On June 29, thirty players were selected in the 2021 National Women’s Hockey League draft earlier this week, representing 24 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada. International players without NCAA or USports experience can join the league in another draft to be held later this month.
This year’s crop of draftees span from all conferences; ECAC, CHA and HEA all saw six players each selected by teams. Three WCHA players and two NEWHA players were also picked. Among those represented: Robert Morris, Bemidji State, Colgate, Maine, St. Cloud State, Brown, and Long Island University.
Before we dive into a more in-depth look at the draft class, a quick reminder: there is no guarantee that any of these players will ever play in the NWHL, or play for the team who picked them. The chances that they do play are higher than in the early years of the NWHL, as players now have to sign up for the draft and can also rank preferred teams. (This is likely due, in large part, to the fact that women’s hockey players still have to retain day jobs which certainly plays a factor in determining where you're going to live, work, and play hockey).
Tatum Skaggs (TOR, pick #4) has signed with a European team and will play overseas, while Taylor Wente (MIN, pick #18) will continue her professional, off-ice career instead of pursuing pro hockey. Aside from that pair, it seems likely that many other draftees will sign with their respective teams. The Six have already announced the signing of Maegan Beres, and other players have quickly added their team (and in some cases, even jersey number) to their social media bios (which, by the way, is a stipulation in the NWHL contract).
Broken down by team, here's a look at the 2021 NWHL draft class. The number before each player's name is the pick number they were in the overall draft.
1. Taylor Girard (F, Quinnipiac): Girard played a little over two seasons at Lindenwood before joining the Bobcats. Over her five years of college hockey, she put up 69 points in 105 games played, including a career-high 24 points in her sophomore season with the Lions. She was formerly teammates with Nicole Guagliardo and Abbie Ives, who have both played for the Whale in the years since.
8. Emma Polaski (F, Syracuse): Polaski played four years with the Orange, including serving as an alternate captain in her senior season. She was pretty heavily penalized in her first two seasons and finished her collegiate career with 156 PIMs in just 128 games. Polaski also put up 31 points and 31 assists.
20. Hannah Bates (D, St. Cloud State): Bates is lauded by her former coach as a strong skater whose work in the neutral zone is especially notable. She appeared in 120 games over four seasons for the Huskies, where she was teammates with Whale forward Kayla Friesen.
26. Grace Middleton (F, New Hampshire): Middleton was a three-time AHCA All-American Scholar and didn't miss a game of action in her junior or senior seasons, winning 52.9 percent of the faceoffs she took in her final year. Middleton was born with bilateral congenital hearing loss and has worn hearing aids in both ears since the age of 4, but typically doesn't wear them while playing. Here's an article from UNH on Middleton, who is headed to graduate school for physical therapy.
2. Emilie Harley (D, Robert Morris): Harley is coming off of her strongest offensive season so far from the blueline. In her final season with the Colonials, she put up 15 points in 25 games. The Syracuse native will bring some height to a shorter Buffalo team, particularly on the backend.
7. Anjelica Diffendal (F, Robert Morris): Over the course of four seasons with the Colonials, the Pittsburgh native racked up 40 points in 122 games, including 24 goals. Among her teammates over the years: Maggie LaGue (Whale) and Natalie Marcuzzi (Six).
13. Kennedy Ganser (F, University of Alberta): Ganser was at Alberta from 2016 until 2021 and averaged 0.76 points per game in her playing career there. Her third and fourth seasons each saw the Provost, Alberta native put up 27 points.She also played with Beauts forward Autumn MacDougall for four seasons.
14. Anna Zíková (D, Maine): The Czech Republic native has represented her country many times over the years and played overseas until 2017, when she joined the University of Maine. She put up 25 points in 63 collegiate games and played alongside Beauts players like Brooke Stacey, Alyson Matteau, Brittany Colton and Carly Jackson.
15. Missy Segall (F, Hamilton College): Segall, a Wellesley, Massachusetts native, comes from D-III Hamilton to join the NWHL. Like many others, her senior season was cancelled, but prior to that, she put up 51 points (25 goals, 26 assists) in 76 games. She played one season with Sam Walther (Whale/Riveters).
19. Allison Attea (F, Holy Cross): A Buffalo native, Attea has the opportunity to come and play for her hometown pro team. A 5'7" defender, Attea played four seasons at the College of the Holy Cross, amassing 20 points in 111 games.
25. Casey Traill (D, Castleton): Traill, a Great Britain native, played much of her career at home overseas before coming to North America to join Ontario Hockey Academy Prep in 2015. She's represented her country on the international stage a handful of times and joined Castleton University's D-III program in 2017. Over four years with the Spartans, Traill put up 33 points in 93 games.
3. Maegan Beres (F, Boston College): Beres, a North Vancouver native, became the first member of her draft class to be announced as having signed an NWHL contract. She'll join the Six following four years with BC, including serving as captain for her senior year. Beres' career-high 15 points (including 13 assists) was reached in her freshman season.
4. Tatum Skaggs (F, Ohio State): Skaggs will be playing overseas in the European Women's Hockey League with EHV Sabres Wien.
5. Taylor Davison (D, York): The Oakville, Ontario native played with York from 2016-2021 in USports action. Her best season to date was her junior year, where she put up 20 points in 24 regular season games and added four playoff points. A dynamic defender, Davison is the highest-draftest USports player in NWHL history to date.
9. Annie MacDonald (F, Princeton): MacDonald played three seasons with Princeton prior to her senior season's cancellation due to the pandemic. Her collegiate career included a 16-point campaign in her sophomore season and saw her put up 43 points in 93 games overall.
10. Rachel Marmen (D, Mercyhurst): Another Oakville native, Marmen appeared in 123 games with the Lakers between 2017 and 2021 and twice won the College Hockey America championship. She led Mercyhurst defenders in scoring in both her sophomore and senior seasons, and finished her collegiate career with 52 points.
16. Leah Marino (F, Robert Morris): Marino played three seasons with the Colonials, though her offensive contributions were minimal. She put up 11 points in 97 games between 2018 and 2021. If she signs with the Six, Marino will become the second RMU alum to play for Toronto, joining former teammate Natalie Marcuzzi.
22. Olivia Atkinson (F, Concordia): At 24, Atkinson is actually one of the oldest players selected in this year's NWHL draft. She's also already got some pro experience; she appeared in 17 games with the CWHL's Canadiennes in the 2018-19 season, where she put up three points in 20 games. Between Concordia and McGill as a USports athlete, she recorded 56 points in 79 games.
28. Daria Tereshkina (D, Maine): The final of three European-born players selected, Tereshkina recently completed her fourth season at Maine. Through 110 NCAA games, she put up 29 points (10 goals, 19 assists). She's also represented Russia on the international stage a handful of times, including the World Championships in 2019.
6. Mak Langei (D, Bemidji State): It should surprise no one that the Whitecaps drafted five players from Minnesota, especially with the rest of the NWHL's teams out East. Langei, an alum of Shattuck St. Mary's, played four seasons (130 games) with the Beavers. She served as captain of the team in her senior year and also won a gold medal with the US at the 2016 IIHF U18 championships.
12. Tina Kampa (D, Bemidji State): Like Langei, Kampa is also coming off four years with the Beavers and served in a leadership role (alternate captain) this past season. If she signs, she'll join fellow Beavers alums Haley Mack on the Whitecaps. Fun fact: Kampa went to high school with Taylor Wente, who was also selected by Minnesota.
18. Taylor Wente (F, Minnesota): Wente will continue her career as a sales development representative with Arctic Wolf, a cybersecurity company, and will not be joining the Whitecaps.
24. Jenna Brenneman (G, Penn State): Brenneman was the lone goaltender selected in the 2021 NWHL draft, but she's certainly a good one to join the pro league if she so chooses. The Eagan, Minnesota native ranks third all-time among PSU goalies with a 1.77 career GAA and .925 save percentage. Brenneman appeared in three games with Clarkson from 2016-2018 before joining the Nittany Lions; she played 36 games with Penn State, but suffered a season-ending injury early in her senior season.
30. Kendall Williamson (F, Colgate): In four seasons with Colgate, Williamson never quite found an offensive stride. Through 107 games, she put up five points, including three goals. Among her teammates there: Breanne Wilson-Bennett, Jessie Eldrdge, Shae Labbe, and Olivia Zafuto.
11. Caroline Ross (D, Colgate): Ross played two seasons with Boston College before joining Colgate; she also previously played lacrosse at The Aquinas Institute. After putting up 17 points in two seasons with BC, Ross accrued seven points in two years with Colgate. Her fifth season was cancelled due to COVID-19, but Ross served as team captain each of her last two seasons.
17. Julia Scammell (D, New Hampshire): Scammell, a native of Truro, Nova Scotia, accrued 12 points, including one goal, during her four years at UNH. In 2014-15, she represented her home province at the Canada Winter Games alongside a handful of NWHLers: Carly Jackson, Autumn MacDougall, Mallory Rushton, and Allie Munroe, along with fellow 2021 draftee Annie MacDonald.
23. Jordan Sanislo (D, Sacred Heart): Sanislo is a proven leader, having served as captain of the Pioneers in her senior season and alternate in her junior season, and as a captain of her 19U team, the New Jersey Colonials. Sanislo previously attended the Riveters' free agent camp in mid-June.
29. Morgan Schauer (D, LIU): Prior to joining LIU, Schauer played parts of two seasons at Robert Morris. She only dressed in four games during her freshman season, saw time in 36 games her sophomore year but failed to register a point. Upon joining the Sharks, she was named captain, a position she held for her junior and senior seasons. Schauer put up 10 points in 45 games with LIU
21. Finley Frechette (F, Cornell): Frechette put up 12 points in 101 games at Cornell, with her senior season cancelled due to COVID-19. (She was named an alternate captain for that season.) Off the ice, she's interned at CNN, ESPN, and NESN as a media studies major hoping to pursue a career in broadcasting.
27. Abby Nearis (F, Brown): In three seasons at Brown, Nearis quickly showcased her leadership skills, serving as captain her junior year and an alternate the year prior. Before the cancellation of her senior season due to COVID-19, she put up 14 points in 83 games with the Bears.
A Few Quick Thoughts
I'll be blunt: it was painful trying to watch the 2021 NWHL Draft on Twitch. Things moved at an insane speed and it was nearly impossible to keep track of what was going on. At times, the broadcast rolled through three consecutive picks without even a moment to pause in between. One round finished and the next began, seemingly in the same breath. If you blinked? Well, good luck.
It certainly would've been nice if they had composed graphics of the players & teams involved – and since the picks were prerecorded, this certainly could've been done. Even just putting the players' names on the screen, in one form or another, would have been better than... well, nothing. The broadcast also lacked closed captions, an important feature for accessibility.
On-air analysis was sparse; there simply wasn't time for it. The entire production felt incredibly rushed, and it became clear that they wanted to squash the show into an hour – despite the fact that Twitch doesn't have any broadcast limits, like a cable network would. There were also a handful of technical errors, including the hosts talking through live microphones while the draft selection videos were being played, losing all host audio altogether, and selection videos randomly being replayed at the wrong time.
On a related note, the Boston Pride were inactive on Twitter the night of the draft. The only mention of their draft selections from the reigning Isobel Cup champions has been a retweet of an NWHL post, without even mentioning the players' names. Just today, they randomly quote-tweeted a fan post from 2020. It's an odd social media strategy, to be sure.
Next up for the NWHL: after the draft, teams have a 14-day period with exclusive signing rights to their draft picks. Undrafted players are also now eligible to sign with teams. But as with everything else: just because a signing isn't announced in the next 14 days, that doesn't mean it hasn't happened. The league likes to spread out its signing announcements, which means we really have no way of knowing which draft picks will actually become free agents when the time rolls around. Case in point: regarding a Beauts signing that was announced on June 22 – the player contract was actually signed back in early May.
The NWHL's international draft will take place on July 25 and is intended for international players who are at least 21 years of age (or will be before September 1, 2021) and have not consumed any NCAA or USports eligibility.