PWHL Draft Primer and Open Thread

Ottawa selects 5th and 8th in the inaugural PWHL draft, streamed on CBC at 1pm today!

PWHL Draft Primer and Open Thread
Photo by Jerry Yu / Unsplash

Today’s the big day: All six PWHL teams will participate in a 15-round draft, to build their rosters for the upcoming season. The draft takes place at 1pm in Toronto, and will be available to stream on the CBC website in English, and on the Radio Canada website en français. (Update: it will also be broadcast on TSN 4 and Sportsnet 1!)

Draft rankings have been popping up all week - make sure to check out those by The Victory Press, The Hockey News, as well as mock drafts by The Athletic, The Ice Garden and The Hockey News, as you get set to follow the action this afternoon.

Here’s your rundown of the rules of the draft, and what to expect from the Ottawa team.

The Rules

  • There will be 15 rounds, with a total of 90 players being selected.
  • The order of selection follows a snake draft format, meaning that the order reverses after each round. Ottawa, for example, gets the second last pick of the first round, and the second pick of the second round, and so on.
  • 268 players have declared for the draft. You can read through the list here.
  • For the inaugural draft, picks cannot be traded. In future, teams will be able to trade picks.
  • There are no age limits - upper or under - for the draft. The youngest player to declare this year was 16 years old.
  • Current NCAA players are not eligible for the draft. So no, Sarah Fillier is not available.
  • However, recent NCAA grads, who were ineligible for free agency, are eligible for the draft, so we’ll probably see a lot of those go in the first few rounds.
  • I don’t know if there are actual rules against it, but with all this in mind I don’t think we’re going to see the men’s hockey style “draft so you have their rights until they sign” strategy. It certainly sounds like everyone who gets drafted will play next season, since these teams do need to build their rosters from the ground up.
  • Players have to declare for the draft in order to be eligible for training camp invites, so they cannot skip the draft so that they can pick their destination. Teams will be at 18 players after the draft, so they will certainly have space on their rosters for a few free agents.
  • Players can apply for the compassionate circumstances waiver that will ensure they can only be drafted by one team. There isn't any list of who applied for it, although former Riveters captain Madison Packer recently said on a podcast that she’s applied so that she can stay in New York. We can also assume that New York will be getting Claire Thompson, who plans to stay in medical school at NYU while she plays. We’ll have to see if teams use those cases strategically, but if a great player inexplicably falls to the bottom of the draft, we can probably assume that that’s what happened.

What to expect from Ottawa

From what I’ve been hearing from people a bit closer to the league than I am, it sounds like we’ll see a bit of a middle ground between the format we’re used to in women’s hockey where everyone has control over where they play, and the men’s hockey format where teams have complete control. Compassionate circumstances waivers will be used sparingly. The vibe I’m getting is that these athletes really want this league to be truly professional and that includes the experience of getting drafted. However, I’ve also heard that teams will do their best to accommodate players’ preferences when it comes to location.

Based on that information, I’m guessing Ottawa will mostly target players with a connection to the city or who have expressed an interest in moving there.

We also know which players will probably be off the board by the time Ottawa makes their first pick. Minnesota-born Taylor Heise, who also played at the University of Minnesota last year, is all but guaranteed to go first overall to, of course, Minnesota. Rumour has it that Toronto won’t be taking Alina Müller at second overall, but there’s no way she’s going to fall past Boston at third. We don’t know who Toronto (2nd) or New York (4th) will be taking, and their decisions might impact Ottawa’s selection.

Possible targets

Many were surprised when Jamie Lee Rattray was not among Ottawa’s first three signings, and you can bet that people expect her to go to Ottawa in the draft. It’s worth keeping in mind that the snake draft format means that there will only be two selections between Ottawa’s first two picks - both of them by Montreal. If Ottawa doesn’t think Montreal is likely to take Rattray, then they might pick someone else at 5th overall and wait until the second round to get their girl.

We should all be rooting for college grad Sophie Jaques to fall to Ottawa at 5th overall. She’s the reigning winner of the Patty Kazmaier Award as college player of the year, and probably the best young defender available. She’s Canadian, and Ottawa hasn’t signed any defenders yet, so this feels like a perfect fit, but she’s so good that it feels like a long shot at 5th.

Both The Athletic and The Hockey News had Ottawa taking Erin Ambrose at 5th overall in their mock drafts, so keep that in mind. Ambrose is one of the best defenders on Team Canada, and a little bit younger than the other big name, Jocelyn Laroque, so she would be a good pick as well. For what it’s worth, The Hockey News ranked Ambrose 4th and Jaques 13th, although The Victory Press had Jaques in tier 1 and Ambrose in tier 4. You could say there’s some disagreement about draft rankings in women’s hockey.

(If you’re here because you don’t know a lot about women’s hockey but you want to fool people into thinking you do by forming strong opinions about players, I’m giving you permission to flip a table if Jaques falls to Ottawa and they pass on her.)

I suspect (hope) that in rounds 3 and 4 Ottawa might try to go a bit younger, possibly grabbing a recent college graduate or younger member of the PWHPA. Young defenders Ella Shelton and Jaime Bourbonnais are both Ontario natives and would be great picks for the Ottawa team. At forward, I’d love it if they could grab Emma Maltais, Maureen Murphy or Chloé Aurard.

For the most part, PHF players will probably fall to the later rounds of the draft, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few gems we should be looking out for. Many of you already know that I’m a huge Mikyla Grant-Mentis truther, and would love to see the former PHF top scorer come to Ottawa. Kennedy Marchment or Élizabeth Giguère would also be a great get for them.

If I’ve left out any obvious names, it’s probably because I expect them to go somewhere else.

The draft will be streamed live on the CBC or Radio Canada website, and broadcast on TSN 4 and Sportsnet 1, at 1pm. You can all use this article as an open thread.

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