The inaugural draft for the National Women's Hockey League, a new women's hockey league that is set to begin play in October of 2015 took place last Saturday. The four teams in the league each made five selections of US college players who will be entering their senior season in the fall. Of the twenty total selections made on Saturday, four were Gopher Women's Hockey Players.
The Four teams that will begin play in the NWHL are the New York Riveters, Connecticut Whale, Boston Pride, and Buffalo Beauts. The plans are to expand to more teams in the future. Each team will host nine home games throughout the season with themes to honor and create awareness around various causes and organizations. The NWHL season will take place from October to March, including preseason, an All-Star weekend and playoffs. The puck is set to drop for the regular season on October 17, 2015 and playoffs will conclude the season in March 2015. Each team will have two organized practices per week and play one game each weekend (nine home games and nine away games). The purpose is to allow players to try and find regular jobs in the cities where their teams are located so that they can both start a career, yet follow their professional hockey dreams.
All current graduates and Canadian players are free agents and can sign with any of the four teams. The 20 players selected in the draft will all join their teams in the fall of 2016 after completing their eligibility this season.
The reigning Patty Kazmaier Award winner, Alex Carpenter of Boston College was the #1 overall selection in the draft. She was taken by The New York Riveters. The Connecticut Whale had the second selection, and they took the next obvious best player on the board, Gopher center Hannah Brandt. The rest of the first round included Kendal Coyne from Northeastern to Boston and Wisconsin's Courtney Burke to Buffalo.
Round two was a total Boston sweep as a BC player, a BU player and two Harvard players went off the board. The Whale had pick #10 overall, which was they third of the day, and they decided to take another Gopher. Gopher defenseman Millica McMillen was the name they called. She did not have to wait long until the next Gopher went off the board as With the #12 overall selection, Buffalo got their goaltender of the future in Amanda Leveille.
Connecticut continued to go back to the Gopher well, and with the #14 overall selection they decided to add Brandt's linemate, Gopher wing Maryanne Menefee.
The NWHL teams had a clear strategy going to the draft and that was to keep fanbases allready in place to keep cheering for their players. Hartford took three Gophers in Brandt, McMillen and Menefee with their five selections. The New York Riveters took three BC players. And the Boston Pride used four of their five selections on players who had played college in Boston taking two Harvard players, a BC player and a Northeastern player. Buffalo was the only team to not seem to have a theme around their draft picks.
It will be interesting to see if any former Gopher players decide to try and play in the NWHL. It would appear recent Gopher graduates such as Rachel Ramsey and Rachael Bona have no interest in playing, and other former Gopher stars such as Kelly Terry are playing in the Canadian version of the professional league. Only time will tell if this league is both successful and can sustain itself over a long period of time, but if it does, you can assume that several other Gophers will be selected and play in the league in future seasons.
All I know is that I have a new favorite women's professional hockey team, and will need to find a shirt sporting this logo very soon.