Our third and final draft forecast post looks at two markets known for their rivalry, at least at the NHL level, who will have rich local connections to mine as they try to assemble rosters of players who will make them into playoff contenders.
Boston has the distinction of being the only team to sign a player at every position during opening free agency. Danielle Marmer made a statement with power forward Hilary Knight, two-way superstar Megan Keller at D, and 2021 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Aerin Frankel, all members of Team USA. All had ties to the Boston area already: Knight played a combined five seasons with the Boston Pride (NWHL/PHF) and Boston Blades (CWHL) after graduating the University of Wisconsin; Keller put up gaudy numbers for Boston College throughout her college eligibility; and Frankel was one of the best NCAA backstops in the nation at Northeastern University.
With these three signings, Marmer has immediately created the outline of a team that will kill you on offense – when they're on their game, you won't have the puck, and when you do, Frankel has a very good chance of stopping it. Coach Courtney Kessel recently guided that type of team to a gold medal for Canada at the IIHF U18 Women's Worlds, and she'll likely have an embarrassment of riches to work with come January.
What they need
Boston has already signed two of the best offensive players in the game, but they'll need to shore up support for Knight, who works best with linemates who can match her pace down low and around the net and aren't afraid to take shots in traffic. If center Alina Müller is available at #3 for Boston, she is a natural choice. The center had, before the PHF buyout, signed with the Boston Pride on a one-year deal and is also a former teammate of Frankel's on Northeastern. Müller's outstanding speed and dexterity in tight spaces behind the goal line make her a potential ideal linemate for Knight, a combo that in previous years was purely the stuff of fantasy.
Former Boston Pride players Marmer might target include Loren Gabel and veteran Jillian Dempsey. I could also see them going for recent UMD grad Gabbie Hughes.
Boston should also probably make sure they have defensive players to lean on who can provide support for a roster that seems primed to do damage in transition. Kaleigh Fratkin is a distinct possibility for them to pick in round 2 or 3. They might also target a younger blueliner like Natalie Buchbinder.
What might help
Boston could make a killing in later rounds by picking the sort of workhorse forwards who will just be a pain in the ass to play against. Tori Sullivan and Alexa Vasko spring to mind as potential great fits – Sullivan is also a Northeastern alum and Vasko had a breakout PWHPA season with Team Sonnet. Susanna Tapani is another creative offensive player who might fall off the radar during the draft and be a great pickup for Boston. In terms of younger depth defenders, I could see them targeting someone like Quinnipiac's Zoe Boyd.
Boston might not target a #2 goalie in the draft but instead wait until the second free agency period to invite a couple goalies to camp to see who fits in well to back up Frankel – possibly a veteran like Meeri Räisänen would be a good fit, or someone close in age to Frankel like Sydney Scobee.
Danièle Sauvageau and newly-minted head coach Kori Cheverie already have the #1 center in the world in Marie-Philip Poulin and arguably the #1 goalie in Ann-Renée Desbiens. Laura Stacey rounds out the initial trio of signings as one of the most consistent offensive players in the game. These three will play well together -- they're all on Team Canada together -- and they establish the identity of this franchise as Montreal's team.
It will be important for this team to add local talent to build the profile of women's hockey in the province of Quebec; it will also be important for them to balance that with bringing the best talent available in the draft to complement the world-class players they've already added. Sauvageau said as much in her initial media availability and while there may be some predictable picks on her roster, there may also be some surprises.
What they need
With two strong forwards and a #1 goaltender locked up, Sauvageau may look to her consecutive 6th and 7th overall picks to pick at least one of the best available defenders. Maude Poulin-Labelle would be an outstanding addition who is also a Quebec native. Poulin-Labelle has just finished her NCAA eligibility (first at the University of Vermont and then at Northeastern) and at age 23 would provide a lot of upside for Montreal. More veteran options might include American Sidney Morin or Finnish national Minttu Tuominen.
Sauvageau might also target forward Jessie Eldridge early in the draft. Eldridge played with Poulin on Team Harvey's this past PWHPA season and they had great chemistry, factoring into each other's scoring constantly en route to the team winning the Secret Cup. I'd also expect the team to at some point try to snag Elizabeth Giguère and possibly Ottawa native Rebecca Leslie.
What might help
Many former Montreal Force players could fit well into Sauvageau's vision for her PWHL team; Jade Downie-Landry and Ann-Sophie Bettez led the team in scoring (with 23 and 22 points respectively) and would provide some additional veteran presence on the squad. Sarah Lefort would also be a great depth pickup. These players had already committed to the Montreal market and would go a long way towards creating four forward lines that are an offensive threat.
The question of who backs up Desbiens is a little tougher, but I like Lindsey Post for the job. She's been in the SDHL since the CWHL folded, primarily in a starting role with SDE HF. She played her Usports hockey at the University of Alberta which might make her an attractive choice for Pascal Daoust and Howie Draper in New York, not to mention an Ottawa connection which might draw her to Michael Hirshfeld's organization (she's originally from Chelsea, Quebec, which is just 30 minutes from downtown Ottawa). But I think she could be an excellent and reliable #2 for Montreal.
That said, Montreal may leave the backup goalie question open until training camp, and they might focus on defense in their later picks as well – someone like American Amanda Boulier would be a strong later-round choice at D who can also provide a scoring touch.
Sauvageau has three players already who will elevate anyone they play with; the challenge now will be finding out how to maximize their output.