The inaugural PWHL draft was held in Toronto yesterday, with each team selecting 15 new players to add to their roster. The whole event was a highly entertaining affair, with several off-the-board picks, that really showed how far women’s hockey has come in recent years.
In the days leading up to the draft, there was considerable debate within women’s hockey circles about draft rankings. Comparing players from multiple different leagues, and all of different ages, is no small task, and there was so much talent available in the draft that in the first few rounds it was virtually impossible for teams to go wrong.
In fact, my main takeaway from the draft is that while I was ready to see my favourite players go to my favourite team, I was unprepared for how difficult it would be to see many more of my favourite players go to the five other teams I will not be supporting. Check in on the women’s hockey fans in your life. We’re going through it.
Here’s the list of players Ottawa selected, with their position, birth year, nationality and the last league they played for. I’ve also linked their elite prospects pages.
Savannah Harmon (D) 1995, USA, PWHPA
Ashton Bell (D) 1999, Canada, NCAA
Jincy Dunne (D) 1997, USA, PWHPA
Gabbie Hughes (F) 1999, USA, NCAA
Hayley Scamurra (F) 1994, USA, PWHPA
Daryl Watts (F) 1999, Canada, PHF
Aneta Tejralová (D) 1996, Czechia, PHF
Katerina Mrázová (F) 1992, Czechia, PHF
Zoe Boyd (D) 2000, Canada, NCAA
Kristin Della Rovere (F) 2000, Canada, NCAA
Lexi Adzija (F) 2000, Canada, NCAA
Sandra Abstreiter (G) 1998, Germany, NCAA
Amanda Boulier (D) 1993, USA, PHF
Caitrin Lonergan (F) 1997, USA, PHF
Audrey-Anne Veillette (F) 2000, Canada, U Sports
Full profiles of the players will come later, but for now here are some of the main takeaways from Ottawa at the draft.
Not just sticking to the National Team
Everyone expected Ottawa to draft Ambrose and Rattray with their first two picks, so it was a huge shock when they went a different route, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad decision.
I actually think it’s cool that we’re seeing teams make decisions based purely on hockey skills and not what’s best for the players or the future of the sport. I was slightly worried that Ottawa would just stick to the Canadian Olympic players because those are the easy choices, and so I actually trust their decision to go a different direction more.
We’ve got lots of Americans, a few Czechs, and even a German goalie! She follows Tim Stützle on Instagram, so maybe she’s a Sens fan.
Focusing on defense
I wrote in my preview that I hoped Ottawa would target some younger players instead of sticking to the Team Canada veterans, and that’s exactly what they did, especially on defense.
I still think they should have gone with Jaques with one of their first two picks, but like I said, there are no bad picks with this much talent available, and so they were always going to leave a few big names on the board.
Ottawa kicked things off with 27-year-old American Olympian Savannah Harmon, who’s one of the best two-way defenders in women’s hockey and will have no trouble taking on first-pairing minutes. They followed that up with a young, up-and-coming blueliner in Ashton Bell and American Olympian Jincy Dunne. I’ve also heard that Amanda Boulier is a great puck-mover. They’re building a mobile defense that can move the puck well and make things happen offensively, with a group of players just entering their primes. Get ready for some high-scoring games!
Losing out on Rattray sucks, but this defense is the silver lining, and I've heard that next year's forward class is supposed to be very good.
The coach’s impact
Many wondered if Ottawa hiring Carla McLeod as coach would mean that they’d draft a lot of Czech players, and that proved true in the 7th and 8th rounds, when Ottawa selected two members of the Czech national team, both of whom played in the PHF last year. I'm here for it!
PHF star power
One of the big questions heading into the draft was how the GMs would rank former members of the PHF, with many analysts expecting those players to be some of the biggest steals of the draft. Aside from the Czech players, Ottawa also landed one of the biggest names in the PHF, in Daryl Watts.
The quality of competition was not always great in the PHF, so I’m so interested to see not just how these top players compare to PWHPA and NCAA players, but also how much they end up improving in such a competitive league with so many more resources than the PHF had. Watts was also one of the top players in the NCAA a few years ago, and is still only 24 years old. She’s instantly one of the most intriguing storylines on this Ottawa team.
A new rivalry
A hockey team in Ottawa is guaranteed to have a rivalry with teams in Montreal and Toronto, but man, if Boston isn’t making a case for a rivalry right now.
Many of you know that I’ve been an Alina Müller stan for a long time, and was therefore devastated when Boston won the third overall pick and thus the rights to draft her. That was one thing, but also taking Sophie Jaques, who I desperately wanted Ottawa to draft at fifth, was just unnecessary, and following it up with Kanata legend Jamie Lee Rattray cemented their place as our rivals. Fuck Boston.
The draft plus free agency puts Ottawa at 10 forwards, 6 defenders and 2 goalies. They'll have to use training camp invites to fill out the last remaining roster spots. Carly Jackson, maybe?
Here's what the roster looks like at the moment, just based on position and draft order:
Hughes - Clark - Jenner
Scamurra - Watts - Lonergan
Adzija - Mrázová - Veillette
Harmon - Bell
Dunne - Tejralová
Boyd - Boulier
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