Victory Press Staff

2016 NWHL Junior Entry Draft Recap

Joint report filed by Zoë Hayden and Melissa Kania

The 2016 NWHL entry draft began at noon on Saturday, June 18. Selections were announced online via social media. Here are some things to keep in mind as you read our recap of each team's selections and quotes from team coaches and GMs:

  • Players cannot formally register for the draft, because of NCAA eligibility rules. Essentially, players are looking at the entire rising senior class in the NCAA and picking the players whom they feel will fit best on their teams. There's no guarantee that these players will sign contracts or even end up in the NWHL.
  • That said, according to league PR staff, asking a player if they are interested in the NWHL in general is not in violation of their NCAA eligibility, and some players have been informally contacted prior to being drafted in order to confirm that they may be interested in post-collegiate hockey.
  • 2018 is an Olympic year, and despite the major time difference that we'll be dealing with in Pyeongchang, this is likely to be the most visible and well-publicized women's ice hockey Olympic tournament to date. Canadian national team players will be centralized in 2017. As a result, any Canadian draft pick who has a chance of making the national team is unlikely to join a pro team until the 2018-19 season.
  • All players selected in the draft are college juniors who are entering their senior seasons in the NCAA.

Buffalo Beauts

The Beauts went heavy on offense in the 2016 NWHL Draft, selecting four forwards and one defender.

It was their blueline selection that was perhaps the biggest, though. With the team's first pick -- the second-overall selection -- the Beauts picked up defender Lee Stecklein from the University of Minnesota.

The 22-year-old is a left-shooting defender from Roseville, Minnesota. This past season, she earned a number of accolades, including being named to the All-USCHO Second Team, All-WCHA First Team, and Second Team All-American. She was named to the NCAA Frozen Four All-Tournament Team and served as co-captain of the Gophers, alongside Hannah Brandt.

Stecklein, a member of the United States Women's National Team, won an Olympic silver medal in 2014.

Four picks later, the Beauts chose forward Cayley Mercer out of Clarkson University.

Mercer was one of the top offensive threats in the nation this past season, registering 50 points (25G, 25A) while breaking the 100-point mark for her NCAA career.

Like Stecklein, she earned many accolades, including a nomination for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award and being named a finalist for ECAC Hockey's Best Forward Award. Mercer was named Clarkson's Most Valuable Player. She also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the Four Nations Cup.

With the 10th pick, the Beauts then selected Northeastern forward Hayley Scamurra, a player whom Buffalo GM and coach Ric Seiling is already quite familiar with.

Seiling played against her father, former NHLer Peter Scamurra, in both juniors and the NHL, and Hayley is a Williamsville native, so being drafted by the Beauts is a bit of a homecoming for her.

"Having local talent is a plus," said Seiling.

He noted that having locally-born players on the team is a way to show not only the strength of the Buffalo hockey community, but also a way to show other local players that there are avenues to pursue after college -- and the Beauts are one of them. "Western New York is a hockey hotbed, and when these players suit up in a Beauts uniform, they're going to show that," Seiling said of drafting locally.

This past season, Scamurra registered 43 points (14-29) in 38 games with the Huskies. She had a plus-41 rating and put up 137 shots on goal.

With the 14th selection, Buffalo picked up forward Emma Woods out of Quinnipiac.

Like the other players the Beauts selected, Woods earned multiple honors this year, including ECAC All-Academic and All-ECAC Hockey Third Team. She served as an assistant captain and recorded career high numbers with 23 assists and 34 points on the season.

Woods has already been named as the 14th captain in Quinnipiac program history for the upcoming season. She is Canadian, hailing from the small town of Burford, Ontario just two hours west of Buffalo.

Finally, with the 18th overall pick, the Beauts once again went local, selecting Lewiston, New York native Maddie Elia from Boston University.

Elia put up a career-high 29 points (15G, 14A) in 39 games this season with the Terriers. She registered her first collegiate hat trick back in November against Yale, which was part of a four-game point streak.

Both Scamurra and Elia attended Nichols School in Buffalo before starting their college careers.

Connecticut Whale

The Connecticut Whale strengthened all positions in the 2016 NWHL Draft, selecting a trio of forwards, one defender, and one goaltender.

They kicked things off by selecting Minnesota forward Dani Cameranesi with the third-overall pick.

Cameranesi, 20, was named a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award this season. She earned Second Team All-American and All-WCHA First Team honors and was the WCHA Scoring Champion.

Cameranesi registered a career-high 68 points, including 33 goals and 35 assists. She was particularly dangerous on the power-play, with 13 of her 33 goals coming that way.

Whale head coach Heather Linstad called Cameranesi "a really special player."

"I’ve seen her through her college career and she’s only getting better. I haven't seen her take a step back," Linstad said.

The Whale followed it up by picking another forward, Andie Anastos from Boston College.

Anastos was one of three captains on the Eagles this past season. She appeared in all 41 games, registering career highs in both points (37) and assists (23). She finished the season as a plus-50 and registered at least one point in 25 games.

A natural center, she moved to right wing during the season and also clocked some significant time on special teams.

Connecticut then selected Wisconsin defender Mellissa Channell with the 11th-overall pick.

The Oakville, Ontario native was the only Canadian player selected by the Whale in the 2016 NWHL Draft. This past season, she registered 15 points (3G, 12A) in 37 games for the Badgers. She also played for Team Canada in the 2016 Four Nations Cup, where she won gold.

Next up was the third of their forward selections, Northeastern's Paige Savage.

Savage appeared in all 38 games this past season for the Huskies, where she played alongside Beauts pick Hayley Scamurra. Savage notched 28 points (11-17) on the season. She previously won a silver medal at the 2014 Four Nations Cup with Team USA.

Finally, the Whale selected one of the two goaltenders picked up in the 2016 NWHL Draft: Quinnipiac's Sydney Rossman, who received a number of accolades this season.

Rossman's honors include ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Year; All-ECAC Hockey First Team; New England Division I Women's Hockey All-Star; and Quinnipac Team MVP, among many others.

“She just stepped into that role at Quinnipiac and kept the program going,” Linstad said of Rossman.

She had the best season by a goaltender in Quinnipiac women's ice hockey history, setting program records for wins in a season (30), winning percentage (.855) and lowest GAA in a single season, as well as consecutive shutouts (four), shutout streak (296:42) and winning & unbeaten streaks. Her 16 shutouts tied the program record set by NWHL netminder Chelsea Laden.

New York Riveters

The Riveters, who finished at the bottom of the NWHL in its inaugural season, have had perhaps the most intriguing offseason among the teams. Head coach Chad Wiseman took on general manager duties as well, and has quickly transformed the roster.

With the first overall pick, the Riveters selected Princeton defender Kelsey Koelzer, whom every GM referred to as the most offensive defender in the draft. Koelzer had the most productive season of her career in 2015-16, scoring 17 goals and 16 assists. Eight of her goals came on the power play. She was a Top 10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award and a finalist for the ECAC player of the year, while she won ECAC Defender of the Year and Ivy League Player of the Year.

Wiseman feels that Koelzer could be a centerpiece of the team moving forward. "At the end of the day, you're just going to make room for a player like that, no matter how deep your d-core is," he said.

With their fifth overall pick in the second round, New York selected Sydney Daniels, a forward who Wiseman noted for her size and physical style of play. Daniels had 31 points (21G, 10A) for Harvard in the 2015-16 season and was named to the All-Ivy first team and the All-ECAC second team.

"She goes to those hard places and she has the ability to score," Wiseman said, and also stated that he was committed to picking the Southwick, Massachusetts native and wanted to grab her in the second round, despite the fact that she might have still been available for his 11th overall pick.

The 11th overall pick for the Riveters, though, was Jenny Ryan, a defender out of Wisconsin. Ryan led her team in shots blocked with 54 in 40 games, in a year when they advanced to the Frozen Four. She finished the season with 8 goals and 24 assists, and was a team-high +49. She was named to the All-WCHA second team.

Wiseman praised Ryan's first pass, and compared her style as a blueliner to that of Erik Karlsson of the NHL's Ottawa Senators, characterizing her as someone who can see the ice well and create plays.

In the fifth round, the Riveters selected Amy Menke. Menke is currently a forward with the University of North Dakota. After a solid sophomore season, Menke bested all of her numbers her junior year, scoring 40 points in 35 games played to lead her team.

Boston Pride

The Boston Pride made the slightly risky choice of drafting an ensemble of international players: four Canadians and one Swiss player.

Last year, their second overall pick was Canadian goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer, who has since expressed interest in playing in the Canadian Women's Hockey League instead. Maschmeyer is the likely starter going forward in the Canadian national team's senior program.

With their first round pick, fourth overall, they selected another Canadian goaltender, Ann-Renée Desbiens. Desbiens had an outstanding season with the University of Wisconsin while setting records in the process. She broke the Wisconsin program record for single-season shutouts (which was previously held by Jessie Vetter), as well as the NCAA record for shutouts, recording 21 in 2015-16. She set NCAA single-season records for save percentage (0.96) and goals-against-average (0.76). She holds the longest-ever NCAA shutout streak, playing 543:53 consecutively without allowing a goal. All of these records are especially notable in light of the fact that the WCHA is an especially competitive conference that's known for producing strong offensive players.

Desbiens was, among many other honors, named the WCHA Player of the Year and was a Top 3 finalist for the Patty Kaz.

The second pick for Boston and the eighth overall was Sarah Nurse, another University of Wisconsin Badger. The Hamilton, Ontario native had 20 goals and 9 assists and was named to the All-WCHA third team.

The Pride picked forward Ashleigh Brykaliuk in the third round. Hailing from Brandon, Manitoba, Brykaliuk was named the captain of the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs for the 2015-16 season. She led her team with 47 points (18G, 29A). Brykaliuk has played with Team Canada, most recently with the U18 squad -- she is now 21 and is participating in the Canadian National Development Team camps.

In the fourth round, the Pride found that Halli Krzyzaniak was still available. Krzyzaniak has been on the Canadian national team at Worlds the past two years and has been a standout two-way forward with them when she isn't at the University of North Dakota, where she posted 5 goals and 12 assists in 2015-16. Pride general manager Hayley Moore said of Krzyzaniak: "I definitely had her on my radar, and she's a player I have watched since she was in high school. I was definitely surprised to have her available when I picked her, and was very pleased to have that pick as well."

In the final round, Boston selected Swiss player Lara Stalder who, like Brykaliuk, is a UMD Bulldog. Stalder was second on her team in scoring with 41 points (17G, 24A). She's a forward at UMD, but when she's with the Swiss national team (as she was in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, winning the bronze medal), she plays defense, so she has a certain amount of versatility as a skater. Six of Stalder's goals came on the power play during the regular season.

Moore dismissed concerns that the players she drafted would be difficult to sign -- she felt that the best strategy was to pick the best available players, even though they were all from the WCHA and all from places other than the United States. (The Pride roster from 2015-16 was made up of players who were already based in New England.) "Ultimately, they're going to want to play in the best league in the best environments for themselves to continue to grow as hockey players, and I think the direction that we're going is just strengthening ourselves as a league. That's on us to continue to make this an attractive place for them to play and I think that that's the direction that women's hockey is headed, so when you have a great product to offer I think that any high end player is going to be attracted to that," Moore said.

Meanwhile, the NWHL continues its offseason activity with a second camp happening this coming weekend in Buffalo, NY. Free agency will conclude July 31.

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