PWHL Toronto general manager Gina Kingsbury chose a heavily-Canadian flavor to build her inaugural team with through the draft. Thirteen of her picks have Canadian citizenship and nine have previous experience representing the nation internationally. While the team undoubtedly still has some roster work to do – especially having just one goaltender as of writing – the team so far is a nice mix of players coming out of the PHF, PWHPA, and NCAA.
Round 1: Jocelyne Larocque (LD), 1988, PWHPA (2nd overall) – Larocque is one of the biggest names in Canadian women's hockey, so it was no surprise that Kingsbury used her first pick in the draft on her. At 35, Larocque is one of the oldest players drafted into the league, and the wealth of experience she brings will be invaluable. She spent the last three seasons in the PWHPA and previously played for the Brampton & Markham Thunder in the CWHL. A former Minnesota-Duluth captain, she also captained the Thunder for one season and has worn an "A" multiple times while representing Canada internationally.
Round 2: Emma Maltais (F), 1999, NCAA (11th overall) – Maltais will be joining the Toronto team out of Ohio State, where she played the last five seasons. She had 48 points in 39 games in her fifth year after serving as captain in the previous season. Before college, she played in the PWHL – the Provincial Women's Hockey League, that is – for the Oakville Hornets. A native of Burlington, Ontario, she's represented Canada at the Olympics, Worlds and U18s.
Round 3: Kristen Campbell (G), 1997, PWHPA (14th overall) – Campbell becomes the first (and so far, only) goaltender on the Toronto team after playing the last two seasons in the PWHPA. She won five of 11 games this past season while on Team Sonnet, with a 2.77 GAA and .920 save percentage and two shutouts. Campbell previously played for North Dakota and Wisconsin, amassing a 91-16-7 record with a 1.34 GAA and .929 save percentage. Campbell has been a #3 goalie with Team Canada and only sees international action rarely, so this could represent her first real starting role since leaving Wisconsin, which she is surely hungry for.
Round 4: Natalie Spooner (F), 1990, PWHPA (23rd overall) – Spooner applied for, and was granted, a compassionate circumstance waiver that will allow her to stay in Toronto. She's a power forward well-known for her history with the Canadian national team, with whom she's won two Olympic golds. The 32-year-old gave birth to her first child in December and returned to the ice for Worlds in April. An Ohio State alum, she went on to play seven seasons with the CWHL's Toronto Furies before three seasons with the PWHPA.
Round 5: Jesse Compher (F), 1999, NCAA (26th overall) – Compher spent her fifth year of NCAA eligibility at Wisconsin, where she averaged nearly a point-per-game, with 40 points in 41 games. She previously spent four years at BU, captaining the team in her final year. Compher had 61 points in 37 games in her sophomore season and was a Patty Kaz finalist. She's won gold for the US at U18s and Worlds and has an Olympic silver medal, and was the first of two American-born players to be chosen by Toronto (10th-round pick Melissa Channell has dual citizenship).
Round 6: Kali Flanagan (RD), 1995, PHF (35th overall) – 28-year-old Flanagan has been on and off the US national team's radar in recent years. She spent the last two seasons with the PHF's Boston Pride, where she was a mainstay on the blue line & had 16 points (including 13 assists) in 21 games. She previously played two seasons with the PWHPA and is a Boston College alum; she skated 157 games with the Eagles. She has Olympic and Worlds gold medals and was named PHF Defender of the Year last season.
Round 7: Victoria Bach (F), 1996, PWHPA (38th overall) – The 27-year-old Milton, Ontario native is a graduate of Boston University, where she she put up 198 points in 145 games. She went on to play one season with the CWHL's Markham Thunder and had 32 points in 26 games before joining the PWHPA for four years. She's pretty much spent her entire pro career in the GTA and that will now continue in the PWHL. Bach has also represented Team Canada internationally in more of a bottom six role and has 2 Worlds gold medals.
Round 8: Brittany Howard (F), 1995, PHF (47th overall) – A highly-skilled forward, Howard was excellent in her five years at Robert Morris, where she registered 181 points in just 138 games and was a Patty Kaz finalist. A native of St. Thomas, Ontario, Howard went to the CWHL's Toronto Furies for one post-grad season before the formation of the PWHPA. After three years with the PA, she joined the PHF's Toronto Six last season and put up 26 points in 20 games, helping the team to its first Isobel Cup.
Round 9: Allie Munroe (LD), 1997, PHF (50th overall) – Munroe joins the PWHL following two seasons with the PHF's Connecticut Whale, where she had 29 points in 42 games, including leading league defenders in assists in 2022-2023. She previously played two seasons with Djurgårdens in the SDHL following four years at Syracuse. She captained Syracuse in her senior year and totaled 71 points and 137 games played in her collegiate career.
Round 10: Mellissa Channell (LD), 1994, PWHPA (59th overall) – Channell played the last four seasons with the PWHPA, including appearing in 14 games this past season as an eventual PWHPA champion with Team Harvey's. She also played one year with the CWHL's Toronto Furies following four seasons at Wisconsin, where she was a plus-114 in 147 games.
Round 11: Maggie Connors (F), 2000, NCAA (62nd overall) – Connors is the youngest of the 15 Toronto draft picks, at just 22 years old. The Newfoundland native will be joining the PWHL fresh off four years at Princeton, where she averaged 1.14 points per game, with 78 goals and 67 assists in 127 games. She also had 260 career points in five years at Shattuck St. Mary's and a U18 bronze with Canada in 2018.
Round 12: Rebecca Leslie (F), 1996, PWHPA (71st overall) – A 27-year-old Ottawa native, Leslie played four years at BU, where she served as captain in her senior season and totaled 171 points in 139 games. After one season with the CWHL's Calgary Inferno – in which they won the Clarkson Cup – she played the last four years with the PWHPA. Her production tapered off a bit this past season, as she had just three assists in 20 games. Leslie also has a U18 Worlds gold medal in 2014 with Team Canada.
Round 13: Hannah Miller (F), 1996, PWHPA (74th overall) – Miller's post-grad hockey journey has taken her, quite literally, all over the world. After four years at St. Lawrence University, she joined the CWHL's Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays in 2018-19. She then remained with the team in its transition to the Russian ZhHL for two years, before briefly making the jump to Djurgårdens in the SDHL & then returning to KRS. She even represented China at the 2022 Olympics as well as the Division 1B Worlds, as Le Mi. She captained KRS Shenzhen last season and had 48 points in 32 games.
Round 14: Alexa Vasko (F), 1999, PWHPA (83rd overall) – Vasko, 24, had five points this past season in the PWHPA, her first post-grad year following five seasons at Mercyhurst. She was a three-year captain of the Lakers – an impressive feat for any college hockey player – and registered 89 points in 156 NCAA career games. She's a native of St. Catharines, Ontario and previously represented Canada at the U18s.
Round 15: Olivia Knowles (RD), 1999, PHF (86th overall) - Knowles played this past season with the PHF's Minnesota Whitecaps, skating in 24 games. Her first pro season followed five years at the University of Minnesota, where she served as captain in her final year. She appeared in 168 NCAA games. She's a native of British Columbia, so this would really be her first opportunity to play on the Eastern side of North America. She previously represented Canada at U18s in 2016 and 2017, winning a silver medal both years.
By position, so far...
- Right-handed defense
- Left-handed defense
General manager Gina Kingsbury said that going into the draft, she and her team had a strategy & knew what they were looking for, in regards to both athletes and positions, and that the first few rounds worked out exactly as they'd anticipated. She described the team as "very gritty, very strong... very hard team to play against" with both leadership and character.
She specifically pointed out the duo of Fast & Larocque, who will be hard to play against, not only defensively, but also by bringing offense. She called Larocque "one of, if not the best, in the world." It's clear that Kingsbury and her team have a set philosophy and built a team based on that, while at times utilizing their familiarity with select Canadian targets. Aside from the two Americans, the rest of Kingsbury's draft class is Canadian-born, though many of them have not worn the maple leaf internationally since the U18 level if at all. So while Kingsbury admitted that she relied on Team Canada familiarity in the draft, she also identified and selected players with different types of playing experience.
The leadership and experience on the ice in the players, combined with the guidance of Kingsbury and head coach Troy Ryan, should make this team incredibly strong. Kingsbury said that from day one, even before she signed as general manager, there was dialogue about her & Ryan being a "dual thing." The two have a history of building gold-medal-contending teams with Hockey Canada, roles they expect to continue in. That experience and passion could be huge in helping bring a PWHL championship to Toronto. So far, they've assembled a defensively-minded team that is no slouch on goal-scoring, either, which should play confidently in front of Campbell.
(Photo: PWHL/Lori Bolliger/Heather Pollock)