Having selected All-World blueliner Laura Fortino with the first overall pick in the 2014 CWHL Draft, the Brampton Thunder have repeated the trend once again. Turning to the Ivy League once again (Fortino played with Cornell), the Thunder opted to select Sarah Edney with the first pick overall in the 2015 edition of the draft.
Competing with the nationally renowned Harvard Crimson, Edney’s final game with the program was the 2015 NCAA Frozen Four title game. Although the Crimson did not capture their first Frozen Four, it was a fitting showcase for a sensational talent such as Edney, who scored a goal in the contest.
Although the Calgary Inferno nabbed Brianne Jenner and Jillian Saulnier, who played with Fortino at Cornell, the Thunder managed a very strong draft class. Acquiring Jenna McParland in the second round, the club added a very talented skater and sniper, who should complement Jamie Lee Rattray.
With the selection of RMU Colonials alums Rebecca Vint and Kristen Richards (who both helped the Toronto Shamrocks capture the 2015 CBHA National title) in the third and fourth round, it continues the trend of selecting collegiate teammates. In 2014, Brampton selected three teammates who played together with Clarkson University, winning the Frozen Four title.
In four seasons with the Crimson, Edney, a former Mississauga Female Athlete of the Year recipient, earned ECAC Honors in every season. Starting with a nod on the 2012 ECAC All-Rookie Team, Edney graduated as the winner of the ECAC’s Best Defenseman Award. Complemented by two consecutive All-Ivy First Team nods, Edney’s best performance of the season came in the ECAC title game against Cornell. Registering two goals and an assist in the title game, she was rewarded with the 2015 ECAC Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
While Edney becomes the first Crimson alum to be selected with the first overall pick in the CWHL Draft, she is part of a growing legacy. Of note, former Crimson competitors such as Jenny Brine, Caitlin Cahow (who currently serves in an executive capacity with the league), Julie Chu and Sarah Vaillancourt have all played in the CWHL, each leaving their unique mark.
Of note, Brine played in the first CWHL regular season game contested in an NHL arena. Cahow was the team captain when the Boston Blades captured the Clarkson Cup for the first time in franchise history. Chu is the first (and only) player to have won three consecutive Clarkson Cup titles, along with the first to win with two different teams. Vaillancourt captured the Cup in 2011, becoming a member of the Triple Gold Club for Women.
One key quality that made Edney the first overall pick was her strong leadership. With the Canadian U18 program, she served as the captain in a silver medal effort at the 2011 IIHF U18 Women’s Worlds. Earlier this year, she was part of the Canadian U22/Development Team that captured gold at the 2015 Nations Cup in Fussen, Germany.
During her junior years in the PWHL, she served as captain of the Mississauga Junior Chiefs, earning a gold medal at the Ontario provincial championships. Edney now returns to her roots in the Greater Toronto Area with the hopes of bringing Brampton its first-ever Clarkson Cup championship.
The presence of Edney only adds to an improving Brampton team that may now boast the CWHL’s top defense. Joining a blueline corps that includes two-time NCAA Frozen Four champion Tara Gray, Mallory Johnston (who has also captured world championships as the ball hockey level), and Dania Simmonds. In addition, the defense also includes Canadian national team members Courtney Birchard and Jocelyne Larocque. As a side note, Fortino and Lacroque earned gold medals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Selecting such solid defensive talent two seasons in a row places the Thunder in a tremendous position long-term. During the early years of the CWHL, the Thunder benefited greatly from the presence of Molly Engstrom and league co-founder Allyson Fox on the blueline. Edney and Fortino should help restore that blueline magic with a focus on a return to the Clarkson Cup playoffs.
Photo credit: Gil Talbot