The National Women's Hockey League continues its offseason with numerous player signings, its first international draft, and several front office moves. In case you've missed anything over the last few weeks, let's take a look at what's happened in the league.
International Draft Recap
The NWHL held its first international draft in late July, where six players were selected, one by each team in the league. Five forwards and one netminder were picked, representing five different countries. Other international players who weren't selected are now free agents and can sign with any team of their choice.
Goaltender Lovisa Berndtsson has already signed with the Buffalo Beauts, who selected her with their pick. The 32-year-old has spent the last five seasons in the SDHL; last season, she put up a 1.96 GAA and .903 save percentage in 22 games with Djurgårdens IF.
The Connecticut Whale selected Japan's Tsubasa Sato. The 28-year-old put up nine points in seven games last season with the Karuizawa Fairies. There honestly isn't a whole lot of easily-accessible information about her play on the Internet, but she was part of a reality TV series a few years back. Check out this interview with her.
Switzerland's Evelina Raselli was picked by the Boston Pride. Raselli, 29, has split much of the last few seasons between SC Reinach Damen and Ladies Team Lugano, which she captained in 2016-17. She recorded 33 points (14G, 19A) in 20 regular season games and added 10 points in eight playoff games.
The Toronto Six drafted Réka Dabasi. The 24-year-old Budapest native appeared in 10 games with KMH Budapest (EWHL) this season, notching 16 points (9G, 7A). She also represented her native Hungary in five games, where she put up two points. Dabasi previously captained KHM Budapest from 2015-2019.
To little surprise, the Metropolitan Riveters used their pick on Romana Košecká, who appeared at their free agent camp earlier this summer. The 22-year-old split this season between Skellefteå AIK and SKP Bratislava. She previously represented Slovakia at the World Championships (Division I).
Finally, with the final selection, the Minnesota Whitecaps drafted Fanni Gasparics. Gasparics, 26, is also a Budapest native who has spent the last two seasons with MAC Budapest (EWHL). This season, she recorded 29 points (17-12) in 16 games and also represented Hungary in nine games. On June 2, her team overseas announced that she was returning next season.
Some teams have continued to announce player signings, with a 20-player minimum roster and 25-player maximum.
To date, the Beauts have announced 20 players who have signed contracts for the 2021-22 season. The Whale have 11 players announced, while the Six have 10. The Riveters have announced eight players for next season.
As of writing, neither the Pride nor the Whitecaps have announced any player signings, though it seems highly unlikely that they each don't have at least a few.
Over the last few weeks, the Beauts have signed 2021 draft picks Emilie Harley, Anjelica Diffendal, Kennedy Ganser, and Missy Segall. They also re-signed Taylor Accursi and Taylor Wasylk and added Brittany Colton, Samantha Fieseler and the aforementioned Berndtsson.
The Six have signed two of their draft picks in Maegan Beres and Leah Marino and re-signed Emma Woods and Lindsay Eastwood. Elsewhere, the Connecticut Whale have added Cailey Hutchison (previously of the Riveters), re-signed Mariah Fujimagari and signed draft picks Taylor Girard and Emma Polaski.
Finally, the Riveters have announced five re-signings: Theresa Knutson, Mallory Rushton, Allie Olnowich, and Kendall Cornine.
The season is not slated to begin until November, with camps and preseason and exhibition games taking place the month prior. Teams still have plenty of time to sign players and make those announcements.
Finally in player news: longtime NWHL defender Elena Orlando has announced her retirement.
Front Office Moves
The league recently announced the appointments of Bill Flanagan and Ken Dufton to lead their scouting department.
Flanagan, who previously worked with the PWHPA, is an incredibly problematic and strange hire for the NWHL. He's spoken out on social media in support of cancelling lockdowns around the pandemic, downplayed COVID-19, and supported Barstool during their attacks on league players and personnel.
Dufton has previous experience with the CWHL (Toronto Furies) and Canadian national team. He currently serves as an assistant coach at Ryerson and will act as the NWHL's Director of Scouting in Canada, while Flanagan will be his counterpart in the United States.
Elsewhere, the Six named Krysti Clarke as general manager, succeeding coach Digit Murphy, who temporarily stepped in for Mandy Cronin. Clarke currently works with the York United FC soccer team in the Canadian Premier League.
NWHL alum Kelly Nash was named associate head coach and the head scout for the Riveters, while the Beauts named former RIT standout Shane Madolora as their goaltending coach.
- In case you missed it, all six NWHL teams are now owned independently of the league itself. Many of the owners were already involved in the league or Women's Hockey Partners prior to taking over a team (or multiple teams). BTM Partners, LLC, owns the Pride, Six and Riveters. Shared Hockey Enterprises, LLC owns the Whale. The Whitecaps and Beauts are owned by NLTT Ventures, LLC. John and Johanna Boynton are heavily involved with BTM Partners, while Andy Scurto and Neil Leibman head NLTT. All four have been involved with the NWHL for several years at one level or another.
- Elsewhere, the NWHL announced on July 16 that the Riveters were fined $500 for violating League Bylaws "with their communication to a drafted player outside of the organization prior to the official commencement of the free agency period." It's the first time we've seen these bylaws publicly enforced.
- There has still not been an official replacement head named for the NWHLPA since Anya Packer's departure to serve as GM of the Riveters.