NWHL draft picks have been slow to sign

March 21, 2014: University of Wisconsin's defense Jenny Ryan (3) with a shot on goal during the semi-final match-up between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers at TD Bank Sports Center in Hamden, CT. Minnesota will advance to the Championship game by virtue of a 5-3 win over the Badgers. Photographer: David Hahn/Icon Sportswire
David Hahn/Icon Sportswire

June 1 marked the beginning of the NWHL free agent signing period. In addition to returning players, 2016 draft picks are now free to sign with one of the four league franchises. To date, two draftees — Sydney Rossman (Connecticut) and Hayley Scamurra (Buffalo) — have committed to the league. Another five draft picks have been named to the USA and Canada centralization rosters ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

That leaves 10 eligible draft picks for teams to acquire. Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the draft class, and their likelihood to sign for the third season.

New York Riveters Draft picks

2016 Draft picks: Kelsey Koelzer (defender, Princeton), Sydney Daniels (forward, Harvard), Jenny Ryan (defender, Wisconsin), Sydney McKibbon (forward, Wisconsin), Amy Menke (forward, North Dakota)

Picks signed for 2017-18: None
Picks committed to national teams: None
Picks registered or signed with other pro leagues: None

The first overall draft pick, Koelzer, signed with the Riveters late last season but has not re-signed with the Newark-based team yet. She was invited to the USA Hockey selection camp in April but was not named to the 23-player roster set to centralize in Tampa in August. The Patty Kazmaier Award top-10 finalist would be a step in the right direction, as New York looks to get past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

With the loss of Amanda Kessel to centralization, and Janine Weber to the Boston Pride, the Riveters need more scoring options to assist returning top-four scorers Rebecca Russo and Miye D’Oench. Badgers captain Sydney McKibbon led her team to the 2017 NCAA Championship game with a career-high 13 goals. However, she has experience in the Hockey Canada system. Should McKibbon opt to pursue a spot with Hockey Canada, or return home to Ontario, the CWHL might be her best bet.

Neither Daniels, Ryan or Menke have committed elsewhere. However, if geography is a factor, the Newark area might not be a preference for any of the draftees. Ryan is from upstate New York, closer to Buffalo than New Jersey. Daniels hails from a Massachusetts town roughly an hour from the Connecticut Whale. If Menke wished to remain close to home, she might inquire with the Minnesota Whitecaps, as opposed to the Riveters or any other NWHL team.

Buffalo Beauts Draft picks

2016 Draft picks: Lee Stecklein (defender, Minnesota), Cayley Mercer (forward, Clarkson), Hayley Scamurra (forward, Northeastern), Emma Woods (defender, Quinnipiac), Maddie Elia (forward, Boston University)

Picks signed for 2017-18: 1
Picks committed to national teams: 1
Picks registered for CWHL Draft or signed with other pro leagues: 1

Like Koelzer, Scamurra signed with the Beauts after completing her NCAA eligibility. The 10th overall pick was one of five players to re-sign with Buffalo already.

Stecklein and Mercer will be unavailable. Stecklein will be with USA Hockey in Tampa hoping to make her second Olympic roster. After winning the 2017 NCAA Championship, Ontario native Mercer has registered for the CWHL draft. It is unlikely she will sign with the Beauts.

Woods, a Canadian, has not publicly committed to any league. The former Quinnipiac captain might be a good snag for the Beauts, who lost Devon Skeats to retirement. Additionally, former Beauts forwards Emily Janiga and Shiann Darkangelo have registered for the CWHL Draft, meaning Buffalo will need to make up a lot of talent up front.

Connecticut Whale Draft picks

2016 Draft picks: Dani Cameranesi (forward, Minnesota), Andie Anastos (forward, Boston College), Mellissa Channell (defender, Wisconsin), Paige Savage (forward, Northeastern), Sydney Rossman (goalie, Quinnipiac)

Picks signed for 2017-18: 1
Picks committed to national teams: 1
Picks registered or signed with other pro leagues: None

Sydney Rossman signed with the Whale in May, and will remain at Quinnipiac to begin her Master in Business Administration. While Rossman is in, Dani Cameranesi is likely out. She has been named to the 23-player roster for USA Hockey.

Eagles captain Andie Anastos is an excellent choice for a Connecticut team losing Kelli Stack to CWHL expansion. Anastos finished her career at BC ranked in the top 10 in six offensive categories. Her nose for the net will offer a boost to the second-highest scoring offense in the league. On the other side of the spectrum, Mellissa Channell would be a welcome addition to the blue line.

Boston Pride Draft picks

2016 Draft picks: Ann-Renee Desbiens (goalie, Wisconsin), Sarah Nurse (forward, Wisconsin), Ashleigh Brykaliuk (forward, Minnesota-Duluth), Halli Krzyzaniak (defender, North Dakota), Lara Stalder (defender, Minnesota-Duluth)

Picks signed for 2017-18: None
Picks committed to national teams: 3 
Picks registered or signed with other pro leagues: 2

The Pride lost seven players from the 2016-17 roster to centralization, and veteran defender Blake Bolden will play in Switzerland for the upcoming season. Additionally, none of the Pride’s 2016 draft picks are likely to join for the upcoming season. Ann-Renee Desbiens, Sarah Nurse and Halli Krzyzaniak will join Hockey Canada. Additionally, Ashleigh Brykaliuk has entered the CWHL Draft and Lara Stalder has signed with Linköping HC.

But the Pride snagged Kaliya Johnson (Connecticut Whale) and Janine Weber (New York Riveters) during free agency. The current roster stands at 10 players of a possible 17 positions (excluding practice players). However, Boston was the last team to sign a goaltender (Brianna Laing).

Ahead of the third season, the league added a Prospective Players enrollment process. More free agent signings will likely come before the 2017 Draft on Aug. 17. The new NWHL season begins after the Summit Series with Team Russia, Oct. 11-23. Similar to last season, Boston, Connecticut and New York will take on the Russian National Team in the preseason.

It’s still early days in the NWHL’s offseason, so it’s likely we could see more draftees sign with their clubs. However this year, more than last, it seems that the process is slow going.

[Editor’s Note: Paige Savage, 15th overall pick of the Connecticut Whale, signed with the Pride this morning. As of writing, she was unsigned.]


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