Kayla Tutino Returns Home to Play for Les Canadiennes

Montrealer hoping to make an impact on reigning Clarkson Cup championship roster

Kayla Tutino (8) is excited to return home and join reigning CWHL champions Les Canadiennes. Courtesy: Chris Tanouye/CWHL

It is a homecoming of sorts for Kayla Tutino.

After five seasons with the Boston University Terriers and one year with the Boston Blades in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, forward Kayla Tutino is happy to finally return to the city she calls home.

“I’ve always wanted to come back,” said Tutino in a telephone conversation from Boston. “I had interest in coming to Montreal. It’s a nice opportunity for me, a new start.”

Tutino, acquired in a trade with the Blades last Tuesday, grew up in Laval before moving to the city of Lorraine, near Blainville, just north of Montreal, to play on an all-boy minor hockey team.

She wasn’t too surprised when she got the call from Blades’ general manager Krista Patronick, informing her that she had been moved to Les Canadiennes.

She had also been thinking of returning home to be closer to her loved ones.

“A lot of family and friends were kind of wondering when I would be coming home,” said Tutino. “They want to be able to not have to travel to watch me play.”

The move was made all the easier given Montreal’s high level of interest in Tutino, dating back to before her CWHL career even started. The team respected her wishes to ply her trade in Boston for a season, but still kept tabs on the player all throughout the year. They hoped that a deal would ultimately fall into place.

The fact that Montreal was still owed compensation from the Blades for their move of defenceman Nachi Fujimoto to Boston last September only helped expedite matters.

The 24-year-old has been away from home since she was 15, when she joined the Ontario Hockey Academy in Cornwall. Tutino spent four years there in the prep-school program that combines academics and AAA level hockey.

In 2011, Tutino set her sights on Boston, where she would star for five seasons with the Terriers. She collected 144 points in 164 games throughout her tenure with the team, capturing four consecutive Hockey East titles and one Frozen Four championship in the process.

She also played in the National Collegiate women’s ice hockey championships in 2013, but her Terriers ultimately fell to the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

“I made great relationships and friendships at Boston University,” said Tutino. “Most importantly, I made great memories that are going to last a lifetime.”

Many of those memories were accomplished alongside current Canadiennes captain Marie-Philip Poulin and fellow sophomore Sarah Lefort. She was quick to heap praise on her former-turned-new teammates and is happy to reunite with them both in Montreal.

“I am very fortunate that I got to play with a person like Poulin,” said Tutino. “She not only plays well every game, but she makes the people around her better. People recognize her as the Olympic gold medallist, but I love her because she is a really great person.”

“[Sarah] Lefort is also a really great person,” said Tutino. “She’s a pure goal scorer and she put a lot of goals up on the board at Boston University.”

Personal highs and team lows marked Tutino’s rookie season with the Blades. She translated her first overall selection in the 2016 CWHL entry draft into a solid two-goal and three-assist season that earned her a spot in the league’s All-Star game where she got to rub shoulders “with some of the best players in the league.”

The Blades, however, struggled as a whole, posting only two wins, and scoring just a total of 32 goals in 24 games. Despite the struggles, Tutino said she appreciated her time in Beantown.

“The team was at a development stage and looking to improve,” said Tutino. “Like any other sport, there are always challenges. All in all, I still enjoyed my experience playing with the Blades.”

Canadiennes head coach Dany Brunet recognized that Tutino may not have been surrounded by a bunch of offensive talent in Boston. He is optimistic that a more explosive roster in Montreal, coupled with Tutino’s season of experience in the CWHL, will only help to strengthen an already potent offence. Brunet also expect Tutino to develop positively as a player.

“She has already played through one year in the league,” said Brunet. “Oftentimes, the rookie season of a player is the toughest. She has a good idea of what the caliber of the league is now. We are confident that she will be able to adapt easily to our group.”

Tutino hopes to help the team build off their 2017 Clarkson Cup championship. She says fans can expect an all-around strong player.

“I’m not afraid to go into the corners or to the front of the net,” said Tutino. “I like to use my speed to move the puck quick. I have a heavy shot that I can release. I like to be well-rounded and contribute offensively as well as defensively.”

Tutino is also very versatile, having played both the centre and the wing positions over the course of her hockey career. Last season, she started the campaign playing on the wing for the Blades, but would finish up down the middle.

With Canadiennes’ top center Poulin on Olympic duty next year (the Canadian national team centralizes its players all season long in Calgary), Tutino knows there is an opening for her to be the center one of the club’s top lines. Nevertheless, she was unwilling to place any unnecessary pressure on herself going into the off-season.

“You never expect anything,” said Tutino. “At the end of the day, it’s not my decision whether or not I am going to play centre. Whatever opportunity I’m given, I’ll make sure to capitalize on it.”

Brunet was non-committal when it came to the possibility of seeing Tutino at center next season. More evaluation of the player will be needed at training camp to determine whether or not she has the “qualities needed to play centre,” he said.

Tutino works full-time as a recruiter at Finish Line Staffing, an employment agency in Waltham, Massachusetts—she is set to leave her position this July ahead of her return to Montreal.

Still, she makes time for early morning workouts at the Boston University gym and late-night on-ice sessions at a local rink. All this to ensure that she is game ready for the start of training camp in Montreal this September.