NWHL

Lindsay Eastwood is Canada’s future, Toronto’s present

Photo: Toronto Six

The first goal scorer in Toronto Six franchise history, much was expected of Lindsay Eastwood heading into the 2021 NWHL season.

By scoring that goal in her professional hockey debut, the Kanata, Ont. native raised the bar of expectations even further.

What’s truly remarkable about Eastwood is that her play hasn’t skipped a beat from her collegiate career. The former Syracuse Orange captain tallied a 0.78 points per game (PPG) ratio in her senior year, fantastic numbers for a defenceman at any level of the game.

A power play specialist, though that goal in the Toronto Six’s debut turned out to be her only goal of the regular season, she still managed to finish the season with a 1.0 PPG ratio.

When adjusting her Toronto numbers to equate to that of a full collegiate season, the goal ratio is essentially the same, but what stands out is the additional 10 assists that she would accumulate over the course of an adjusted season.

Can this be attributed to plying her trade alongside a top-notch NWHL talent like Mikyla Grant-Mentis? It certainly doesn’t hurt.

An illuminating statistic that provides further insight into her importance is that on the five assists that Eastwood tallied during the season, each one was to a different goal scorer: Megan Quinn, Emily Fluke, Brooke Boquist, Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Sarah-Eve Coutu Godbout. Such a statistic really stresses just how positive of a presence Eastwood is – she evidently makes those around her better.

The unfortunate aspect of this is that, quite simply, fans have only seen a sample-size portion of her talent. Critics will argue that a season such as this one is not a fair indicator of a player’s potential return – the true test is a proper full-length regular season. Is she a flash in the pan? The eye test indicates that her greatest strengths are her puck possession, distribution and physical strength.

She’s an impressive physical specimen, standing at over 6’1’’ tall and, quite frankly, to most readers that must come as a surprise as she appears to be much, much larger than most of her opponents. Oh, and she blocks shots at a rate of 2.0 per game.

Everything about Eastwood seems to point to a player that can contribute positively, no matter how many points she puts on the board. The only game that her plus/minus dipped into the negative was her debut in which the Toronto Six were shutout by the Metropolitan Riveters, as much stock as you can give to a statistic as widely debated as plus/minus. Yet in this case, it further contributes to what we already know: that Lindsay Eastwood is a player that rarely impedes her team’s performance.

Half of her points have been the result of power play time; just one was the result of even strength play. Has she been sheltered on the power play as a rookie, and is that a fair question to ask? Rather, is it better to ask as to just how she has excelled as a power play specialist?

Eastwood is 24 years old; she’s no rookie in the traditional sense. She’s certainly new to this standard of play, but it was vital that she had the opportunity to hone her craft at the collegiate level, improving every asset at her disposal with each passing year.

For instance, though she tallied a decent 23 points in 36 games in 2017-18, she posted a miserable -24 plus/minus rating. For each of the 23 points that she contributed, she was on the ice for just as many against at the very least, which is dismal.

In 2018-19 her plus/minus improved to -4, and in her final year, 2019-20, she finished as a positive player with a +10 and just happened to post her highest collegiate point total of 28 points in 36 games.

It’s clear that Lindsay Eastwood is a player who has never stopped pushing herself to learn both sides to the game, to improve and ultimately become the best hockey player that she can be.

Her play shows no signs of slowing down, and as the Toronto Six look ahead to the Isobel Cup playoffs, Eastwood will be once again be faced with a massive test in her burgeoning career. Should she continue on the trajectory that she has been on? One has to ask their self when exactly does Eastwood become in consideration for Team Canada?

Lindsay Eastwood is without a doubt at the heart of Toronto’s present chances at winning the Isobel Cup, and with each positive performance looks to be Canada’s future.

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