2024 PWHL Draft Recap: Minnesota
- 11 min read

2024 PWHL Draft Recap: Minnesota

2024 PWHL Draft Recap: Minnesota by Zoë Hayden

The reigning Walter Cup champions still have a lot to figure out as they head into Season Two. They made strong picks onstage in St. Paul, but between the controversy around Britta Curl and the front office chaos, it's hard to see this draft class through any other lens.

Draft Picks

Round #1: Claire Thompson (D), 1998 (#3 overall) – Thompson did not play last season – while she signed a reserve contract with New York, she never made it to the ice and was attending medical school full-time. Thompson indicated to Ken Klee that she would take a hiatus from medical school if selected in this draft. Players who were undrafted in 2023 and never signed a regular Standard Player Agreement during the inaugural season had to re-enter the draft, so Thompson did just that. The left-handed defender from Ontario played her college hockey at Princeton and is best known for her 13-point performance (2G, 11A) in the 2022 Olympics for Team Canada. Thompson brings experience, offensive firepower, and leadership to the blueline.

Round #2: Britta Curl (F), 2000 (#9 overall) – Curl played five seasons and 180 games as a Badger, scoring 86 goals and 93 assists to average nearly a point per game in her college career. But it's not her on-ice performance that is at issue. After being drafted, the former University of Wisconsin captain issued a non-apology for her social media activity, which included publicly supporting the transphobic ICONS organization, sharing transphobic content from the Daily Wire and Matt Walsh, sharing an unhinged speech by Italian fascist Giorgia Meloni, and liking a post by Candace Owens about how Pride-themed merch is for perverts. According to Curl, she is a good teammate and she does not hate anyone. However, her "sorry if I offended you" video did not demonstrate an understanding of why people were actually upset about her being selected to Minnesota. It was nonspecific, vague, and patronizing, and prompted a lot of vitriolic homophobia and transphobia in the comments – which has gone uncontested by the PWHL, PWHL Minnesota, and Curl herself. She has already signed for two years in Minnesota. The vibrantly queer and gender diverse Minnesota fanbase immediately showed their displeasure by booing Curl at the draft. Every social media post about Curl or about Minnesota's participation in Pride events has been inundated with comments by fans who are disappointed and angry. While Ken Klee stated after the draft that he simply was choosing the best available player, selecting and immediately signing Curl while dismissing fan concerns sends a message that Minnesota will have a hard time reconciling in 2024-25.

Round #3: Klára Hymlarová (F), 1999 (#15 overall) – Hymlarová is a versatile player who has demonstrated a high level of skill at both forward and defense. As a forward, she plays both sides of the puck extremely well and has a physicality and edge. Some of the best shot-blocking plays I've seen in hockey have been by Klára Hymlarová, and she is, for my money, probably the best defensive forward in the draft. Selecting her in the third round demonstrates how highly Minnesota values elite defensive play. The St. Cloud State alum will make an immediate impact on her team and has already signed a two-year contract with Minnesota.

Round #4: Brooke McQuigge (F), 2000 (#21 overall) – After five years at Clarkson, Ontario native McQuigge signed a deal with MoDo in the SDHL, but that contract includes a clause that allows her to join her PWHL team instead upon being drafted. Her fifth year at Clarkson was her best offensively, with 13 goals and 30 assists in 40 games. One aspect of her game that could be challenging: she has led her team in penalty minutes for three straight seasons, including 50 PIM this past season, numbers that were bolstered due to game misconducts for slew footing and boarding. While the physical aspect of her game will be more welcome in the PWHL than in the ECAC, she's still very much been a player who is comfortable in gray areas, and she'll need to learn how to use that to her advantage.

Round #5: Dominique Petrie (F), 2001 (#27 overall) – Petrie is another former Clarkson Golden Knight, who really only played three seasons of NCAA hockey before declaring for the draft (she missed the 2020-21 season at Harvard since the Ivies didn't play that year, and did not play her first season as a graduate transfer at Clarkson due to injury). She also has experience on the Team USA U18 team, winning gold at Worlds in 2017 and 2018 and silver in 2019. Petrie has a smooth finishing ability and a calmness with the puck under pressure that make her dangerous, and she feels like a smart pick in the fifth round.

Round #6: Mae Batherson (D), 2000 (#33 overall) – Batherson spent four seasons at Syracuse before playing as a graduate transfer at St. Lawrence University, where she had her best season yet, tallying 8 goals and 29 assists in 39 games. Batherson brings a real playmaking depth to the blueline and gives Minnesota some flexibility with their defense overall. Batherson can quarterback a second power play unit or create transition offense from her own zone, making Minnesota's defensive corps harder to match up against.

Round #7: Katy Knoll (F), 2001 (#39 overall) – Knoll seems like a steal for Minnesota in the seventh round as a player who elevated her game each of the five years she played for Northeastern. Her stat line is special as she seems to score timely goals just about as often as she sets them up. Six of her eleven goals in 2023-24 were game-winners, and she also posted 17 assists. Knoll reads as someone who could have incredible upside in the pros – reminiscent of Michela Cava, for example – as a player who can not just be in the right place at the right time, but know exactly what to do when she gets there.


"We just tried to really use as many resources as we could and in a short amount of time so that we felt fully prepared. We weren't we didn't feel like we were scrambling. Like I said, Mira and Sam were absolutely awesome. The three of us worked really hard on it. And we're really happy with our picks." – Ken Klee on managing the draft with assistant coach Mira Jalosuo and sports performance manager Samantha Hanson

"We were just trying to pick the best players available and I certainly didn't want anything else to be a distraction. I wouldn't want anything to take away from any of those players' experiences... It's okay, people are entitled to their opinion. As far as Britta Curl, I mean, we did our homework on her. She was obviously a great player. We talked to coaches who coached her, who said she's a great kid, a great competitor for you, great in the locker room... So you know, that's what we were looking at doing and I'm really happy that we did." – Ken Klee on selecting Britta Curl

"I spoke with a lot of different people. I mean, at the end of the day, I was told she's a great teammate and a great person. She's obviously a great player. So you know for me – you know, we have people in that community and obviously Mira [Jalosuo] making the selection for us. I think that speaks volumes." – Klee on whether he spoke to anyone in the LGBTQ community before committing to Britta Curl

"She's a little more of a power play specialist. She's an offensive player. I think she transitioned from forward to D a little bit later. She obviously has a great pedigree. I actually played with her father, back in the early 90s. And then I actually coached against her brother when I was in Syracuse... So it's a hockey family. And obviously her hockey IQ or hockey smarts, those are all great assets." – Klee on D Mae Batherson

"I get excited when I hear that other players don't like to play against her – but for players who play with her, she's a great teammate who would do anything for her teammates. She's physical, you know – plays hard." – Klee on Brooke McQuigge

"I think I bring a good size, especially to this league. Just watching the league as a whole, it's obviously really physical, and the refs let a lot of stuff go, which is really exciting for a player like me. I feel like sometimes in the NCAA I got called for stuff just because I was bigger and stronger. So I think that that's a really exciting concept for the league. And in terms of myself as a player – just a really versatile, but also a complete teammate and player. I can do it really anywhere when needed – offensively, defensively. I take pride in my defensive game, but I also like to go score. So that's exciting and I like to set up plays for my teammates as well. So really: just a 200-foot player who can make an impact wherever needed." – Minnesota seventh round pick Katy Knoll

Current Roster

(listed with the amount of years remaining on their current contract)

Maggie Flaherty, D, 1 year
Natalie Buchbinder, D, 1 year
Lee Stecklein, D, 2 years
Sophie Jaques, D, 2 years
Denisa Křížová, F, 2 years
Kendall Coyne Schofield, F, 2 years
Kelly Pannek, F, 2 years
Grace Zumwinkle, F, 2 years
Taylor Heise, F, 2 years
Michela Cava, F, 1 year
Liz Schepers, F, 1 year
Britta Curl, F, 2 years
Klára Hymlárová, F, 2 years
Maddie Rooney, G, 1 year
Nicole Hensley, G, 2 years

Draft Picks by Position

Forward: 5
Defense: 2
Goaltender: 0


This draft class makes Minnesota deeper, grittier, and tougher defensively. I just wonder if that's going to be good enough in Season Two.

All of these players are good hockey acquisitions, to be sure, but it feels like Minnesota may have missed an opportunity to take a big swing somewhere – maybe on a forward like Hannah Bilka or even Noora Tulus. They were a team that had some difficulty scoring goals at times throughout the regular season and had a dead-even goal differential, netting 54 but allowing 54 at the same time. Clearly, in the postseason, things took a different turn – Taylor Heise and Michela Cava had breakout performances and got Minnesota over the finish line to win the Walter Cup. But it was that damn close.

I like the depth Minnesota added in this draft, and Klára Hymlarová and Dominique Petrie in particular strike me as great gets in their respective rounds. A lot of Minnesota's roster is already locked up through 2025-26 at this point, so they didn't need to dramatically re-imagine the top half of their lineup, but it does kind of feel like an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" draft class – which might make sense for the reigning champs, if the reigning champs weren't also a team that made the playoffs, and won each of its respective playoff series, by the skin of their teeth.

Or, to put it more simply: I think Minnesota got a lot of assertive, physical, defensive players in this draft, but that wasn't quite where I thought they needed help. I think adding Thompson and Batherson gives them one of the best offensive bluelines in hockey if they sign. I don't think Minnesota drafted poorly. More like – I think the other five teams might have drafted a little bit better.

And to shift to the other matter at hand...

For all the talk about Britta Curl, the question for me is: was it worth it? From a purely hockey perspective, does she provide something inimitable that is worth hinging the team's reputation on? The league's?

Obviously, most of these players have been on teams with people who are different from themselves and know how to come into the locker room and try to set a foundation of mutual respect. Curl may very well be exactly the sort of player in the locker room that everyone has purported her to be as they defend her selection and signing.

But that's not the root of the problem. The PWHL, PWHL Minnesota, and Ken Klee were all woefully unprepared for the aftermath of selecting Curl. Curl's "apology" video did not meaningfully address her own conduct, and euphemistically and rather insultingly suggested that queer and trans people engage in "different lifestyles."

This is happening in a league that has promised, but has yet to deliver, a policy on the inclusion of transgender athletes. This is also a league that heavily relies on the LGBTQ identities of its players and fans for marketing and branding. The league knew there was a possibility that Britta Curl would be drafted, but they didn't have a real plan in place for the blowback. They didn't seem to have a prepared media strategy, or provide any guidance to team staff about how to have conversations with and about a player who has publicly expressed bigotry. If they okayed Curl's "apology" video, they shouldn't have. Curl's social media has not been sanitized (though Twitter did her the incredible favor of hiding all "likes" on the website – you can no longer see who liked a post unless it's one of your own). Does vague messaging about "doing things to foster an inclusive environment" really move the needle on this? Why is directness and specificity so absent from this conversation?

I'd personally hazard a guess that the PWHL doesn't truly, at this moment, see a near future where a trans woman plays on one of their teams. The path to professional women's hockey is not an easy one, and, in North America, usually involves playing the game at elite youth, high school, and collegiate levels. All of these levels have become the pet project of trans exterminationist groups, like ICONS, which Curl has vocally supported.

But the PWHL already has at least one nonbinary athlete in Carly Jackson. Jessica Platt, a trans woman, played parts of three seasons for the CWHL's Toronto Furies. A trans man, Harrison Browne, has already played professional hockey in the NWHL – though he was unable to begin medically transitioning due to that league's restrictive policy on transgender athletes which, at the time, required testosterone levels to remain within a certain arbitrary range. Despite all of the current hurdles and discrimination in North American sport, the prospect of a trans woman athlete becoming a PWHL draft prospect is probably not as abstract as some might think – and the PWHL should, if they give a shit about trans people, be prepared for that moment. The way they have handled the situation with Britta Curl and PWHL Minnesota suggests that they are not.

They've already sent a message that they'll always take the path of least resistance. Which means interchangeably platforming transphobic athletes like Curl alongside LGBTQ athletes in the league, depending on when it is convenient to do so. It means never naming transphobia or homophobia or bigotry, even when "apologizing." I am not necessarily surprised by the limitations of the PWHL's response to fan concerns about Britta Curl, but I am actually somewhat surprised at how clumsy that response has been. It's almost as if they thought that by ignoring it, they could get it to go away quickly – or worse, that they didn't register it as a problem at all. Unless the league's purportedly upcoming trans inclusion policy is good (and I mean really fucking good), it is going to be hard to get past this.

PWHL Minnesota and the PWHL as a whole had an obligation to their fans, stakeholders, players, and other employees to be ready for a situation like this, with clarity and without equivocation. It feels deeply consequential – and like an indication that we can't expect more of the PWHL or from hockey in general. Certainly not more than the NWSL's Portland Thorns, who passed on Sydny Nasello for the exact type of social media behavior that PWHL Minnesota wants us to excuse. But maybe about as much as the US Women's National Soccer Team, which is currently facing a strikingly similar situation with Korbin Albert. Albert posted a "sorry if you were offended" apology for her homophobic and transphobic social media activity. Manager Emma Hayes says that Albert has grown and changed, but there is no indication of what that growth and change has been.

With Curl, we haven't even been given a "growth and change" narrative. We are just being told that she is a good teammate and has always been a good teammate. The implication is that if she doesn't think that trans people belong in sport or that they are perverts, that's just a difference of opinion. Let's be clear that this is not just an off-ice issue or a difference of opinion. Britta Curl will have to play with and against LGBTQ players throughout her PWHL career, in front of LGBTQ fans, and work with LGBTQ staff. By excusing this from Curl, PWHL Minnesota and the PWHL have indicated quite clearly that they do not think anti-trans bigotry is disqualifying or even concerning.

This shouldn't be something that they can simply dismiss – especially not in a country that is ramping up active political hostility to queer and trans people on a daily basis. So again, I have to ask: was it worth it? I think it's more helpful to sit with this question now, rather than color the perception of this with any contributions that Curl makes on the ice during the season. The problem is systemic and it won't be fixed with goals, assists, or championships.

(Photo: Heather Pollock/PWHL)