. 

While Raygan getting drafted itself isn’t a head-scratcher, her stats speak for themselves (1.05 GAA in 24 games), Toronto as a landing spot might be. PWHL Toronto’s Kristen Campell is coming off an incredible season that includes a Goaltender of the Year nod. It looked like goaltending was the least of their worries. 

Ahead of this signing, PWHL Toronto released their main backup from last season, Erica Howe. Howe appeared in 3 games for Toronto and came out with five goals against. Toronto also has goaltender Carly Jackson in their organization. Jackson won a PHF championship with the Toronto Six in their final season. 

When the Howe release was announced many believed Jackson would be next in line, but with the signing of Kirk, the two could be battling for the number two spot come the beginning of the season. 

 “We are excited to have Raygan Kirk join our goaltending trio. Raygan has won a gold medal at the U18 World Championship and recently won a National Championship with Ohio State,” says General Manager Gina Kingsbury. “She has had to earn her starting position at the collegiate level and, through that, demonstrated a drive to continuously get better regardless of playing time. Raygan is a competitor, a great teammate in the locker room, and has a tremendous amount of potential. She will be a great addition to our roster.”

When it comes to goaltenders it is certainly better to have too many options than too little. So the predicament Toronto will be in come time to decide who will back up Campbell is definitely a problem Toronto is happy to have. 

For now, those are all the moves Toronto has made following the PWHL Draft. This team is looking dangerous heading into what will be a revenge-tour of a season. There is no doubt that they have the talent to get back to the postseason, but will these new additions be enough to push them past the first round? 

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