While the 2013 CWHL Draft lacked the star power that defined the preceding draft, in which four participants from the Vancouver Winter Games comprised first round picks, there was still a chance for women’s hockey history. Quickly becoming a summer tradition in women’s hockey, the draft managed to feature three historic firsts.
For the second consecutive draft, the Alberta Hockey Club held the first overall pick. Once again, Alberta challenged convention and made a bold statement. Reflecting on the 2012 edition of the draft, the franchise selected Hillary Pattenden, making her the first goaltender selecting first. As the club made their first choice in 2013, Minnesota-Duluth captain Jessica Wong became the newest member of Alberta.
Hailing from Baddeck, Nova Scotia, Wong became the first-ever visible minority selected as the number one pick. A versatile player with great skill on offense and defense, Wong played for Shannon Miller (head coach of the Canadian team that competed at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games) at Duluth.
Although Wong shall be immortalized in women’s hockey history for her triple overtime game winning goal versus Cornell in the 2010 NCAA Frozen Four, her impact in the CWHL Draft is nothing short of remarkable.
Despite being the first pick overall, Wong was not finished being part of CWHL Draft history. Selecting second, the Toronto Furies selected Wong’s teammate at Duluth, Katie Wilson. It marked the first time in draft history that teammates from the same NCAA program were selected among the top two picks.
Having also played on the 2010 Frozen Four championship team with Wong, Katie Wilson shall be an essential component of the Furies roster this season. With the blue and white having faced the loss of numerous members of its roster to Canada’s centralization camp, Wilson will be expected to be an impact player.
Before the first round would expire, there was one more ground breaking pick that would add to the excitement. The defending Clarkson Cup champion Boston Blades held the final pick in the first round, looking to fill many holes in their roster. With nine Blades competing for spots at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, every draft pick would be crucial.
Former US national team member Blake Bolden became the newest member of the black and gold. With the pick, it made Bolden the first African-American player to be selected in the first round of the CWHL Draft. A former All-America selection with the Boston College Eagles, Bolden is a blueliner with an offensive flair that shall help ease the loss of Caitlin Cahow and Molly Engstrom to retirement.
Later rounds saw other intriguing picks. Dartmouth’s Sasha Nanji became the first player of East Indian heritage selected in the CWHL Draft. She would be selected twelfth overall by the rebuilding Toronto Furies. Fannie Desforges, the first-ever women’s champion in the history of Red Bull Crashed Ice was selected by the Montreal Stars in the seventh round. Hailing from Australia, Georgia Moore holds the distinction of being the first from her homeland to be selected in a CWHL Draft.
While the league shall be turned on its collective ear coming this fall, with the loss of over 30 players to centralization camps, the draft successfully fulfilled its goal; providing a sense of hope and renewal. There is no question that the intrigue of these draft picks shall add an element of intrigue to a season that suddenly holds much more promise.
Photo credit: Dan Hass