Draft Recap: Connecticut Whale, and Free Agent Signings!

Last week, the Connecticut Whale joined three other teams in history, by taking part in the first ever NWHL entry draft. They took an interesting approach to the draft, taking three defence out of their five picks, and not a single goalie, and followed up an excellent draft by signing three free agents in the same week.

Junior Entry Draft

Round 1, 2nd overall: Hannah Brandt, Forward

Hannah Brandt plays for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, and is a force to be reckoned with whenever she is on the ice. In 122 games with the Gophers, she has tallied 221 points, giving her a points per game of 1.8 so far in her college career. It will be no shock to anyone that she has been named the WCHA (Western Collegiate Hockey Association)  player of the year for the past two seasons. In her freshman year, she was named the WCHA rookie of the year, and in 2015, she was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2015 NCAA tournament. She is also a two-time Patty Kazmaier top-three finalist. The Patty Kaz is given to the best Division I women’s college hockey player in the country.

Round 2, 6th overall: Michelle Picard, Defence

Picard has a wealth of experience, not only from her time with the Harvard University Crimson. She has an Olympic silver medal with Team USA in Sochi (2014), 2 IIHF gold medals (2013, 2015) and a silver IIHF silver medal (2012). In 97 games with the Crimson, Picard has 41 points and a +/- rating of +86.

Round 3, 10th overall: Milica McMillan, Defence

In 111 games with the Gophers, Brandt’s teammate has 92 points, an outstanding number for a defensive player. In her freshman year, she was named to the NCAA All Tournament team. She followed this up in her sophomore year by being named the WHCA Defensive Player of the Week twice in the 2013-2014 season, tied for ninth all time for points by a Gopher defensive player, and was named to the AHCA/CCM Second Team All-America and All-WCHA First Team. In her junior season, she was named to the All-WHCA Second Team.

Round 4, 14th overall, Maryanne Meneffee, Forward

Meneffe was the third Gopher drafted by the Whale, tallying 122 points in 113 games over three seasons. In her Junior year, she was ranked twelfth in the NCAA in points per game, with 1.21, and led the team with a shooting percentage of just over 22%, before assisting on the National Championship game winning goal against Harvard, and being named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team.

Round 5, 18th overall, Cassandra Poudrier, Defence

The Whale rounded out their draft by taking Poudrier, an incredibly consistent defensive player for the Cornell University Big Red. In 93 games, she’s tallied 60 points, but isn’t afraid to get involved in her own end. She was the highest scoring Cornell Freshman in her first year on the team, and was named to the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week. In her sophomore year, she was named ECAC Hockey Player of the Week (March 11, 2014), named on the 3rd Team All-ECAC Hockey Honors, and earned an Ivy League Honorable Mention. In her junior year, she was named to the ECAC All-Tournament Team.

Free Agents

In the week after the draft, the Whale balanced out their drafted skaters by signing two forwards and their first goalie to one year contracts.

Sam Faber played for the University of New Hampshire from 2005 to 2009, playing 143 games and tallying 189 points for the Wildcats. In her junior year she set an NCAA record for most game winning goals in a season, with 13.

Faber has also played on the international stage, taking home a gold medal in 2008 with the rest of Team USA in the IIHF World Championships.

Shiann Darkangelo is another Team USA alumni, playing with them in the 2014 Four Nations Tournament, taking home a silver medal. In 144 games with the Quinnipiac Bobcats, she has 113 points.

Chelsea Laden is another Bobcats alumni, graduating with a .923 save percentage, and a 1.56 GAA, adding an impressive 26 shutouts in 88 games with Quinnipiac. In her senior year, she gave the Bobcats a .930 save percentage, a 1.16 GAA, and 16 shutouts, absolutely earning her the Mandi Schwartz Student-Athlete of the Year award.

The Boston Pride: Draft Recap, Signing Amanda Pelkey

At a Q&A on Periscope after the first NWHL draft on June 20th, General Manager Hayley Moore of the Boston Pride said that the team “wanted to deepen our roster on all levels” and “spread our picks across the board, rather than focusing on a single position.” The Boston Pride had third pick at the 2015 NWHL Draft, but that was third pick of an amazing crop of stellar athletes. In the five rounds of the draft, they chose three forwards, a goaltender, and one defender, four of whom are already based in Boston as rising seniors on NCAA teams. This year’s draft picks will join the Pride for the 2016-2017 season after they finish their undergraduate degrees.

First pick (3rd overall): Kendall Coyne (@KendallCoyne), 23, is a forward and #77 on the Northeastern Huskies whose hometown is Palos Heights, IL. As a member of Team USA, Coyne is an Olympic silver medalist, three times an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Champion, and twice a IIHF Under 18 (U18) World Champion. In her NCAA career, she’s scored 165 points over three seasons; this year alone, she was a Patty Kazmaier Top-Ten Finalist and a Women’s Hockey East Association (WHEA) First Team All-Star. With that kind of play at the international and college levels, it’s easy to see what makes her such a valuable prospect to the NWHL and first choice for the Pride.

Second pick (7th overall): Emerance Maschmeyer (@emerance_m), 20, is a goaltender and #38 on the Harvard Crimson who hails from Bruderheim, AB. Before she even started at Harvard, she led Team Canada to gold with a shutout in the final game in the 2012 IIHF World Women’s U18 Championships. This spring, she served as alternate to veteran Genevieve Lacasse on the silver-winning team at the 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championships. With a .941 save percentage over her NCAA career, Maschmeyer is a powerful presence in the net, and she’s gotten the recognition to show for it as 2013 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, 2014 ECAC Goaltender of the Year, and numerous other awards and nominations. She’ll be a huge asset for the Pride next year.

Third pick (11th overall): Lexi Bender (@bendy0), 21, is a defender and #21 on the Boston College Eagles from Snohomish, WA. Bender represented Team USA on the 2014 U.S. Women’s Under-22 Select Team in a three-game exhibition series against Canada last summer and has had an impressive career on high school and college teams, playing for Shattuck-Saint Mary’s before she joined the Eagles, where she racked up six goals and 23 assists this year. GM Moore singled out Bender for praise after the draft, saying, “There were very many talented defensemen, but Bender was a staple on the Boston College blue line last season and she was an integral part of their success. She’s got great size and strength, which we’re welcoming in Boston.” I couldn’t agree more.

Fourth pick (15th overall): Miye D’Oench (@me_yay_doench), 21, is a forward and #19 on the Harvard Crimson from New York, NY. D’Oench won silver for Team USA alongside future Pride teammates Coyne on the 2012 IIHF U18 team and the U22 team last summer alongside Bender. At Harvard, D’Oench has lead the Crimson offensively: for 2013-2014, she held first place for both goals (18) and points (39), and this season, with 19 goals, she was the highest goal scorer again, though second on the team with 33 points. Prior to Harvard, she captained her club team the New Jersey Rockets U19 for two seasons. Leadership experience and goal production will be great strengths for D’Oench on the Pride.

Fifth pick (19th overall): Shannon MacAulay (@shanmac04), 21, is a forward and #4 on the Clarkson Golden Knights who calls Mt. Herbert, PEI home. Representing Team Canada, she’s played alongside Maschmeyer and against the rest of her future teammates drafted today, winning gold on Canada’s 2012 IIHF U18 team and playing in an exhibition series with the 2014 U22 team against the United States. At Clarkson, she led the team in power play goals this year and was second on the team with 33 points; she was also a 2015 ECAC Hockey Third-Team All-League All-Star and nominated for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. MacAulay will be an excellent addition to the Pride next year.

As I said in my post in about the Boston Blades and the future of US Women’s Hockey last month, the NCAA is teeming with women with backgrounds as impressive as the NWHL’s 2015 draft picks. The players who will join the Pride next year are only the very tip of the iceberg, and NWHL GM Dani Rylan concurs, saying in the post-draft Q&A that, “The Draft Class was so deep that it was really that every selection was a first-round pick. We could have gone ten rounds.” Indeed.

While Coyne, Macschmeyer, Bender, D’Oench, and MacAulay won’t join the Pride until they conclude their undergraduate and NCAA careers in 2016, the Pride are beginning to sign free agents for the NWHL’s inaugural season as well. The first free agent to sign with the Boston Pride is Amanda Pelkey (@pelkey21), 22, a forward and a recent graduate of the University of Vermont, where she was #21 on the Vermont Catamounts. Read about Pelkey and her signing on the NWHL website.

Draft Recap: Buffalo Beauts

Wisconsin’s Burke headlines well-rounded inaugural draft class for Beauts

Buffalo’s been a little down on its hockey luck lately especially when it comes to drafting potential stars, but the Beauts made the most out of picking last in the NWHL’s first-ever draft on Saturday.

Wisconsin D Courtney Burke became the Buffalo Beauts’ first draft pick, selected fourth overall. The junior from Albany, NY is a product of Shattuck-St. Mary’s and USA Hockey (as part of the silver-medal winning U-18 team in 2012). She can put up points, but has shifted to more of a supplemental role in college, excelling at moving and distributing the puck on a Badgers team with one of the best defenses in the nation. Last season she tallied 24 points in 40 games and was a +20.

The Beauts weren’t done after Burke. Their second pick, Sarah LeFort of Boston University, is a forward with back-to-back 50-point seasons on her resume; in fact, last year she was second only to Marie-Philip Poulin in goals and overall offense. She also did well on the power play, with 14 of her 50 points (7 G, 7 A) coming on the player-advantage. From the highlights I’ve seen, she does really well in transitions and can score from pretty much anywhere on the ice.

With two skater positions covered, the Beauts shifted their attention to the crease, snagging Amanda Leveille from Minnesota. Leveille is one of the top two goalies in the nation with a 1.18 GAA and a .948 save percentage, and she has been a key part of a dominant Golden Gophers team. She put up an impressive performance in the Championship game, withstanding late pressure from Harvard’s offense to clinch her second championship ring and Minnesota’s third in four years.

Two forwards and linemates from Mercyhurst rounded out the Beauts’ inaugural draft class. Emily Janiga and Jenna Dingeldein went 16th and 20th overall, and each of them provides excellent offensive support. Both are large forwards — Janiga at 5’11, Dingeldein at 6’1 — and each produced at a point-per-game pace or over this past year for the Lakers. Janiga led both her team and College Hockey America with 45 points over 35 games, and has the lucky bonus of being selected by the team basically in her hometown (she’s a native of East Aurora, about 20 miles southeast of Buffalo proper). Dingeldein is no slouch, with exactly one point per game to Janiga’s 1.29 and an average pace of 1.04 points per game over three seasons.

Suffice it to say the Beauts are going for a well-rounded approach — dynamic offense, capable defense and bar-down goaltending — and provided all of these players sign, it’ll be interesting to see how this will pan out for Buffalo in 2016-17, once they’re eligible to play. Stay tuned for more regarding free agent signings and other happenings at the Harborcenter as the summer progresses.

NWHL Draft Lottery: New York Riveters get top pick!

So, yesterday, on June 8th, the NWHL had their first Draft Lottery to decide the order of the 2015 Entry Draft! Teams will pick players in the following order, and there will be five rounds:

  1. New York Riveters
  2. Connecticut Whale
  3. Boston Pride
  4. Buffalo Beauts

While we don’t have a list of the complete draft pool yet, the NWHL has slowly been revealing their Top 20 Prospects on their website, including Olympian Michelle Picard, and Canadian National Team member Cassandra Poudrier.

“We’ve built the NWHL to serve as a league where women can continue to grow and train as world-class athletes after college and are looking forward to the next wave of talent,” said Dani Rylan, NWHL Commissioner. “The response to our league has been extremely positive, and we’re looking forward to having all of our team rosters finalized and starting the season.”

We’ve got a more complete guide to the draft (both the CWHL and NWHL) coming out soon, but as a reminder, the NWHL draft is for players who have completed their junior year in college, not for graduated players like the CWHL’s draft.

To watch a video of the draft lottery, check out the NWHL’s website!