PWHL Draft recap — Takeaways and impact on rosters

The IX: Hockey Friday with The Ice Garden, June 14, 2024

Happy Friday! It’s Simon Hopkins from The Ice Garden. All eyes this week were on the PWHL Draft. Before we recap each team’s night out at the draft, check out some of the week’s top headlines.

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Stories of the week

How draft night went wrong for PWHL Minnesota — The Toronto Star

Ilona Markova first Russian drafted to PWHL — The Ice Garden

Team Canada star Sarah Fillier taken 1st overall — CBC

PWHL awards: The winners are in! — The Ice Garden

PWHL draft recap

PWHL New York

New York took Sarah Fillier, the best available player in the draft, first overall. Fillier made herself known with a breakout performance at the 2022 Olympics. She’s a speedy goal scorer who could improve New York’s course.

New York traded their second-round, seventh-overall pick to Boston. For picks seven and 37, Boston sent New York picks 10, 16 and 28. New York moved down in the second round but gained a bonus third-round pick and advanced their seventh-round pick to the fifth round.

With that tenth-overall pick, New York selected Swedish defender Maja Nylén Persson. All of New York’s picks in the first three rounds were high-scoring additions to a New York team that finished second to last in PWHL goal scoring last year.

PWHL Ottawa

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Ottawa’s focus was size and grit, general manager Mike Hirshfeld told reporters following the draft. Consider it accomplished because every drafted skater provides a physical advantage on the ice.

Ottawa’s first-round pick is power center Danielle Serdachny, whose college and international performances over the last two years have made her a contender for the top spot in this draft. Experienced defender Ronja Savolainen adds more grit and brings experience and a calm presence to the Ottawa blue line.

PWHL Minnesota

The host city’s night was rocky from the start. Fans booed head coach Ken Klee as he walked to the draft stage. One fan held a sign that read, “Klee is not Kenough!”

The PWHL suddenly and without explanation fired Minnesota general manager Natalie Darwitz last week, days after winning the first-ever PWHL championship. Coach Ken Klee oversaw much of the draft, representing the team on the stage for a number of the picks.

The controversy continued in the second round when Minnesota selected Britta Curl, a three-time NCAA champion with Wisconsin. But Curl is infamous for her online support of right-wing pundits and their anti-LGBTQ+ views. Curl has shared multiple posts supporting transphobic rhetoric, particularly around trans inclusion in women’s sports and the so-called “gender ideology movement.”

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PWHL Boston

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Boston made an early trade with New York to move their second pick earlier. Boston selected Czech defender Daniela Pejšová with that pick, possibly so Ottawa couldn’t take her one pick later. (This is complete speculation, but Hirshfeld said they wanted to draft a Czech player before Ottawa could).

Boston gave up their third and fifth-round picks but gained an extra in the seventh round to select Ilona Markova. Markova is the first Russian drafted to the PWHL and, if she plays, she’ll also be the first to do that.

Bringing Markova to the U.S. may pose challenges, but the league has committed to helping the team navigate the visa challenges.

PWHL Montréal

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Quebec’s team used their first-round pick to select American defender and NCAA champion Cayla Barnes. She is a small but mighty defender who spent most of her college career at Boston College before transferring to the NCAA for her final season. According to general manager Danielle Sauvageau, they were surprised she was still available at the fifth-overall pick.

Montréal used two five-minute timeouts throughout the night when making their selections. They took a pause before their seventh-round selection with which they selected American star forward Amanda Kessel.

Thirty-two-year-old Kessel is a big name in women’s hockey. After taking last season off, she declared for the 2024 draft. She was expected to be selected early in the draft but wasn’t likely because days before the draft, it was speculated she may be a candidate for the general manager job in Minnesota. Montréal decided to gamble and pick her up with their seventh-round pick.

PWHL Toronto

The regular season winners had the final pick of each round. First-round pick Julia Gosling is a great addition. She’s big, can score, and will hopefully flourish under the guidance of players like Natalie Spooner.

Spooner was present at the draft, on crutches and with a toddler in tow. Just two weeks after knee surgery, Spooner was on the draft stage to help announce picks. She was also in town for the PWHL awards, where she won league MVP.

Toronto picked up four forwards, which will hopefully boost their depth. With the final pick of the draft, Toronto selected goalie Raygan Kirk.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
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Saturdays: Gymnastics
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Written by The Ice Garden