2024 PWHL Draft: Quick Thoughts
- 12 min read

2024 PWHL Draft: Quick Thoughts

2024 PWHL Draft: Quick Thoughts by Zoë Hayden, Nicole Haase

Nicole and I are in our hotel room getting ready to head to the draft. We decided to do some quick thoughts before we get on our way to the main event.

You can watch the 2024 PWHL Draft on YouTube here. The draft begins at 6:00 PM Central / 7:00 PM Eastern at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium.

PWHL New York

Zoë: We've had a lot of conversation about whether New York picks Fillier or Serdachny. Both of us seem pretty confident that Serdachny is more and more likely with Greg Fargo being New York's next coach – but Fillier is still an elite pick and I don't think you can go wrong either way.

New York seems the most likely to take a goalie earlier in the draft (maybe in the third or fourth round) and I think they would look to Klára Peslarová or Gwyn Philips. Peslarová is a proven veteran and could play more into a goalie tandem if they're looking to go in that direction. If contract talks with Corinne Schroeder aren't going as planned, there might be even more urgency around the position, and we'll get a feel for where those conversations are based on how their draft board looks tonight. There may also be some backup goalies available in free agency for Pascal Daoust to look at.

Nicole: The more we talk about it, the more I think New York is taking Danielle Serdachncy. Not only did she absolutely thrive under new head coach Greg Fargo when they were both at Colgate, but she fits in with the style of play and vibe of a lot of New York's roster. She's solid and physical and gritty and I feel like that is really the ethos of that team.  For me, the appeal of Serdachny is looking at the different roles she filled throughout college and how she excelled at all of them. She can be the team's leading scorer and focused on the net, but she can also be an effective set up player who sees the ice and dishes pucks. 

I think we see NY replace one if not two of their goalies. I expect Schroeder to return, but think their other two spots could be available. Otherwise, what they really need is help on defense. I'd like them to get help with speedy transition and turning the flow of play quickly. I'd also like to see a shifty defender who knows when to step up into the play, but won’t get beat in a foot race when the puck is turned over. That could be in one player, like Cayla Barnes, but I'm not sure she’ll still be on the board in round two. They need smart and solid, good on the puck, unafraid to let a shot rip from the point and someone who can really set their offense up to reach the potential of all that talent. Some later round options might be Anna Wilgren, Mae Batherson, Lauren Bernard, or Aoi Shiga.

PWHL Ottawa

Zoë: Ottawa has locked up their D-core and I think they definitely pick whomever is available at #2 between Serdachny and Fillier. In the second round, they might do well to select Ronja Savolainen or Daniela Pejšová, and that could essentially lock down their defensive corps for the next few years easily. As they go deeper into the draft, I think they'll focus on offense, though, especially if they don't end up with Fillier. If Noora Tulus is available in the second or third round, that would be a strong pick, or Team Germany's Laura Kluge in later rounds.

Nicole: Lucky for Ottawa, with the likelihood of Serdachny going to New York rising, that means they get Sarah Fillier. When it comes to what else they’ll be searching for, I'd love to see them get a forward with some fight and grit and the temperament that comes out in those tough close games where they seem unwilling to let their team lose. This might be Ida Kuoppola or Klára Hymlárová. Noemi Neubauerová would also be a great late pick up for this role. 

I also think we could see them looking for a small, quick defender. They have some of the best stalwarts on the blue line with great shots from the top of the zone, but think they could do with someone can can be quick and feisty along the boards, puck handle around folks in the neutral zone and set up some of their star forwards. Sydney Bard and Cayla Barnes are basically who I picture when I describe that kind of player.

PWHL Minnesota

Zoë: Coaches managing the draft is a new one. We still don't know who is responsible for negotiating Minnesota's signings in the absence of a GM. Ken Klee supposedly interviewed for the GM position last year, so are they also having him manage signings on an interim basis? Klee will, naturally, target the type of players he wants to coach, and Hannah Bilka definitely feels like a great fit into their style at third overall. Abby Boreen having to re-enter the draft is an odd situation and Minnesota would probably love to have her back considering how she contributed in their inaugural season without the benefit of a regular roster spot – she was like a high-end player who was only pinch hitting. Do they take her in the second or third round? Does someone else?

I haven't figured out who is going to end up with Ally Simpson on their blueline, but Minnesota might do well to pick her up if they find her available. She's a right-handed shot who can play a physical style, and seems like she would slot in well with the defenders that Minnesota already has signed long-term.

Nicole: It's hard to pick somewhere that needs shoring up for the reigning champs. Their defense was outstanding in the playoffs, so I think the focus should be on secondary scoring and players that can read the play and follow up shots. They could have done damage cleaning up rebounds in both series, but rarely had that trailing player. It's a role, for sure, but someone that can keep up with the way Heise and Zumwinkle move and attack and know when to be available to crash the net for a pass or to clean up a loose puck would be a huge addition to their offense. Elle Hartje is a fully underrated player out of Yale who's been consistent throughout her career and could be good there. It might also be a spot for Izzy Daniel, who's a Minnesota native with great hands and speed and I think could mesh well in that group and not be upset with a supporting role.

PWHL Boston

Zoë: Boston has so many directions they could go with a fourth overall pick, because there are a lot of players left on the board, but it's just far enough in that they might need to think outside the box if the player they wanted goes earlier than expected (always a possibility). If Cayla Barnes is on the board I think she is snapped up by Danielle Marmer. If she's not, that changes things completely, and they could end up with Bilka – an excellent addition to any lineup.

I think Boston needs to look at speed and finishing, though, and target offensive depth (either on F or D) through the middle rounds regardless of what happens in the first and second. Someone like Sadie Peart, for example, could be handy on a second power play unit and in their middle six, with a nasty wrist shot and ability to score in transition.

Nicole: It sure feels like draft position and geographical location make this a very, very good landing spot for Amanda Kessel. She might help kickstart Hilary Knight’s output and take some of the leadership responsibility while also being, you know, Amanda Kessel. On defense, I think they need a solid two-way player that won’t be afraid to jump in the play and can still be a threat from the perimeter as well. I feel like Stephanie Markowski did this really well in Clarkson and was part of kick-starting a ton of late-game comebacks. She’s great at turning the puck around and starting the play and a good shot from distance she’s not hesitant to release. Megan Carter and Anna Kjellbin might also work well in that role. 

PWHL Montreal

Zoë: Some folks I've talked to seem very confident that Montreal will pick a defender in the first round, but I think they have to go for offense. Their depth at forward was the biggest problem throughout the regular season and playoffs and I think it's a mistake to not grab the best available forward here. This draft is deeper at defense, in my opinion, than it is at forward, and it's more of a gamble to wait to get your choice of talent up front. There's an argument to be made for Izzy Daniel here, but I know Nicole disagrees with me and thinks Daniel might fall in the draft a bit compared to the mocks and projections.

Elaine Chuli played incredibly well for Montreal but has not yet re-signed and that might see them look to draft a goaltender.

Nicole: It feels like Claire Thompson is a no-brainer for them in the opening round if she is available, and from there, I’d like to see them get a pesky, fiery forward that can complement Marie Philip Poulin's silky style by mixing it up along the boards and battling in the corners. Dara Greig might be a good choice here, as would Dominique Petrie. Again, I think this is a team looking to fill specific roles and I can see them drafting out of what some might consider a proper order of who's still available, but this team did a lot right and needs to be smart about adding to their chemistry and not taking away from it just to fit in a certain player. I also suspect they’ll be the first to grab a goalie.

PWHL Toronto

Zoë: Does Toronto stick with their Team Canada mindset? It seems like they might, but that also could be incredibly limiting. It feels deeply retrograde to assume they'll just pick Canadians but we don't have a lot of evidence to the contrary. I had them select Claire Thompson and Julia Gosling in my mock draft. For an outside-the-box pick, Klára Hymlárová might be a great addition to their system if they find her available in the middle rounds. She can play defense, center, or wing, and could give them a flexibility that they haven't had with their lineup that kind of ended up being their downfall in the playoffs.

If Toronto does want a goalie from this draft, Logan Angers is another Manitoba native who might do well in a true backup role behind Kristen Campbell. She might be the best fit for Toronto's need at the position, and someone they could take in the sixth or seventh round or even as an undrafted camp invite.

Nicole: Toronto is a good example for me of a team that I think is drafting to need, not just best available talent. It seems silly to look at this roster and then say they need a goal scorer, but when Natalie Spooner went down hurt, it exposed some cracks in the foundation. To me, their draft is about looking at what went wrong to keep them from the Finals and fixing those issues. They have to focus on getting a player that can try to replicate the force that Spooner is in front of the net. I'm not sure they need to do that in the first round, but with the last pick each round, they might reach to make sure they get who they want. I can see them focusing on a player like Julia Gosling, but there are some good options that are likely to be around in the middle rounds that would be great here like Klára Hymlárová or Jenn Gardiner. I'd also love to see them pick up some speed in a player like Noora Tulus or versatility like Elle Hartje. 

I expect them to also focus on a strong two-way defender that can help stretch the zone and even crash the net at times, following up the quick breaks. Megan Carter was a great secondary support behind Alina Müller and Chloé Aurard at Northeastern and would fit that role well, as would Maja Nylén Persson. 

The Goalie Question (Still)

Zoë: Like I said in my mock draft, I'm not sure how the goaltender situation shakes out at all. This is a deep draft at the goaltender position and very few teams have a major need. While backups may start more often in season 2 due to an expanded schedule, most goaltenders on current PWHL rosters and in the draft pool are simply used to being starters. We talked a lot in season 1 about the quality of #2 goalies being a "luxury", but it does raise questions about whether goalies want to be in that #2 position (or even in that #3 spot!). Some athletes will definitely see it as a challenge and an opportunity, but others might also validly see it as a stop sign on their careers if there are already two netminders ahead of them in the depth chart.

When media spoke with Lindsey Post, New York's #3 goaltender, at the end of the 2024 season, she talked about how being able to be a #3 in the PWHL with access to a goalie coach and skills coaching was a huge opportunity versus being in the SDHL, when she had neither of those things available to her. Goaltenders, as players with such a highly specialized position, are going to have to make some tough choices after this draft – and it might not be surprising if some of them decamp to the SDHL, Naisten Liiga, or EWHL where they might actually be starting games on a regular basis, depending on how training camp shakes out.

Nicole: One place I'm predicting a shakeup is in net. Many NCAA teams have chosen to use a split rotation over the past few years and have been very successful in doing so. It's definitely a shift in approach, but as teams have made it work I think we'll see that trickle over to the PWHL, especially now with a full season of games. The backups were sparsely used last season, but that #2 goalie role is about to become much more important in my opinion and I think drafting goalies and shaking up that part of the roster might be more of a sticking point than anticipated.

Training Camp, Depth, and Roster Rules

Nicole: I fully admit that I feel like I have no idea what to expect from this draft. I think the first few rounds are pretty clear in terms of what players will be drafted, but after there things get murky for me. Without knowing what training camp looks like, I've been thinking about whether GMs stick with known quantities they have on the third and fourth lines, or if they take a chance on a rookie. Will a young player who has been touted as one of the best in the country be able to adapt and be okay with playing more limited minutes for a few years with an eye towards stepping up as players retire and more roles open up on teams?

In talking with other media, there's a prevailing thought of not overthinking things and just drafting the best available player, but I'm not sure that’s the way to go or what we’ll see happen. These teams are looking to fill specific holes in their lineup and it seems to me that drafting best available over who fits those roles is not necessarily the smartest way forward.

Zoë: Last year, teams were required to bring at least 28 players to training camp and reduce rosters to reach the 23-player regular season roster limit. They also were allowed to carry up to three reserve players at any given time.

Roster regulations have been discussed as an open question heading into the second season, as general managers felt they weren't afforded a great amount of flexibility when it came to filling their roster in the event of injuries. The 10-day contracts for reserves could be confusing and limiting, and it seemed like a tough situation for a GM to have to call on a reserve not knowing when an injury might happen down the line and necessitate another 10-day SPA. Players were limited to just two of these 10-day contracts throughout the season and one short-term SPA in the playoffs (good only for one round). It was a delicate balancing act at times with the 21-player game day roster, and it often seemed like choices around reserve players were determined more by the player's availability for an SPA than the immediate roster need of the team.

I think we might see an expanded training camp this year with players competing a little bit more directly for roster spots, and that the lineup shakeups might happen in training camp. Some signings will happen early, but I think we'll see a lot of them happen during camp and immediately after training camp roster cuts. Training camp will be a good place for coaches and GMs to see who is comfortable with those types of role shifts that Nicole mentioned – and when you envision a top prospect playing a different role than they're used to playing in college or on their national team, you don't want to necessarily commit to them on paper until you're sure they can make that mental and professional adjustment.

It's a lot for general managers to evaluate since they're also trying to negotiate any contract extensions before free agency begins on June 21. They'll essentially be picking their prospects at the same time as they're trying to bring certain players back onto the roster. That leaves a lot of room for uncertainty around the league in the next few weeks – and probably some surprises to come out of that.

(Photo: weston m / Unsplash)