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PWHL Mock Draft: Taking a stab at building Montreal’s roster

Monday’s PWHL Draft will be one of the more historic days in women’s hockey history. It is a true opportunity for North American professional teams to build their teams without (much) regard for player availability or geography.

The draft will be 15 rounds with 90 players selected. Over 260 players declared for the draft (plus those who have signed free agent contracts). The rest of the 28-player camp rosters and eventually the 23-player active rosters will be built from players who were not drafted.

The eligible player list can be found here.

I was fortunate enough to be part of a mock draft with other women’s hockey writers and followers. I drafted for the Montreal team. Joining me in the draft was its organizer Nathan Vaughan of Stanley Cup of Chowder for Boston, Nate Wells of Gopher State for Minnesota, Michael Lopez of Tendy Love and Care was New York, Alyssa Turner represented Toronto and Anne Tokarski drafted for Ottawa, both of the last two are currently with The Ice Garden.

While the actual draft will be 15 rounds, we decided to extend it to ensure every team had 12 forwards, six defenders, and three goaltenders. After the 15 rounds, we did try and put players in their most likely spots given that those players would be free agents. Monday’s draft will have some players who have been granted compassionate waivers and can only be in one market. Although we can guess which players have them, it is impossible to know before hand so we did not factor those in when selecting players in the draft itself.

Each team had their three free agent signings and we used the official PWHL Draft order which means Montreal drafted sixth in all odd rounds and first in all even rounds.

I will walk you through the draft but also with my thought process at each selection.

1st (MIN): Taylor Heise, F
2nd (TOR): Sophie Jaques ,D
3rd (BOS): Alina Müller, F
4th (NY): Lina Ljungblom, F
5th (OTT): Erin Ambrose, D
6th (MTL): Claire Thompson, D

7th (MTL): Savannah Harmon, D
8th (OTT): Brittany Howard, F
9th (NY): Emma Soderberg, G
10th (BOS): Jocelyn Larocque, D
11th (TOR): Loren Gabel, F
12th (MIN): Jincy Dunne, D

With Laura Stacey and Marie-Philip Poulin already locked in at forward, and Ann-Renée Desbiens locked in as my number one goaltender, I knew my focus would be on defence early on. I was hoping beyond hope that Ambrose would be available at my two picks, but Ottawa beat me to it. I “settled” for Claire Thompson, who for all intents and purposes will likely be locked into New York in the real world as she is in literal med school at NYU. My second pick I stayed with defence and took Savannah Harmon, who trains in Montreal and spent the summer in the city playing in the Living Sisu Hockey League.

I get my cornerstones on defence, and I know there will be a ton of forward talent later on, even though it hurts to see some of the names coming off the board.

13th (MIN): Jesse Compher, F
14th (TOR): Kristen Campbell, G
15th (BOS): Natalie Spooner, F
16th (NY): Katerina Mrazova, F
17th (OTT): Susanna Tapani, F
18th (MTL): Elizabeth Giguere, F

19th (MTL): Emma Maltais, F
20th (OTT): Kennedy Marchment, F
21st (NY): Lexie Adzija, F
22nd (BOS): Chloe Aurard, F
23rd (TOR): Melodie Daoust, F
24th (MIN): Ashton Bell, D

I know I just said I was focusing on forwards, but at this point, the forwards left available to me were too good to ignore, and the defenders were going slower off the board than I was expecting. Giguère was at the top of my wish list, and having the opportunity to take the Quebec-born product was too good to ignore. To pair her with Emma Maltais, who has family from Quebec, allows me to have two of the up-and-coming players to complement my veterans. I heavily considered Chloe Aurard here as well, and hoped she would last to my next pick but that didn’t happen.

25th (MIN): Hannah Brandt, F
26th (TOR): Mikyla Grant-Mentis, F
27th (BOS): Jamie Lee Rattray, F
28th (NY): Madison Packer, F
29th (OTT): Emily Brown, D
30th (MTL): Ella Shelton, D

31st (MTL): Jaime Bourbonnais, D
32nd (OTT): Abby Cook, D
33rd (NY): Kaleigh Fratkin, D
34th (BOS): Jill Saulnier, F
35th (TOR): Kali Flanagan, D
36th (MIN): Grace Zumwinkle, F

Being able to grab two more of the top defenders available was key. Shelton and Bourbonnais are two of the more unheralded members of Canada’s national team, but will be key players to build around and basically end up being my second pairing. I didn’t focus too much on shot side, but Bourbonnais being a right shot definitely helps balance out the three left-handed shots I have already taken. Seeing Minnesota take Zumwinkle wasn’t surprising given the local ties, but she was the best forward left that I was hoping would drop to my next pick.

37th (MIN): Amanda Boulier, D
38th (TOR): Taylor Girard, F
39th (BOS): Maude Poulin-Labelle, D
40th (NY): Amanda Pelkey, F
41st (OTT): Sydney Brodt, F
42nd (MTL): Jessica DiGirolamo, D

43rd (MTL): Jessie Eldridge, F
44th (OTT): Lauren MacInnis, D
45th (NY): Emma Nuutinen, F
46th (BOS): Dominika Laskova, D
47th (TOR): Liz Schepers, F
48th (MIN): Daryl Watts, F

I was hoping to take Poulin-Labelle as my third pairing LD but Boston broke my heart. I “settled” for DiGirolamo, someone who really impressed me in PWHPA games last year, and earned herself an invite to Canada’s summer camp.

Jessie Eldridge is a player I couldn’t believe was still around and had to pull the trigger. She has the potential to be a great club player beyond her role that she has had with the national team. She is yet another player who has trained at the Centre 21.02 as well.

49th (MIN): Gabbie Hughes, F
50th (TOR): Tereza Vanisova, F
51st (BOS): Denisa Krizova, F
52nd (NY): Fanni Garat-Gasparics, F
53rd (OTT): Hayley Scamurra, F
54th (MTL): Kristin O’Neill, F

55th (MTL): Victoria Bach, F
56th (OTT): Patti Marshall, D
57th (NY): Allie Munroe, D
58th (BOS): Brooke Hobson, D
59th (TOR): Saroya Tinker, D
60th (MIN): Sidney Morin, D

With only one spot left at D, and a run of forwards, I decided to go back to that side. I was considering both O’Neill and Bach when I took Eldridge so to be able to get both here was amazing. My entire roster was starting to look like the Canadian national team but I had to pounce when I had the chance to grab these players. O’Neill and Stacey had a great season with Team Adidas in the PWHPA and I now had four of the top five PWHPA scorers from last season (Poulin, Eldridge, Stacey, O’Neill).

61st (MIN): Maddie Rooney, G
62nd (TOR): Michela Cava, F
63rd (BOS): Sophie Shirley, F
64th (NY): Minttu Tuominen, D
65th (OTT): Madison Bizal, D
66th (MTL): Theresa Schafzahl, F

67th (MTL): Becca Gilmore, F
68th (OTT): Maggie Connors, F
69th (NY): Blanka Skodova, G
70th (BOS): Shiann Darkangelo, F
71st (TOR): Kati Tabin, D
72nd (MIN): Natalie Snodgrass, F

I’m not going to say that my all-Canadian roster (except for Harmon) was a factor, but I knew I had to eventually look elsewhere. There were a lot of players I considered here, and the depth of the pool of forwards is incredibly deep. I decided to go with Schafzahl and Gilmore, two players who I think are up-and-comers and can really develop into great forwards.

Schafzahl is Austrian, and actually signed with the Montreal Force after a great career at the University of Vermont. Gilmore, 25, had a great career at Harvard and represented the USA at the last World Championships. She also played 12 games for the Boston Pride of the PHF last year.

73rd (MIN): Clair DeGeorge, F
74th (TOR): Claire Dalton, F
75th (BOS): Maggie Flaherty, D
76th (NY): Olivia Zafuto, D
77th (OTT): Becca Leslie, F
78th (MTL): Audrey-Anne Veillette, F

79th (MTL): Catherine Daoust, D
80th (OTT): Amanda Leveille, G
81st (NY): McKenna Brand, F
82nd (BOS): Akane Shiga, F
83rd (TOR): Jonna Albers, F
84th (MIN): Olivia Knowles, D

85th (MIN): Gigi Marvin, F
86th (TOR): Tori Howran, D
87th (BOS): Noora Räty, G
88th (NY): Kendall Cornine, F
89th (OTT): Caitrin Lonergan, F
90th (MTL): Ann-Sophie Bettez, F

At this point, I’m looking for specific things. One of them was a RD for my third pairing, and Daoust is a great defensive defender. Her stats don’t pop out, but through the CWHL and PHF, she’s a player I think will fit in nicely. Veillette is a player who signed with the Force after only three years of university. She represented Canada at the U-18s and I think she has immense potential. That put her over the top compared to other players I considered here.

With the last pick, I had to take Ann-Sophie Bettez. I don’t care that she is one of the oldest players in the draft (alongside Gigi Marvin). She deserved to be drafted and she will be part of the leadership group of the team I am building.

The draft now entered the “supplemental FA rounds” to fill out the rosters. We continued going in snake order for simplicity’s sake.

Supplemental FA picks Round 1
91st (MTL): Gabrielle David, F
92nd (OTT): Paetyn Levis, F
93rd (NY): Aoi Shiga, D
94th (BOS): Jillian Dempsey, F
95th (TOR): Taylor Woods, D
96th (MIN): Nicole Hensley, G

Supplemental FA picks Round 2
97th (MIN): Allie Thunstrom, F
98th (TOR): Carly Jackson, G
99th (BOS): Maureen Murphy, F
100th (NY): Leah Lum, F
101st (OTT): Alena Mills, F
102 (MTL): Corinne Schroeder, G

Third Goalie Selections
103rd (MTL): Alex Cavallini, G
104th (OTT): Sydney Scobee, G
105th (NY): Sandra Abstreiter, G
106th (BOS): Elaine Chuli, G
107th (TOR): Abbey Levy, G
108th (MIN): Lauren Bench, G

The potential of Gabrielle David is something I couldn’t ignore and for her to be my last forward really rounds out my roster nicely. The Clarkson product will be someone to watch.

I needed a backup for Desbiens, and considered taking one in the last few rounds, but when I saw the immense talent of the players available, I decided there was no need and I could afford to wait. Having Corinne Schroeder waiting for me – last year’s PHF Goaltender of the Year – was more than I could have hoped for. Yet another player who had signed with the Montreal Force, she will complement Desbiens immensely.

For the third goalie choice, there were so many possible choices… Tricia Deguire and Alice Philbert to name two local goalies in particular. I decided to take Alex Cavallini. She has not played since the birth of her child last year, but I still think she is amongst the best in the world.

This was an immensely fun exercise, and the amount of options around was overwhelming at times. I did try and build a base of local players but injecting outside talent when possible. It’s not lost on me that most of my team either played for a Montreal team, trained in Montreal, has family in Quebec, or signed with a Montreal team. The only exceptions are Cavallini, Bach Gilmore, Thompson, Shelton, and DiGirolamo and multiple players fit in multiple categories.

How close will this be in reality? Probably not very! But I think there is a chance that many of the players chosen will be among the 90 players who hear their name called on Monday.

In the end, this is how my team looks graphically (overall pick in brackets):

Laura Stacey (FA)Marie-Philip Poulin (FA)Emma Maltais (19)
Elizabeth Giguère (18)Jessie Eldridge (43)Victoria Bach (55)
Theresa Schafzahl (66)Kristin O’Neill (54)Becca Gilmore (67)
Audrey-Anne Veillette (78)Gabrielle David (91)Ann-Sophie Bettez (90)
Claire Thompson (6)Savannah Harmon (7)
Ella Shelton (30)Jaime Bourbonnais (31)
Jessica DiGirolamo (42)Catherine Daoust (79)
Ann-Renée Desbiens (FA)
Corinne Schroeder (102)
Alex Cavallini (103)

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