From top stats to a true sense of teamwork, top CWHL draft pick Laura Fortino has brought strengths both on and off the ice to the Brampton Thunder.

by Monika Moravan

Heading into the 2014 CWHL Draft with an already loaded trophy case, it?۪s no surprise Laura Fortino was selected first overall by the Brampton Thunder. The blueliner is a key piece in the Thunder puzzle, finishing out the 2014-15 regular season 1-2-3, leading in assists, placing second in points and finishing third in goals scored.

Fortino has spent roughly a third of her life representing Canada on the international hockey scene. The most memorable moment for hockey fans was her assist on Marie-Philip Poulin?۪s overtime winner to clinch Canada?۪s fourth straight gold medal in women?۪s Olympic hockey. It was quite the benchmark for a first time Olympian.

By then, the Hamilton, Ont., native was a seasoned international competitor: two silver medals at the IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women?۪s World Championship; more silver from the 4 Nations Cup and the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women?۪s World Championship, and of course, another gold medal at the 2012 women?۪s worlds.

"Playing at the highest level, on the biggest stage, you really learn a lot about yourself, both as a person and a player," Fortino said shortly after last year?۪s draft, held Tuesday, Aug. 19.

But just as in infomercials; wait, there?۪s more! Those impressive achievements don?۪t include Fortino?۪s college career at Cornell University. Following a freshman season during which she led NCAA defencemen in scoring, she became a First Team All-American for the next two seasons, playing a pivotal role in the Big Red?۪s run to the Frozen Four national championship. She was literally a point-per-game player, closing out her varsity days with 133 points in 133 games (35 goals, 98 assists) and sixth on Cornell?۪s all-time assists list.

Fortino has a track record of impressive debuts and closed out her inaugural CWHL season with 15 points, including five goals and ten assists. She credits her brothers with sparking the flame that sees her burning up the ice and never hesitates when it comes to naming her hero, father Ignazio Fortino, a hockey coach at Bishop Tonnos Secondary School in Ancaster, Ont. Active in the off-season with Right to Play, a group that allows athlete ambassadors to encourage and facilitate youth sports around the world, Fortino is all about team work, as has become evident during her time facing off for the Canadian Women?۪s Hockey League.

"My leadership really improved immensely, and just my overall maturity as a player,?۝ Fortino has previously told ???So I really want to bring that to Brampton.?۝

This is the tenth in a series of 10 stories focused on key selections from last year?۪s entry draft. The 2015 CWHL Entry Draft takes place Aug. 23.