Montreal headed into the draft with three Team Canada superstars already signed in Marie-Philip Poulin, Laura Stacey, and Ann-Renée Desbiens. Ultimately Danièle Sauvageau's inaugural draft class mixed players already familiar to the Montreal market with new faces and at least one big surprise. She was the first GM to draft a player who spent 2022-23 with the PHF – and in fact nearly half of her draft picks (7 out of 15) last played in the Premier Hockey Federation.
Round 1: Erin Ambrose (RD), 1994, PWHPA (6th overall) – The former alternate captain of Les Canadiennes returns to play on a pro team in Montreal for the first time since the CWHL folded. Ambrose has been a Team Canada regular since 2009 at the U18 and then senior level, and is known for her defensive reliability and strong positioning. At age 29, she's a veteran and leader who can expect to log big minutes for the team. She also spent three years (2018-2021) as an assistant coach at Concordia University in Montreal.
Round 2: Kristin O'Neill (F), 1998, PWHPA (7th overall) – 25-year-old O'Neill was a score-at-will type of player when she was at Cornell from 2016-2020; in her senior season, she also served as captain. Her last PWHPA season was strong; she had 9 goals and 12 assists, good for 21 points in 20 games with Team adidas. She's sneaky and speedy and has ground out shifts in international tournaments for Canada in a bottom six role. Clearly Sauvageau sees tons of potential in her to take her 7th overall; a change of scenery and new linemates may do wonders for her production. She's also a bit of a faceoff specialist.
Round 3: Maureen Murphy (F), 1999, NCAA (8th overall) – 23-year-old American Murphy amassed six seasons (some just partial) of NCAA play thanks to the extra year of eligibility granted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and an injury-shortened 2019-20. She first played three years at Providence before transferring to Northeastern, where she frequently played alongside Alina Müller and Chloé Aurard, and was right behind Müller for the team lead in scoring with 55 points (20G, 35A) in 33 games – actually leading her team in points-per-game average. Murphy's offensive talents likely haven't hit their ceiling.
Round 4: Dominika Lásková (RD), 1996, PHF (19th overall) – Lásková became the first player drafted who spent the 2022-23 season in the PHF. The 26-year-old former Merrimack Warrior was part of the Toronto Six team that captured the PHF championship trophy and scored a goal in the Isobel Cup Final. As a member of the Czech national team Lásková has also been part of the recent bronze medal run at the World Championships for her country.
Round 5: Kati Tabin (LD), 1997, PHF (30th overall) – Like Lásková, 26-year-old Tabin spent last season with the Toronto Six as part of the Isobel Cup championship squad. She led the league in scoring by a defender with 18 points (4G, 14A) in 24 games. In the playoffs, she added a goal and three assists in 4 games. Tabin, a Winnipeg native, first played in the PHF with the Connecticut Whale and is also a former Quinnipiac team captain.
Round 6: Kennedy Marchment (F), 1996, PHF (31st overall) – Marchment may prove to be an absolute steal in the sixth round for Sauvageau. After spending three seasons from 2018 to 2021 in the SDHL with both Linköping and HV71, the Canadian forward returned to North America to play with the Connecticut Whale in the PHF. She consistently scored at a pace of over 1.5 points per game during her PHF tenure and had the most points and most assists in the league in the 2021-22 season, on top of being named league MVP that year. 26-year-old Marchment brings a wealth of pro experience to Montreal.
Round 7: Tereza Vanišová (F), 1996, PHF (42nd overall) – 27-year-old Vanišová is yet another alum of the 2023 Isobel Cup Champion Toronto Six selected by Montreal. She scored the overtime winner that captured the Cup for Toronto this past March. League championships have followed her throughout her career as she has won the Isobel Cup three times (twice with the Boston Pride) and the Czechia women's league three times as well. She has also recently added two World Championship bronze medals with Czechia.
Round 8: Madison Bizal (LD), 2000, NCAA (43rd overall) – Madison Bizal's pro career begins at age 23 after five seasons of eligibility with Ohio State. Bizal was a consistent and steady presence on the blueline for the Buckeyes and in her final NCAA season rated a +32 while adding 4 goals and 15 assists. The Elk River, Minnesota native became just the second American to join Sauvageau's draft class.
Round 9: Gabrielle David (F), 1999, NCAA (54th overall) – The draft went on longer than expected before Montreal added some more Quebec natives. 24-year-old David is from Drummondville but has spent the last four years in Potsdam as a Clarkson Golden Knight, consistently scoring above (and sometimes well above) a point-per-game pace in the NCAA. She's a disciplined player who takes few penalties and provides offense both as a goal-scorer and a strong passer for her teammates.
Round 10: Maude Poulin-Labelle (LD), 1999, NCAA (55th overall) – Poulin-Labelle is another Quebec native (from Sherbrooke) who just finished up four years of NCAA hockey at the University of Vermont plus one year as a grad student at Northeastern. She's a gifted scorer from the back end but is also defensively reliable and not easily rattled. Frankly, I expected Poulin-Labelle to go earlier in the draft, especially with the early run on skilled defenders. She's another great steal for Sauvageau in the tenth round with her best hockey ahead of her at age 23.
Round 11: Jillian Dempsey (F), 1991, PHF (66th overall) – Dempsey has the distinction of being perhaps the biggest surprise pick in the entire draft. The veteran forward has Massachusetts in her veins – originally from Winthrop, she has played hockey in the state ever since her childhood, going all the way back to her high school days at The Rivers School. From there, she played college hockey at Harvard (where she was team captain her senior year) and then went on to be an integral member of both the CWHL's Boston Blades and the NWHL/PHF's Boston Pride, where she served again as a team captain for the last six seasons. On top of all that, Dempsey has been a schoolteacher in Massachusetts since graduating college. The 32-year-old forward is a consistent goal-scorer and is always described as an incredible teammate. She told HEOTP's Jared Book that she had already planned to take a year off from teaching. Now, for the very first time, she'll be representing a team outside of Massachusetts – and outside of the United States – with the PWHL. Dempsey was the all-time leading scorer in PHF history and has won the Clarkson Cup once and the Isobel Cup three times. She's an amazing addition to any locker room, energy line, or special teams setup – and Montreal will definitely be able to utilize her skills.
Round 12: Claire Dalton (F), 2000, NCAA (67th overall) – The 23-year-old Etobicoke, Ontario native just completed her college eligibility at Yale, serving as team captain in her final year. She is a strong goal-scorer but has an even greater gift at setting up her teammates and set the career assists record for the Bulldogs program in her senior year. She netted the OT winner that gave Yale its first-ever Ivy League title.
Round 13: Elaine Chuli (G), 1994, PHF (78th overall) – Montreal adds another member of the Toronto Six's recent championship squad in Canadian goaltender Elaine Chuli. Chuli has had a storied pro career already at age 29. After graduating from the University of Connecticut, she played in the CWHL for two years – first with the Vanke Rays in Shenzhen, China and then with the Toronto Furies. When the CWHL folded, she joined the PWHPA, but returned to a professional schedule with the Toronto Six in 2020 and promptly became the team's starter. Last season, she boasted a 0.920 save percentage in the playoffs en route to the Isobel Cup championship. Assuming she'll have backup duty behind Desbiens, Montreal has found a steady, reliable #2 whose career experience is quite opposite from Desbiens'. The two will complement each other nicely and stop a ton of pucks.
Round 14: Ann-Sophie Bettez (F), 1987, PHF (79th overall) – Bettez is the oldest player drafted at age 35 (and she will be 36 by the time puck drops for the PWHL's season). Bettez played five years of collegiate hockey at McGill University and didn't miss a beat in 2012 when she joined the Montreal Stars (later Les Canadiennes de Montreal) in the CWHL. Seven outstanding seasons in the C made her one of the most widely discussed Team Canada snubs among women's hockey fans. When her 2018-19 CWHL season of 48 points in 26 games made her impossible to ignore, she finally earned a senior team roster spot in the 2019 World Championships, notching 4 assists in 7 games, and had the misfortune of having joined the worst-performing Canadian squad in IIHF Women's World Championship history – so that, plus the pandemic, put a damper on her national team career. She joined the PWHPA for three seasons, but then moved to the PHF for the 2022-23 season, serving as the first and only team captain for the Montreal Force and tallying 11 goals and 11 assists in 23 games. Bettez brings perhaps the most experience and skill that you'll find in this draft without an Olympic medal and is a testament to the staggering depth of Canadian women's hockey, which is only going to get deeper from here on out.
Round 15: Lina Ljungblom (F), 2001, SDHL (90th overall)* – Ljungblom may not play in the PWHL this season due to contractural obligations with her SDHL team. According to The Hockey News, unlike other European players who signed contracts in Europe with exit clauses in the event that they were drafted by the PWHL, Ljungblom has no such clause in her contract and is likely obligated to finish her season with MoDo. The forward is the youngest player drafted into the PWHL at age 21 and already has several years playing pro in the SDHL under her belt. She had a breakout year in the World Championships this past year as well, scoring 7 goals and adding 3 assists in 7 games for Team Sweden, which is more and more looking like a national program on the upswing. If Montreal is unable to sign her for the 2023-24 season, they do hold her rights in North America for 2 years, and could sign her for 2024-25.
By position, so far...
- Right-handed defense:
- Left-handed defense:
Asterisk indicates player may not be available.
Head coach Kori Cheverie and general manager Danièle Sauvageau were in constant communication during the PWHL draft, speaking to each other with their mouths covered so as to not reveal their intentions. It was an absolute blast to watch them interacting with each other to construct this draft class – we've never had a live draft like this before in women's hockey and it had the air of a fantasy draft, except it was real life. This group of players is an incredibly strong start for Montreal and Sauvageau seemed extremely pleased with who she has been able to select for Cheverie headed into the team's first training camp.
This is a roster with many veterans but also several players born in 1999 and 2000 – not to mention Ljungblom, whose contract situation is certainly disappointing for the PWHL team, but she also provides a luxury that other teams in the league don't yet have as a future prospect whose rights are already secured. The mix of young talent and high-level elite experience makes Montreal's roster, on paper and at this speculative pre-training-camp stage, one of the most dynamic in the PWHL. Sauvageau has assembled some of the best parts of Team Canada and added much of the best available talent from the PHF. She's also taken some players from the NCAA who have shown extraordinary consistency and skill. These draft picks represent several different paths through hockey and all of them will be learning from each other.
One thing I think all these players have in common is thoughtfulness and anticipation – the sort of players who aren't just aware of where the puck is now, but where it's going to be in a few seconds; players who know how to turn routine puck retrieval into quick offensive opportunities. That forethought is going to make this a team that everyone hates to play against.
(Photo: PWHL/Lori Bolliger/Heather Pollock)