Our second PWHL draft forecast looks at New York and Toronto – one team already steeped in Team Canada talent, and another that has, so far, become the only team to sign a player across national lines.
PWHL New York
New York’s initial three PWHL signings were interesting, as we saw the first team to 'cross' the international border, so to speak. They were also the youngest trio, and general manager Pascal Daoust spoke at length about how he isn’t just focused on good hockey players, but extraordinary people. Surely, his trio of Alex Carpenter, Abby Roque, and Micah Zandee-Hart fits the bill.
Carpenter has played in the United States, Canada, and even China over the last few years. She already has a wealth of pro experience and a sense of maturity that will make her an early leader on the new team. Roque is a grittier-style player, but she also has an offensive flair that she showcased at Wisconsin and last season in the PWHPA. Zandee-Hart is a consistent, reliable defender that built her stock at Cornell and the PWHPA.
Youth, consistency, and well-rounded players with skills and work ethic - that’s what Daoust is focused on heading into this draft.
What they need
With two forwards and a defender locked down, New York would do well to add either a goaltender or a strong defender to pair with Zandee-Hart early in the draft. Sophie Jaques is easily a first- or second-round pick and would fit the bill nicely. She's an up-and-coming threat that could make for a nice top-pairing on the blueline.
If they elected to select a goaltender early – though I'd be surprised if any go in the first round – Nicole Hensley or Emma Söderberg would both be excellent choices. Hensley, of course, already has experience playing with both Carpenter and Roque on the US national team. Overall, it'll be interesting to see how teams choose to add their goaltenders. With only 90 spots in the draft, I'd expect each team to have at least one goaltender when all is said and done, with maybe a few teams ending the day with a pair. Since New York hasn't signed any yet, they've got some work to do. The good news is, there are plenty of options that could fill the starter's net and I'd think these would be two of the top choices.
From there, forward Hayley Scamurra would be a fitting addition to the team. Scamurra, too, is from the US national team and is well familiar with the players already signed. She provides a nice balance to the team as a defensive-minded forward. Others I could also see include defender Jincy Dunne and forwards Taylor Girard and Theresa Schafzahl. Dunne has played with Jaques in the past, but she's also been building her own reputation over recent years with the national team. Girard was impressive as a member of the PHF's Connecticut Whale with 28 points in 24 games last season, while Schafzahl had 45 points in 36 games last season with Vermont.
What could help
Once New York locks up their primary goaltender, they'll also have to start thinking about who their second-in-command is. As I said, with 44 goalies registered, there are some options, but if you want to build a strong tandem, you’ve got to think about balancing your workload. Do you go into the draft thinking about an evenly-split goaltending duo? Or do you think of it as having a starter and a backup?
If we're going with a nearly-even split, a duo like Hensley and Abby Levy would work. Levy proved that she can handle a workload last season with Boston College, where she appeared in 30 games and had a 1.77 GAA and.947 save percentage. It'd be easy to default to a national team pairing with, say, Maddie Rooney, but why not mix it up a little?
Or how about Emma Söderberg and Carly Jackson together? Jackson didn't see a ton of playing time last season with the PHF's Toronto Six – she only played in six games, won five of those and had a 1.90 GAA. The competition may be a bit steeper here, but they have proven themselves before and will undoubtedly do it again wherever they land.
It came as no surprise that Toronto's first three signings were a strong group of talent, and all members of the Canadian national team, with GM Gina Kingsbury at the helm. Kingsbury, in her opening comments, spoke about character, leadership and talent as three qualities she's looking for in building her new team.
Their premeditated chemistry will help ensure Toronto has a dynamic roster that will be difficult to play against – what any team can hope for, really. With defender Renata Fast and forwards Sarah Nurse and Blayre Turnbull under contract so far, it's a great start. All three are flexible players who make an impact in both the offensive and defensive sides of the game. That versatility will make this team a deep roster for the upcoming season.
With Kingsbury as GM and Troy Ryan as head coach, there's a lot of Team Canada leadership on the management side of this team. How much will they rely on those relationships and their experience with Canadian national team players in starting to build their roster?
What they need
If I'm Kingsbury, my first focus is on finding an elite defense partner for Fast. Make the right choice and you'll have an instant one-two pairing that can stop opponents left and right. A player like Jocelyne Larocque, the aforementioned Jincy Dunne or Savannah Harmon would be a good choice here. Larocque is the only one with Canadian national team experience of the three, so perhaps she gets the edge thanks to familiarity.
Then again, the good news for Toronto? They don't have to wait long to make their first selection. With Taylor Heise the likely choice for Minnesota’s top pick, this team then has pretty much any option they want with the #2 pick. Unfortunately, with the draft order, it also means they’ll be waiting a bit until their next pick at 11th overall. Whoever they choose at 2nd overall has to be a good one, because a lot of the top players will be off the board by their next selection.
My first forward who would be a good option for this team is Victoria Bach. The former Boston University player had 11 points in 20 games last season with the PWHPA. She didn't make it to the 2022 Olympics with Canada, but she did get invited to centralization camp, so she's right on that cusp. While I don’t see her being the second-overall pick, I could see Toronto snatching her in the second round.
What could help
Toronto will either lock up essentially a first line worth of forwards, or a top defense pairing, early in the draft – or maybe both. From there, they'll need to look for at least one goaltender to start rounding out the team. Noora Räty would be an intriguing choice for me early-on. I'd also deeply consider someone like Elaine Chuli, who already has familiarity with Toronto and has proven herself at the pro level with a 12-5-0 record last season. Kristen Campbell would also be a logical choice if Kingsbury sticks more to national team lines.
Forward Brittany Howard would be another solid choice, who also has played in Toronto previously. Others I could see fitting in well here include Loren Gabel, Allie Thunstrom, and Emma Nuutinen.
The big question leading into the draft for Toronto is how much they'll rely on Kingsbury and Ryan's familiarity with players. Maybe they stick to largely choosing players they already know from working with them, or maybe they go with some they’ve faced, who have made their lives hard from the other side of the benches. It's easier to work with a superstar than to play against them, that's for sure.