In the first of three offseason free agent camps two New York Riveters’ defenders from the 2015-16 roster showcased their talent to the general managers of the league. Gabie Figueroa, who was recently featured in a Sports Illustrated article, and Elena Orlando were among the players looking to earn roster spots with one of the NWHL’s four teams for the 2016-17 season.
The camp was held at the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark, New Jersey. Figueroa and Orlando skated alongside Hayley Williams from last year’s Beauts roster, prominent NCAA players, and other NWHL hopefuls.
With the additions of Courtney Burke and Kaleigh Fratkin to the Riveters’ blue line and the return of captain Ashley Johnston and Kiira Dosdall, New York's defense is going to look very different than it did last year. Unfortunately for Figueroa and Orlando that leaves one just remaining roster spot (for a contracted player) for a blueliner.
There have been rumblings that the general manager Chad Wiseman has already signed Michelle Picard from Harvard. The Riveters acquired the rights to Picard in a trade that sent Haley Skarupa’s rights to the Connecticut Whale. Skarupa remains unsigned.
Per a source, D Michelle Picard, Harvard grad and Olympic silver medalist, will sign a contract with the New York Riveters today. #NWHL— Kate Cimini (@k_cimini) June 11, 2016
Quinnipiac graduate Orlando was one of the most physical players on the Riveters last season. However, she was much more than just one of the more noticeable players in the “line brawl” that took place between New York and Connecticut.
Orlando’s lack of offensive production should not have come as a surprise considering that she scored just one goal in her last 52 games at Quinnipiac. Frequently the defensive partner of Johnston, Orlando proved to be a tireless worker in her own zone and one of the team’s best personalities off the ice.
Figueroa, a New Jersey native, has been the focus of a lot of media attention because of her life off the ice. An intriguing two-way defender, she was one of many Riveters from last season's roster that failed to stand out on a team that had the worst offense and defense in the NWHL. She will, however, always have a place in history as the first player to score a goal on home ice for the Riveters.
At the free agent camp Figueroa suggested that she could find herself returning to the Riveters. Having her as the sixth defender on the Riveters’ depth chart could be a boon to the team, especially if the 24 year old continues to develop her game away from the puck.
‘“Chad [Wiseman] has done a unbelievable job," she said. "He has gotten fantastic players; I think we're a true contender for the Isobel Cup next year— and I say we're because if I don't end up with a contract spot, then I will definitely be on the practice squad in a non-paid position and still be involved with the league, because I believe in it so much.”
There will be two more free agent camps held in Buffalo at the HarborCenter in late June and in Wilmington, Massachusetts in late July.