Approaching the future with great optimism, the Boston Blades have added a familiar face to Boston’s hockey fans. Selected first overall in the 2016 CWHL Draft, Kayla Tutino spent five seasons with the Boston University Terriers, serving as the team captain in her final season.
Since their inception into the CWHL, the Blades had never held the first overall pick in the annual draft. Although there is a tinge of irony in the fact that Tutino was raised in Montreal, her selection also signifies the first time that the Blades have selected a Canadian-born player in the first round of the CWHL Draft.
“Being picked first overall was an honour. It obviously meant a lot as here were a lot of talented players at the draft that had the potential to go first overall too. I was really happy to be selected by Boston because I had lived in the city 5 years prior to the draft and was very comfortable with the city. My only expectation is to help my team win games, play my best hockey, and be a good teammate and leader.”
During Tutino’s eventful career with Boston University (where she currently engages in post graduated studies), the program enjoyed four consecutive Hockey East titles, complemented by four appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The 2014-15 season was one that was defined by redemption and achievement. Bouncing back from an injury that sidelined her for most of 2013-14, Tutino appeared in 37 games, gaining Hockey East Second Team honors, Hockey East All-Academic and a spot on the Hockey East Tournament All-Star team.
Statistically, she would amass an impressive 144 career points, on the strength of 81 assists, testament to her strong playmaking skills. Assembling eight multi-point efforts in her senior season, Tutino’s final goal with the Terriers took place in a March 5 playoff victory against the Northeastern Huskies, which was highlighted by a 54-save performance by Erin O’Neil.
Of note, several of her Terriers teammates would go on to their own CWHL careers. Jennifer Wakefield, who played alongside Tutino during her senior season was a first-round pick in the groundbreaking 2012 CWHL Draft. Kaleigh Fratkin would graduate to the Blades, capturing a Clarkson Cup title in her rookie season with the Blades, while Marie-Philip Poulin, who is currently the captain of Les Canadiennes de Montreal captured the 2016 Angela James Bowl and league MVP honors.
As Tutino contemplates the potential in this unfolding season, another unique aspect that adds to the Terriers pride within the Blades organization is the fact that Tara Watchorn serves as team captain, the first Canadian in franchise history to do so. In the offseason, Watchorn signed a three-year extension. Her leadership and team-first approach should translate into serving as a mentor for Tutino and the other nascent members of the Blades, comprising a promising a youth movement, which have shown strong chemistry.
“What I enjoy most about the Blades is how close our team already is. Everyone looks out for each other and is very positive both on and off the ice. Everyone has a team first mentality, which is going to help us become stronger as a team and build chemistry. I really just get to play my game and use my talent as best as I can, and this is only going to make me more confident throughout the year.”
Part of a rookie class of 11 players that sees Tutino joined by former NCAA rivals, including Meghan Grieves of Boston College and Northeastern University’s Chelsey Goldberg, the Beantown connection sees this remarkable triumvirate all serving as solid cornerstones for the Blades. As a side note, former BU teammate Dakota Woodworth and Boston College rivals Kate Leary and Melissa Bizzari are among the Blades promising rookie crop.
Despite the Blades being swept on the road by the Toronto Furies to start their seventh season, Tutino was excited to start the season and begin the newest chapter in her hockey odyssey. Taking into account that the Blades held the Furies scoreless in the first two periods of their season opener, forcing overtime, it was a very gutsy performance. Although the Blades would allow four goals in the third period of their rematch with the Blades, Tutino provided a solid effort, showing disciplined play, not serving a penalty,
“My CWHL debut was a great first experience. I got to see how competitive the league was and how talented my opponents were. I also got to experience how fast the speed of the game was in the CWHL. Seeing a big crowd in Toronto on Saturday and Sunday was really encouraging because it showed how much our game is growing and how fans are recognizing women’s hockey. It was definitely rewarding. Overall, my team made it a fun first experience. Despite our loss, they competed hard and were really supportive of me in my debut.”
With great character and tremendous qualities such as tenacity, strong leadership and a willingness to learn, Tutino is ready to build on her proud Boston University legacy and duplicate such success with the Blades. Aspiring for a postseason berth, certainly not out of reach for the ambitious club, Tutino’s maturity and positive outlook provides optimism for an eventual return to glory.
“We are going to need to be consistent with our play throughout our practices, so that our performance can translate to our games. We have a lot of new players and we need to learn each other’s playing style as quickly as possible. Overall, we need to make sure we are ready to play and focused when the puck drops.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”