NWHL 2021 Draft Recap

For the first time in franchise history, the Connecticut Whale held the first overall pick in an NWHL Draft, and with that pick, they chose forward Taylor Girard from nearby Quinnipiac University. The cost of the Whale flip-flopping first-round picks with the Buffalo Beauts was an additional third-round pick in 2021, and Buffalo drafted forward/defender Emilie Harley from Robert Morris University with the second overall pick.

The next three picks belonged to the Toronto Six as a result of two trades from last season with the Boston Pride (2020 1st overall) and Metropolitan Riveters (Kelly Babstock). With the third overall pick, they selected forward Maegan Beres from Boston College, with the fourth pick they drafted forward Tatum Skaggs from Ohio State, and with the fifth pick they took defender Taylor Davison from York University.

With the sixth and final pick in the first round, the Minnesota Whitecaps drafted defender Mak Langei from Bemidji State University. Each of the four teams with first-round picks likely added players that will be in their respective lineups for the NWHL’s Season 7, but Toronto may have wasted a high pick on Skaggs who had previously announced a commitment to play overseas.

*As of press time Toronto has already signed Beres.

2021 NWHL Draft By the Numbers

* 30 players selected: 16 forwards, 13 defenders, one goaltender.

* 20 players are from the US, seven from Canada, one from Russia, one from the Czech Republic, and one from England. 

* Taylor Davison (5th overall) became the highest-drafted player ever from a U SPORTS program.

Emilie Harley, Anjelica Diffendal
Emilie Harley, Anjelica Diffendal & their Robert Morris University teammates before a game. (Photo by Justin Berl/Robert Morris Athletics)

* Robert Morris University led all schools, producing three draft picks: Emilie Harley (Buffalo), Anjelica Diffendal (Buffalo), Leah Marino (Toronto).

* Five players were drafted from Minnesota, the most of any state. Three players were drafted from Ontario, the most of any province.

* Taylor Girard joins five other players who were drafted first overall in an NWHL Draft – Sammy Davis (Boston, 2020), Annie Pankowski (Riveters, 2018), Katie Burt (2017, Boston), Kelsey Koelzer (Riveters, 2016), Alex Carpenter (Riveters, 2015).

Toronto Six

The Six held a league-high eight draft picks and with the expected departure of a handful of players, they may have been able to offset those losses while adding depth to their roster as they enter their second season in the NWHL.

Maegan Beres
Maegan Beres looks to make a play with the puck for the Boston College Eagles. (Photo Credit: Boston College Athletics)

After selecting Beres, Skaggs, and Davison in Round 1, Toronto nabbed forward Annie McDonald from Princeton University (ninth overall), and defender Rachel Marmen from Mercyhurst University (10th overall) in Round 2. In Round 3 they selected forward Leah Marino from Robert Morris (16th overall), in Round 4 they added forward Olivia Atkinson from Concordia University (22nd overall), and they drafted forward Daria Tereshkina from the University of Maine (28th overall) with their pick in Round 5.

As we mentioned earlier Beres has already signed, and Skaggs took to Twitter after the completion of the draft to announce that she was continuing her hockey career in Vienna, Austria. Tereshkina is also planning to play in Russia this season and won’t be signing with Toronto. Five of their eight picks are Canadian, which is the smart play as the Six are the only team currently in Canada. In all, there were seven Canadians drafted with the Beauts and Riveters each selecting one.

Buffalo Beauts

The wheeling-and-dealing Beauts had seven picks as GM Nate Oliver hopes to fill the gaps on his roster after signing a plethora of potent players during free agency before draft day. After selecting RMU’s Harley with the second overall pick, the Beauts led off Round 2 by going back to the RMU pipeline drafting Harley’s teammate, forward Anjelica Diffendal (seventh overall). 

Thanks to recent trades with the Whale and the Pride, Buffalo had three consecutive picks to kick off Round 3. First, they selected forward Kennedy Ganser from the University of Alberta (13th overall), then defender Anna Zikova from the University of Maine (14th overall), followed by forward Missy Segall from Hamilton College (15th overall). 

In Round 4 Buffalo added another defender in Allison Attea from Holy Cross (19th overall) before finishing their draft day haul with the first pick in Round 5 when they nabbed defender Casey Traill from Castleton University (25th overall).

Oliver clearly did his homework leading up to the draft and was able to address multiple areas over the course of the seven selections, adding depth to what is turning out to be an intriguing lineup. As we previously mentioned their first two picks played together at RMU. Ganser was current Beaut Autumn MacDougall’s center back in college. Zikova has been a part of the Czech National Team four times. Attea is a Buffalo native and Traill has represented Great Britain’s National Team.

Minnesota Whitecaps

The Whitecaps were the only team that had all of its draft picks still in their original slots – aka the only team not to make a trade involving draft picks. All five of their selections were Minnesota natives. The same way the Six benefit from being the only Canadian team, the Whitecaps benefit from being the only NWHL team in the Midwest and hockey-crazy Minnesota.

Allie Thunstrom
Minnesota Whitecaps forward Allie Thunstrom celebrates her goal with the bench during the 2021 Isobel Cup Final in Boston on Mar 27, 2021. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay/NWHL)

After taking Langei in Round 1 the Whitecaps ended Round 2 by taking her collegiate teammate, defender Tina Kampa (12th overall). To end Round 3 they drafted forward Taylor Wente from the University of Minnesota (18th overall), and to end Round 4 they drafted the only goaltender to hear her name called in the draft, Jenna Brenneman from Penn State University (24th overall). With their final pick, and the final pick of the night, the Whitecaps selected forward Kendall Williamson from Colgate University (30th overall).

While with the Beavers Langlei was a co-captain as a senior and Kampa was an alternate – so the Whitecaps are not only adding talent, but also leadership in the duo. Wente announced on Twitter after the draft that while she was honored to be selected she is continuing a professional career as a Sales Development Representative, in addition to being the Head Coach for U12A Osseo Maple Grove Girls Hockey. The selection of Brenneman possibly gives the Whitecaps a third goalie, something they haven’t had in a few seasons, and Williamson could add depth to the forward group.

Connecticut Whale

The Whale made waves when they traded up to get the first overall pick and we all found out why when they added Quinnipiac’s Girard, but we definitely asked ourselves: wouldn’t they have been able to acquire her with the second overall pick? Though Girard is from Michigan, Connecticut’s front office had to have known that she enjoyed living in the state while attending Quinnipiac. Unless they feared Buffalo would offer her a bigger contract.

Emma Polaski
Emma Polaski looks to make a play with the puck for the Syracuse Orange. (Photos by Michael J. Okoniewski-SU Athletic Communications)

In Round 2 the Whale drafted forward Emma Polaski from Syracuse University (8th overall) and because of the trade to get the no. 1 pick they did not have a pick in Round 3. In Round 4 they took another Michigan native, defender Hannah Bates from St. Cloud State University (20th overall), and in Round 5 they selected forward Grace Middleton from the University of New Hampshire (26th overall).

Traditionally the Whale went after D-III players in past NWHL Drafts, but not in 2021 with all four selections coming from major schools. Polaski already knows defender Allie Munroe (who signed with Connecticut a few weeks ago) from college, and if the team re-signs defender Taylor Marchin they could have up to three Michigan natives on the team (Girard, Bates). The Whale got an up-close look at Polaski (a New Jersey native) at their recent Free Agent Camp and obviously liked what they saw.

Metropolitan Riveters

Like the Whale, the Riveters also had four picks in the 2021 NWHL Draft. They gave up their first round pick (fifth overall) in a deal with Toronto for Kelly Babstock last fall. With all four of their draft picks the Rivs selected defenders, perhaps signaling a changing of the guard on the franchise’s blue line.

In Round 2 the Riveters made their first pick of the night, taking defender Caroline Ross from Colgate University (11th overall). They followed that up in Round 3 by selecting defender Julia Scammell from the University of New Hampshire (17th overall) and in Round 4 they grabbed defender Jordan Sanislo from Sacred Heart University (23rd overall). To close out their night they added defender Morgan Schauer from Long Island University (29th overall).

Sanislo was at the Riveters Free Agent Camp in early June and is a New Jersey native. Ross is from Rochester, New York and Schauer played for LIU in New York, although she is from Cleveland, Ohio. All four defenders should have a chance to make the roster for the upcoming season.

Boston Pride

After trades with both the Six (last off-season) and Beauts (this off-season), the defending champions in Boston were left with just two selections of the 30 in the 2021 NWHL Draft. To no one’s surprise, both of their picks were from Massachusetts. Just like the Six with Canada and the Whitecaps with Minnesota, the Pride have a pretty defined pool of prospects to pick from in the New England area.

In Round 4 Boston selected forward Finley Frechette from Cornell University (21st overall) and in Round 5 they drafted forward Abby Nearis from Brown University (27th overall). Not only did they get local talent, but they got Ivy League-smart local talent in the process as well.

Carlee Turner
Carlee Turner and the Boston Pride celebrate winning the 2021 Isobel Cup Final in Boston on Mar 27, 2021. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay/NWHL)

While defending their Isobel Cup title in Season 7 the Pride will be trying to offset the loss of forwards Carlee Turner, Lexie Laing, and Teresa Vanizova – so Frechette and Nearis could have a clear path to making the opening night roster in an attempt to offset those losses.