The Patty Kazmaier Award is arguably the most coveted individual award in all of NCAA women’s hockey. Since its inception in 1998, it has served as the premier award for those considered to be the best individual player in the respective season it is awarded. With yet another historic season on the books, junior forward Daryl Watts is well on her way to yet another Patty Kazmaier award.
If Watts were to capture the 2020 award, she would become just one of two players ever to receive it twice in their career. The only other to achieve this feat is Jennifer Botterill, a Harvard forward that went on to be an implemental part of the Canadian national team’s win over the United States for the 2010 gold medal.
Capturing her second ever Patty Kazmaier award would certainly put Daryl Watts up there with the greats of collegiate hockey. Yet, the NCAA is jam packed with talent, and doing so is no easy task. So the question remains — does Watts have what it takes to go the distance for a second time in three years?
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Before we get into the gritty details, it’s important to remember that, as a forward, Watts is at a distinct advantage in the race for this title. Since 1998 only one defensive player won the award — Angela Ruggiero in 2004. Outside of 2004, the award has been given to solely forwards and goalkeepers.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the first year Watts won the Patty Kazmaier award — 2018.
Through mid-February of her freshman season in 2018, Watts jumped out to the front of the nation in both total points scored and points per game.
Watts managed to average an astounding 2.32 points per game — nearly a full 0.3 points per game over the nearest contender. For context, the second and third ranked players on this list had just 0.03 average points per game separating them.
On top of this, Watts dominated the league in goals and assists up to this point in the season in 2018. She accumulated a nation-best 40 total goals with a second-best 39 assists to match. In fact, Victoria Bach of Virginia Tech was the only other player to come anywhere close to her goal total with 36. Behind her were Loren Gabel and Caitrin Lonergan with just 29 total goals.
It is clear that Watts earned her way to becoming the first ever freshman to capture the Patty Kazmaier award. Unfortunately, she would follow that incredible career opener with what could colloquially be considered a “sophomore slump.”
Watts’ slump was so severe that she average just 1.15 points per game through mid-February — less than half the average she accrued in her initial season with Boston College. This average was good for only a No. 24 ranking in the nation in this statistical category.
Furthermore, Watts’ goal and assist totals saw marked declines from her 2017-2018 season totals. Up to this point in the season, Watts totaled just 19 goals and 19 assists. Both of these totals are less than half of the total she accrued the previous season.
While not all offensive utility can be described by these three narrow statistics, they do provide a useful lens through which her overall production can be viewed. The story these statistics tell is not just a failure to improve, but a failure to come even close to her freshman performance. It is no surprise that Watts was not considered for a second straight Patty Kazmaier award, as her performance was nowhere near the requirements to be named the best player in NCAA women’s hockey.
Luckily for both Watts and the Badgers, her junior season is a convincing return to form that reflects her true talent. In returning to her freshman year form, Watts has effectively cemented herself as a front-runner to become the second player ever to win two Patty Kazmaier awards.
Watts again stands alone at the top of the nation in points per game with an average of 2.20. Coincidentally, she leads by nearly 0.3 points per game over her nearest contender just as she did in 2018. While Watts does not lead the country in goals, she is dominating it in total assists.
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Up to this point in the season, Watts leads the nation with 44 total assists. The next closest competitors, Alina Mueller and Jaycee Gebhard, have just 34 on the season. With a plethora of offensive weapons surrounding her, Watts has successfully adapted her game to better fit with the Badgers.
While there is certainly no guarantee that Watts will capture her second Patty Kazmaier award, it is no question that she is a clear front-runner. Using the metrics that propelled her to victory in her freshman year, Watts is perfectly on track to repeat her award performance.
It is always possible that a dark horse pick could snag the award, such as a goalie or defensive player. But if recent trends continue, the nation’s standout forward will capture the Patty Kazmaier award yet again. In the case of the 2019-2020 season, that standout forward is undeniably Daryl Watts.