NWHL April Recap: Front Office Moves, Awards, Free Agency, 2021 Draft

It’s been one month since the Boston Pride beat the Minnesota Whitecaps in the 2021 Isobel Cup Final, becoming the first NWHL team to win the Isobel Cup two times. Since the Pride reunited with their long-lost friend Izzy not much has happened in the NWHL, but also a lot has happened.

Front Office News

Two days after the Isobel Cup was handed out by commissioner Ty Tumminia, the league announced that Lisa Haley was hired as the Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, succeeding Michelle Picard in a role that was redefined from Deputy Commissioner. Haley was most recently one of the assistant coaches of the Toronto Six and has an extensive career as a coach and player development leader for Hockey Canada.

Metropolitan Riveters
The Metropolitan Riveters celebrate a win in Lake Placid, NY on Jan 23, 2021. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

On April 8, the Metropolitan Riveters announced that Anya Packer was taking over as their new GM, vacating her role as Executive Director of the NWHLPA. She replaces Kate Whitman Annis, who is now the Director of Operations for W Hockey Partners – a role last held by the league’s founder and former commissioner, Dani Rylan.

Two weeks before the Isobel Cup Playoffs started the Buffalo Beauts announced that Rhea Coad was being promoted to head coach after serving as an associate coach last season and an assistant coach dating back to 2018. She takes over for Pete Perram, who is relocating his family to Western Canada.

Autumn MacDougall, Jordan Juron
Buffalo Beauts forward Jordan Juron and Buffalo Beauts forward Autumn MacDougall celebrate a goal. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay)

On April 14, the Beauts announced that assistant coach Mark Zarbo will return for a second season in the same role, that Julia DiTondo was hired as a special assignments coach, and that Chris Baudo was hired as a video/analytics coach. DiTondo was a goaltender for the Beauts from 2017-19. Baudo is the current head coach of Nazareth College’s women’s hockey team.

On April 19, the Pride announced that Colleen Coyne was hired as team President, filling the role that was vacated when Hayley Moore left to take over as the Vice President of Hockey Operations for the AHL.

And the Nominees Are…

On April 22, the NWHL announced the finalists for five major awards. The winners will be announced live on Twitch on April 28 at 7 PM ET, in addition to the winners of the Fans’ 3-Stars of the Season, and the NWHL Foundation Award.

MVP: Jillian Dempsey (Boston), Kaleigh Fratkin (Boston), Mikyla Grant-Mentis (Toronto), Christina Putigna (Boston).

Defender of the Year: Shannon Doyle (Connecticut), Lindsay Eastwood (Toronto), Fratkin, Mallory Souliotis (Boston).

Amanda Leveille
Minnesota Whitecaps goaltender Amanda Leveille makes a save during the 2021 Isobel Cup playoffs. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay/NWHL)

Goalie of the Year: Elaine Chuli (Toronto), Carly Jackson (Buffalo), Amanda Leveille (Minnesota), Lovisa Selander (Boston).

Newcomer of the Year: Sammy Davis (Boston), Grant-Mentis, Jackson, Haley Mack (Minnesota).

Denna Laing Award: Dempsey, Doyle, Brooke Stacey (Buffalo), Saroya Tinker (Metropolitan).

You can see who we voted for here: 2021 NWHL Awards Ballot.

2021 Draft

The league announced that the 2021 Draft will take place on June 29 and that the selections will be announced on Twitch starting at 7 PM ET. The draft order was determined via the winning percentage from all games played in 2021. Buffalo has the first pick and the first pick in each of the five rounds. Following multiple trades last season, Toronto has the most picks with eight, including three consecutive picks in the first round (3, 4, 5). Boston only has three picks.

Draft-eligible players cannot be signed before June 29, but unselected players can sign with teams starting on June 30. Teams will have two weeks to sign their draft picks before they become unrestricted free agents.

2021 Free Agency

NWHL teams have the exclusive rights and can currently re-sign their own players until May 15 at 5 PM ET. At that point, any players not signed will become unrestricted free agents and can sign with any of the six teams.

Non-league players who have already graduated college, and international players who are at least 21-years-old by Sept. 2021 are all unrestricted free agents and can sign with any team.

Carlee Turner
Carlee Turner signed with the Boston Pride after the 2020 NWHL Draft and now is an Isobel Cup champion. (Photo Credit: Michelle Jay/NWHL)

Three of the six NWHL teams have announced dates for Free Agent Camps. The Beauts will hold theirs over two days at the Northtown Center at Amherst (June 5-6).

The Connecticut Whale will hold their camp on June 12 at the Barnabas Health Hockey House in Newark and the following day the Riveters will hold theirs in the same rink.