The announcement of the latest player to sign on for NWHL Season 6 was a bit of a milestone – as it was the 100th player to sign a contract for the upcoming season. That player, fittingly, was defender Jordan Brickner Gragnano who re-signed with the Connecticut Whale for her sixth season. She is one of eight players who has played in all five of the league’s seasons and the seventh of those eight players to have signed up for the upcoming season; Corinne Buie is the lone original NWHLer yet to sign.
Brickner Gragnano rejoins what is expected to be a great Whale team that has finally found the right formula and mix of players to truly compete with the other teams for an Isobel Cup championship.
Before the daily signings took a bit of a summer hiatus for ten days, the Buffalo Beauts signed their fourth-round pick (20th overall) from the 2020 NWHL Draft, defender Kelly O’Sullivan from Adrian College.
All-American Joins Beauts Blueline
In 119 games over four years at Adrian, O’Sullivan racked up 114 points (29g-85a). She became the first, four-time All-American in program history and she was the 2020 NCHA Player of the Year.
“Kelly is one of the best players to ever come through our program, and it’s very gratifying to see her achieve her goal of playing in the pros with and against some of the best players in the world,” said Adrian head coach Shawn Skelly. “She had one of the most decorated careers anyone can have in college hockey and I have no doubt she will continue that in Buffalo.”
O’Sullivan led all Adrian defenders in scoring during her final three seasons, and as a sophomore, she led the entire team in scoring with 30 points (7g-23a) in 29 games. She will add depth to the Beauts blueline and obviously the potential for some scoring pop too.
“I am very excited to be signing with the Beauts and to begin my NWHL career in Buffalo,” said O’Sullivan in the press release announcing her signing. “I can’t wait to get out to Buffalo this fall to start training with the team. Go Beauts!”
With the signing of O’Sullivan, the Beauts now have 19 players signed for next season. She joins defenders Lenka Čurmová, Alyson Matteau, Marie-Jo Pelletier, Lisa Chesson, Whitney Dove, Dominique Kremer, Meg Delay, forwards Taylor Accursi, Cassidy MacPherson, Autumn MacDougall, Neve Van Pelt, Iveta Klimášová, Kristin Lewicki, Emma Ruggerio, Kayla Meneghin, and goaltenders Carly Jackson, Kelsey Neumann, and Caty Flagg.
Brickner’s Back on the Blueline
Brickner Gragnano has been with the Whale since its inception and has appeared in 70 games with the team, tallying 26 points (3g-23a), and earned three All-Star selections. To get an idea of her brilliance on the backend just look at her PiM totals – 14 minutes/7 minors in 70 games. She was unable to participate in this past season’s All-Star weekend due to an injury that cut her season short. The blueliner also has two assists in six career playoff games.
“Jordan is an excellent two-way defender who brings skill, leadership, consistency, and poise to our backend,” said Connecticut GM Bray Ketchum Peel in the press release announcing the signing. “We can count on her in all situations. After missing her for the second half of last season, the Whale are very excited to have Jordan back in Season 6.”
This past season she only appeared in ten games and had seven points (1g-6a). She participated in the first NWHL All-Star weekend in Buffalo, as well as the second one in Pittsburgh (2017). She’ll start the season ninth in league history in games played (70), fourth on the Whale’s all-time points list (26), second on the franchise’s games played list, and third in assists (23).
“The Whale roster is full of amazing new skill and talent, so I’m really looking forward to being back on the ice with my team and to the competitive season ahead,” said Brickner Gragnano. “Last season, we made a lot of progress right until the end. The Whale will continue to grow as a team and work towards our first Isobel Cup.”
After signing Brickner Gragnano, the Whale now have 21 players signed for the upcoming season. She joins forwards Emma Vlasic, Janine Weber, Kaycie Anderson, Amanda Conway, Melissa Samoskevich, Nicole Guagliardo, Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Kayla Friesen, Katelynn Russ, Grace Klienbach, and Sarah Schwenzfeier, defenders Shannon Doyle, Elena Orlando, Taylor Marchin, Hanna Beattie, Tori Howran, Laurel Hill, and Maggie LaGue, and goaltenders Brooke Wolejko and Abbie Ives.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.