Ottawa GM Michael Hirshfeld, Billie Jean King, Savannah Harmon, and Jayna Hefford pose at the 2023 PWHL Draft.
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2023 PWHL Draft Recap: Ottawa

Even though Ottawa has been criticized for passing up Jamie-Lee Rattray and Sophie Jaques, the team made some gambles on young talent and amassed a stable veteran core.

2023 PWHL Draft Recap: Ottawa by James Domizio

Even though Ottawa has been criticized for passing up Jamie-Lee Rattray and Sophie Jaques – a jack-of-all-trades hometown hero and a 2023 Patty Kazmaier Award-winning top prospect, respectively – the team made some gambles on young talent while also amassing a stable veteran core with their picks in the inaugural PWHL draft.

To go along with Emily Clark (F), Brianne Jenner (F), and Emerance Maschmeyer (G), Ottawa GM Michael Hirshfeld added the following fifteen players to his roster, seven of whom were born in 1999 or 2000 – making Ottawa one of the youngest squads heading into training camp.

Draft picks

Round 1: Savannah Harmon (LD), 1995, PWHPA (5th overall) – A smart offensive player who has the ability to play both sides, Harmon won Olympic silver in 2022 and IIHF gold with Team USA in 2023. The former Patty Kazmaier finalist also captained her team to an NCAA championship in 2018 and played for the PHF's Buffalo Beauts in 2018-19 before leaving for the PWHPA.

Round 2: Ashton Bell (RD), 1999, NCAA (8th overall) – Another former NCAA captain who's played multiple sides of the ice, Bell was originally a forward – and her speed shows it. The 23-year-old Canadian has won both Olympic and IIHF gold.

Round 3: Jincy Dunne-Roese (LD), 1997, PWHPA (17th overall) – Two-way defender with IIHF and Olympic silver who captained Team USA to U18 gold in 2015.

Round 4: Gabbie Hughes (F), 1999, NCAA (20th overall) – Hughes is a high-scoring former Patty Kazmaier finalist with IIHF gold at the U18 and World Championship level with Team USA.

Round 5: Hayley Scamurra (F), 1994, PWHPA (29th overall) – Elite American defensive forward who's won championships in the NWHL, PWHPA, and IIHF Worlds, as well as 2022 Olympic silver.

Round 6: Daryl Watts (F), 1999, PHF (32nd overall) – The first player to win the Patty Kazmaier as a freshman, Watts retired last year before un-retiring this year to become the highest paid player in women's hockey history when she joined the Toronto Six on an $88,500 USD salary. Watts hasn't played for Team Canada above the U18 level and wasn't a top scorer for Toronto, but as one of the highest scoring players in NCAA history, she could regain her scoring edge as a center with new linemates in Ottawa.

Round 7: Aneta Tejralová (LD), 1996, PHF (41st overall) – Two-time IIHF bronze medalist, former member of the PHF's Boston Pride, and was coached on Team Czechia by Ottawa's coach Carla Macleod.

Round 8: Katerina Mrázová (F), 1992, PHF (44th overall) – Veteran forward with experience in CWHL (where she was the first European champion), the NCAA, the NWHL/PHF (in two stints), and the SDHL. She's played for Team Czechia at both the U18 and senior level, going all the way back to 2007.

Round 9: Zoe Boyd (LD), 2000, NCAA (53rd overall) – Despite missing her entire NCAA junior season with an injury, Boyd signed to the Boston Pride for 2023-2024 before the league folded. Boyd was born in East Caledon, a Greater Toronto Area municipality where Ottawa's next pick Della Rovere was also born.

Round 10: Kristin Della Rovere (F), 2000, NCAA (56th overall) – A former Harvard NCAA captain and faceoff specialist with a scoring touch. Della Rovere has a lot of upside, and along with Ottawa's Boyd, Adzija, and Veilette, the Ontario native is one of the youngest players in the draft.

Round 11: Lexie Adzija (F), 2000, NCAA (65th overall) – Captained Qunnipiac University in the NCAA after four years with the team. Brings consistent top-six scoring numbers.

Round 12: Sandra Abstreiter (G), 1998, NCAA (68th overall) – The first and only German player picked in the draft, Abstreiter will handle back-up duties behind Maschmeyer. She has experience as both a back-up and starter for Team Germany and in the NCAA.

Round 13: Amanda Boulier (RD), 1993, PHF (77th overall) – Yet another former NCAA captain, offensive defender Boulier won U18 gold with Team USA in 2011 and played five seasons in the NWHL/PHF between 2017-2023.

Round 14: Caitrin Lonergan (F), 1997, PHF (80th overall) – An NCAA veteran, U18 gold medalist, and former PHF member, Lonergan signed a contract with the PHF's Boston Pride for this year before the league's termination.

Round 15: Audrey-Anne Veillette (F), 2000, USports (89th overall) – Veilette was the second-to-last pick of the draft and the only player picked from Canada's collegiate program, USports. She had 35 points in 22 games last season with the University of Montreal Carabins.

By position, so far...

  • Forwards
    Emily Clark
    Brianne Jenner
    Daryl Watts
    Hayley Scamurra
    Kristin Della Rovere
    Katerina Mrázová
    Gabbie Hughes
    Lexie Adzija
    Caitrin Lonergan
    Audrey-Anne Veillette
  • Right-handed defense
    Ashton Bell
    Amanda Boulier
  • Left-handed defense
    Savannah Harmon
    Jincy Dunne-Roese
    Aneta Tejralová
    Zoe Boyd
  • Goalies
    Emerance Maschmeyer
    Sandra Abstreiter

Out of the 10 players we guessed Ottawa might pick in the draft, only one was taken by Hirshfeld – Savannah Harmon, the team's first of the draft.

Ottawa only selected six Canadians out of 15 picks. When they did draft Canadians, they mostly picked players who haven't made Team Canada at the senior level like Della Rovere and Watts – while picking American, Czech, and German national team athletes instead. (Of course, his first three free agent signings were Team Canada stars, plus Ashton Bell.) In his post-draft media availability, Hirshfeld said he wanted Ottawa to become a destination city for professional women's hockey players from around the world. No Team Canada? No problem.

Interestingly, Ottawa hasn't yet signed or drafted any players from Ottawa or its surrounding area – the closest being its four players from the GTA (Jenner, Watts, Boyd, Della Rovere).

As it stands right now, Ottawa's potential top six forward core is rife with offensive and defensive players who can be put together or mixed up in a variety of ways. On the back-end, Ottawa has a strong defensive core anchored by Harmon and a goaltending tandem that knows how to be both a starter and a backup.

Hirshfeld has taken some risks in drafting very young for his inaugural PWHL season; some other GMs have taken an opposite tack. Time will tell whether his choices pay off. It's a team that has the potential to be one of the fastest and most aggressive in the new league – not to mention one of the toughest goalie duos to beat.

(Photo: PWHL/Lori Bolliger/Heather Pollock)