Putting a roster together, all the PWHL teams addressed their needs in the inaugural PWHL Draft. Serving as the measuring stick in determining a team’s success, or failure, all front offices are under the microscope, as fans anticipate which players will wear their jersey.
Defense emerged as the key theme of this draft, as four blueliners went in the first round alone. Additionally, seven of the top 10 picks were blueliners.
With 49 Canadians selected, this number comprised more than half of the draft. The remaining picks included 28 American born players, with Taylor Heise going first overall to Minnesota. Followed by a total of 13 Europeans, as Czechia led the way with five selections, with Swiss star Alina Muller going third overall.
Worth noting, eight goaltenders comprised part of the draft class as Minnesota and New York drafted two each. Making history as the first goaltender selected, Nicole Hensley went to Minnesota 12th overall. Two spots later, Toronto made Kristen Campbell the first Canadian goaltender drafted.
Minnesota (picking first overall): Grade B-
Draft picks: Taylor Heise, Nicole Hensley, Grace Zumwinkle, Maggie Flaherty, Susanna Tapani, Clair DeGeorge, Natalie Buchbinder, Denisa Krizova, Sidney Morin, Sophia Shaver, Amanda Leveille, Michela Cava, Liz Schepers, Minttu Tuominen, Sydney Brodt
Analysis: Emotion encompassed the first pick in the Draft. Selecting Taylor Heise, a Winter Games gold medallist raised in the State of Hockey, she will be the focal point of the franchise. Worth noting, she shares a common thread with GM (and former captain of Team USA) Natalie Darwitz, as both starred for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, bringing a shared sense of full circle.
Selecting another gold medallist in the second round with goaltender Nicole Hensley, the club added another familiar face between the pipes. Selecting Amanda Leveille in the 11th round, a long-time veteran of the former Whitecaps and a Golden Gophers alum, she solidifies one of the league’s best goalie tandems.
The third round established a pattern as Minnesota had homegrown talent on their radar. With the selection of Grace Zumwinkle, another Golden Gophers alum, it represents another cornerstone raised in the State of Hockey. Along with former UMD Bulldogs Maggie Flaherty and Sidney Morin, plus an abundance of former Whitecaps, familiarity emerged as an essential theme of Minnesota’s inaugural draft class.
Toronto (picking second overall): Grade A
Draft picks: Jocelyne Larocque, Emma Maltais, Kristen Campbell, Natalie Spooner, Jesse Compher, Kati Flanagan, Victoria Bach, Brittany Howard, Allie Munroe, Mellissa Channell, Maggie Connors, Rebecca Leslie, Hannah Miller, Alexa Vasko, Olivia Knowles
Analysis: Of all the first round picks, none possessed the same degree of experience as Jocelyne Larocque. An alternate captain for Team Canada, her greatest quality is strong leadership. Definitely a strong candidate to be the first team captain in franchise history, Larocque will serve as the anchor on defense.
Selecting Maltais in the second round, Toronto found one of the league’s future superstars. Along with Kristen Campbell, solidifying their goaltending picture for the rest of the decade, her presence between the pipes may prove to be the essential piece to the championship puzzle.
Still available in the fourth round, Spooner brings a combination of nostalgia and star power. Definitely one of the game’s most recognizable and popular stars, her consistency and reliability may be the finest parts of her game.
The seventh round brought another world class forward to Toronto, finding highly skilled Victoria Bach. Bringing another dimension to an impressive offensive attack, Bach supplies tremendous depth, allowing Toronto three effective scoring lines.
Boston (picking third overall): Grade A-
Draft picks: Alina Muller, Sophia Jaques, Jamie Lee Rattray, Loren Gabel, Hannah Brandt, Jessica DiGirolamo, Theresa Schafzahl, Emily Brown, Taylor Girard, Emma Soderberg, Sophie Shirley, Shimano Darkangelo, Emma Buckles, Tatum Skaggs, Jessica Healey
Analysis: Selecting a pair of European talents already familiar with New England fans, Boston picked wisely. Opting for Swiss sensation Alina Muller with the third pick overall, the first European selected in draft history, she starred at Northeastern University.
Available in the seventh round, Austria’s Theresa Schafzahl, the all-time scoring leader for the Vermont Catamounts, is a high quality forward that should delight fans with her solid skill set.
Rounds 2-5 are where Boston made their mark. Starting with Patty Kazmaier Award winner Sophia Jaques, bringing strong talent to the blueline, the franchise followed up with a brilliant trio of forwards.
Jamie Lee Rattray and Loren Gabel, both former Patty Kazmaier Award winners too, bring significant punch to the offense. Along with Hannah Brandt, a member of the US National Team, Boston may be the highest scoring team in the PWHL.
New York (picking fourth overall): Grade B
Draft picks: Ella Shelton, Jaime Bourbonnais, Jessie Eldridge, Chloe Aurard, Elizabeth Giguere, Corinne Schroeder, Jillian Saulnier, Brooke Hobson, Jade Downie-Landry, Paetyn Levis, Abbey Levy, Olivia Zafuto, Kayla Vespa, Emma Woods, Alexandra Labelle
Analysis: Among the most compelling storylines of the draft, New York selected 11 Canadian players, more than Ottawa and Montreal. The club did not pick an American born player until the 10th round, welcoming Ohio State blueliner Paetyn Levis.
Selecting a pair of goaltenders in Corinne Schroeder and Abbey Levy, it may comprise the league’s youngest goalie tandem. Both will have tremendous blueliners in front of them. With their first two picks, New York opted for Canadian national team members Ella Shelton and Jaime Bourbonnais.
New York must have been pleasantly surprised that Olympian Jillian Saulnier remained available in the seventh round. Equally satisfying was the availability of Chloe Aurard at the 21st spot. A member of the NCAA 200 point club, the 2023 All-America selection also plays for France’s national team. Her strong playmaking ability should be an ideal complement to Saulnier.
Ottawa (picking fifth overall): Grade B+
Draft picks: Savannah Harmon, Ashton Bell, Jincy Dunne, Gabbie Hughes, Hayley Scamurra, Daryl Watts, Aneta Tejralová, Katerina Mrazova, Zoe Boyd, Kristin Della Rovere, Lexie Adzija, Sandra Abstreiter, Amanda Boulier, Caitrin Lonergan, Audrey-Anne Veillette
Analysis: With their first three picks, Ottawa made a strong statement. Opting for all defensive players, including American stars Harmon and Dunne, plus 2022 gold medallist Ashton Bell, Ottawa may be the toughest team to score against.
The sixth and eighth rounds provided two of the biggest steals in the draft. Grabbing former Patty Kazmaier Award winner Daryl Watts, plus elite Czech forward Katerina Mrazova, they bring world class skill to an offense led by Brianne Jenner and Emily Clark.
Finding US national team member Gabbie Hughes was another shrewd move, part of a day which saw Ottawa draft six American players. Among the European players drafted, Ottawa hit a home run with German national team goaltender Sandra Abstreiter, who posted the third best save percentage at the 23 IIHF Women’s Worlds.
Montreal (picking sixth overall): Grade A+
Draft picks: Erin Ambrose, Kristin O’Neill, Maureen Murphy, Dominika Laskova, Kati Tabin, Kennedy Marchment, Madison Bizal, Gabrielle David, Maude Poulin-Labelle, Jillian Dempsey, Claire Dalton, Elaine Chuli, Ann-Sophie Bettez, Lina Ljungblom
Analysis: Selecting Erin Ambrose with their first round pick, Montreal not only gained a highly talented blueliner, but a fan favorite. Having played with previous club teams in Montreal, Ambrose is poised to be the cornerstone of their defense.
Drafting the highly promising Kristin O’Neill in the second round, her skill set should mesh perfectly with Laura Stacey and Marie Philip Poulin.
The third round saw Montreal opt for a lesser known player. Selecting Maureen Murphy from the Northeastern Huskies, whose season included Beanpot MVP honors, the club passed on another Husky star, Chloe Aurard.
Finding value in many former PHF stars, Montreal found an intriguing trio of steals. Scoring sensation Kennedy Marchment was still available in the sixth round, making her a draft day gem
The 11th and 12th rounds provided a pair of championship players poised to bring depth and leadership. Having won the Clarkson and Isobel Cup, Jillian Dempsey previously spent her entire pro career in Boston. Definitely a surprising pick for Montreal that could yield tremendous dividends.
Perhaps the biggest steal of the draft saw the acquisition of goaltender Elaine Chuli. Having won the 2023 Isobel Cup, finding Chuli this late in the draft gives Montreal another high quality goaltender.
Closing thoughts: Undoubtedly, the key for success is how well teams draft in the later rounds. Being able to find gems brings depth, which can be the difference between winning and losing. Montreal and Boston deserve credit for drafting strong talent beyond the ninth round.
With over 260 players available in the Draft, many notable names slipped through the cracks. Numerous Winter Games players such as blueliner Gigi Marvin, forward Melodie Daoust and goalies Noora Raty and Maddie Rooney went undrafted.
Numerous PHF talents, including long-time Riveters captain Madison Packer, plus Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Saroya Tinker did not hear their names called on Draft Day. Certainly, all of the aforementioned provide opportunities for PWHL teams to complete their rosters with star-studded talent. The most intriguing element shall be where such names land.