Original story posted here.
The ninth CWHL Draft took place on Sunday, with 67 total prospects taken by the six teams. Some teams, like Montréal and Calgary, had a deep draft. Other teams... didn’t. Here’s how each team fared.
Worcester (formerly Boston): C
Worcester needs elite skaters, and they got... one, in Wisconsin’s Lauren Williams, who should anchor their defense this year. Unfortunately, Boston didn’t have a deep draft pool this year, and it shows.
New GM Derek Alfama seemed to have it together, then lost track of Meeri Räisänen in the eighth round. Even before the draft, Worcester struggled, losing a potential top-line forward when Nina Rodgers flipped (back) to the NWHL and signed with the Connecticut Whale. Losing Kate Leary to Switzerland and Taylor Wasylk to the Boston Pride didn’t help either.
One bright spot: if you haven’t read the story of eighth-round pick Chih Lin “Linda” Liu, please do. She’s the captain of Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), and one of only a handful of registered players on the island. Here’s to her success with the Blades.
Ultimately, for a team that’s been openly neglected for years, the Blades did the best they could with what they had. #WooBlades indeed.
Toronto Furies: A
Toronto needed everything: defense, goalies, and a few forwards not named Natalie Spooner. The 2017-18 season started with major losses to the SDHL, retirement, and centralization.
However, they were able to weaponize the Erin Ambrose trade to grab five prospects in the first three rounds, allowing them to drain the GTA draft pool of (nearly) every elite forward.
This forced Markham to take defenders and goalies, neither of which they truly need. In her first major outing, new GM Sami Jo Small showed her off-ice ability to spot on-ice talent. I fully expect Sarah Nurse and Shea Tiley, and maybe Brittany Howard, to put up Rookie of the Year campaigns.
Mellissa Channell and Julia Fedeski should help shore up a weak blue line. Right winger MacKenzie MacNeil has the real possibility to be a sleeper agent if she’s able to adjust to this level of play.
Watch out. The Toronto Furies are back, back, back again.
Markham Thunder: B
Markham has an elite defensive corps and two top goalies, and so they went into this draft looking for scoring depth as they relied heavily on Jamie Lee Rattray last season.
You’ve heard enough about Victoria Bach already, but Ailish Forfar, their other pre-sign, has the potential to be a hit-or-miss center. It’s possible we could see her flourish as she did at Ryerson, but she could also flounder as she did at Dartmouth.
Unfortunately, Toronto’s extra picks forced Markham to draft more defenders, for which they have less of a need. They were able to snatch left winger Megan Sullivan away from the Furies in the third round, who has the potential to excel at the CWHL level after four seasons at a resurgent Colgate.
Finally, the goalie battles at camp should be fierce — with Erica Howe, Liz Knox, Elijah Milne-Price and Meeri Räisänen competing for three spots on the roster, Markham wins.
If all else fails, they won the Clarkson Cup last year on defense— there is nothing stopping them from doing it again.
Calgary Inferno: A
With the departures of Geneviève Lacasse, Delayne Brian, and Toni Ross, Calgary desperately needed a few good goalies. They almost certainly got one, if not two starters in Annie Bélanger and Alex Rigsby.
Rigsby has the more impressive resume, but Bélanger will make her and Lindsey Post earn their minutes. With more than a few high- and low-profile skater departures, the Inferno needed a bit of everything in this draft.
Although Rebecca Leslie might not be an immediate replacement for Jill Saulnier, she’ll no doubt wreck opposing defenses if allowed to develop with Rebecca Johnston or Brianna Decker. Tori Hickel has played both forward and defense, while Finnish international Venla Hovi brings her aggressive drive to the net.
Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays: C
Although they made only three selections, the newly branded Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays still managed to pick up an elite skater in Leah Lum, who leaves UConn with a number of school records and her eyes set on the 2022 Olympics.
Although Princeton’s Kimberly Newell is a decent goalie, she’s no Noora Räty, and so pre-signing her is a choice that evades me to this day. It also appears as if Hannah Miller is their sixth (and final?) import. She’s no Kelli Stack, but if she puts up half of her St. Lawrence production, the Rays shouldn’t sink too far in the standings.
I don’t think we’ll see the Rays again in the final this year, but that could change if they’re allowed to bring back some of last year’s imports. Regardless, they won’t sink to to the bottom, either.
Les Canadiennes de Montréal: B
Montréal has an illegally good set of forwards, two elite goalies, and a pretty good defense, so it’s not like they “need” players at any position. As their defense isn’t as comically overpowered as the rest of their team, that’s likely where we’ll see rookies this season.
Geneviève Bannon would undoubtedly be a top-six forward on any other team, but she’ll be lucky to make the third line this year. Catherine Daoust and Taylor Willard will provide excellent competition for Les Canadiennes’ middle defensive pairings, especially since Lauriane Rougeau is back to claim her spot at the top.
If Kelsey Neumann is in top form, she could give Cat Herron and Marie-Soleil Deschênes a good fight for the third goalie spot. Marie-Joëlle Allard has a decent chance of continuing the Concordia-Canadiennes pipeline.
Look for Les Canadiennes to reload, not rebuild, as they attempt to avenge their first-round exit from last year’s playoffs.