After an off-season that saw the team add Olympians at forward and goaltending, the 2018 CWHL Draft saw Les Canadiennes de Montréal load up on defenders.
The team added six defenders in the draft and all of them will be expected to fight for a spot in what should be a very competitive selection camp in September.
“One of our main objectives was to solidify the defence corps,” said Les Canadiennes general manager Meg Hewings after the draft in Toronto. “Our goal every year is to have a competitive camp. It will be a fun internal competition and we have quite a number of quality draftees who will be able to contribute to the team right off the bat.”
Montreal’s first selection was in the second round when they selected Genevieve Bannon. The team announced the pre-signing last week.
This year, CWHL teams were allowed to sign their first and second-round selections prior to the draft. Montreal traded their first and third round picks to Toronto in last season’s trade for Erin Ambrose.
Ironically, Bannon played with Ambrose at Clarkson University and Ambrose was in attendance at the draft.
“I’m really excited [to play with her again],” Bannon said. “She was my roommate for a year at Clarkson, and she’s a great friend and a great role model. I think she’s representing Montreal well so I’m really excited.”
She knows that she is coming into a stacked forward group with the Canadiennes.
“I’m just going to go day by day, work hard and try to earn a spot,” she said. “They have a lot of good veterans so I’m excited to learn from them.”
She says the move to professional hockey in Sweden helped her get out of her comfort zone and learn to play different roles than she did at the university level.
Their next pick was Taylor Willard, a defender from the University of Vermont. Willard was the team’s captain for the last two seasons and represented the United States at the 2013 Women’s World Under-18 Championships.
The Napierville, Illinois native first caught the team’s eye at Concordia University’s Theresa Humes invitational last December.
“They went to my coaches while we were in Montreal for a tournament and after that they contacted me after the season which was really cool,” Willard said. “It felt like being recruited [to college] again.”
Willard had visited Montreal once before separate from hockey, but recently had a chance to come to Montreal to meet with Hewings where she had breakfast with the GM, had a workout with their strength coach and got to meet some future teammates. She was also asked to help out at the Montreal Canadiens hockey camp.
“Being able to go to the NHL practice rink and see the kids and even the parents who were excited to see the players - even me who wasn’t even on the team yet - just saying hi and asking for my autograph, it was just an amazing experience,” she said.
Montreal continued their draft with University of Minnesota-Duluth defender Catherine Daoust in the fifth round. Daoust represented Canada at the 2013 World Under-18 Championships.
The team added two defenders from Concordia University. Marie-Joëlle Allard was the team’s fifth-round pick and Caroll-Ann Gagné was the team’s pick in round 10. The pair will now try to become teammates with their former coaches at the school. At least four Canadiennes have coached at Concordia University in the past, who are led by former Canadienne Julie Chu.
Emma Martin from the University of Prince Edward Island was the team’s fourth straight defender taken in round seven.
In round eight, the team took goaltender Kelsey Neumann. Neumann spent the last two seasons with the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL where she played in one game. Neumann was behind two elite goaltenders in Buffalo, who had Brianne McLaughlin and Amanda Leveille and this season has a tandem of Nicole Hensley and Shannon Szabados.
In the ninth round, the team selected Olivia Atkinson from McGill University. Atkinson had played three years at McGill University and still had eligibility remaining in U Sports.
The team rounded out the draft with Maude Gelinas, Andreanne Carlos, Maude Nicol, and Nicole Gass.
Of the four, Gass is the most intriguing. Gass was born in Sherbrooke, QC and played four years at Colgate University, and the last two years with the Zurich Lions in the Swiss league. Gass represents Switzerland internationally and played at the 2018 Olympic Games. She had no points in six games at the Olympics but she was a tournament-high +8.
2018 Les Canadiennes Draft Class
Round 2: RW Genevieve Bannon (160 GP 49G-101A - Clarkson, NCAA ; 34 GP 18G-15A - Göteborg, SDHL)
Round 4: D Taylor Willard (145 GP 21G-41A - Vermont, NCAA)
Round 5: D Catherine Daoust (140 GP 9G-28A - Minnesota-Duluth, NCAA)
Round 6: D Marie-Joëlle Allard (95 GP 4G-28A - Concordia, U Sports)
Round 7: D Emma Martin (66 GP 5G-18A - Prince Edward Island, U Sports)
Round 8: G Kelsey Neumann (No stats available - Buffalo, NWHL)
Round 9: F Olivia Atkinson (59 GP 25G-24A - McGill, U Sports)
Round 10: D Caroll-Ann Gagné (98 GP 4G-32A - Concordia, U Sports)
Round 11: F Maude Gélinas (39 GP 6G-11A - Montreal, U Sports)
Round 12: F Andréanne Carlos (21 GP 0G-6A - Carleton, U Sports)
Round 13: G Maude Nicol (No stats available - Canadian Military)
Round 14: D Nicole Gass (138 GP 7G-37A - Colgate, NCAA ; 39 GP 11G-31A - Zurich, SWHL)
Montreal traded their first and third round picks to the Toronto Furies in the trade for D Erin Ambrose on December 13, 2017