Over the past seven days in the NWHL there were seven more signings and six more players were drafted to the league. As of press time, there are 49 players currently signed for Season 7. Among this past week’s signees were a goaltender, one player changing teams, and one draft pick from the 2021 NWHL Draft. The most active team was the Metropolitan Riveters who re-signed three players from last season’s edition.
NWHL Goes Global
The NWHL held its first-ever International Draft on July 25, where each of the six teams had one selection from a pool of players outside of North America. The order of selection was the same order that was set from the 2021 NWHL Draft. Five forwards and one goaltender were selected from five different countries.
Buffalo kicked off the day by selecting goaltender Lovisa Berndtsson (from Sweden, more on her later). Connecticut was next and took forward Tsubasa Sato (Japan). The defending Isobel Cup champion Boston Pride selected forward Evelina Raselli (Switzerland) with the third overall pick. With the fourth overall pick, the Six took forward Reka Dabasi (Hungary). Forward Romana Košecká (Slovakia) was the Riveters’ choice with the fifth overall pick. To close out the draft the Minnesota Whitecaps took forward Fanni Gasparics (Hungary) with the sixth and final selection.
Lisa Hadley, who is the NWHL’s Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations, is in charge of the Hungarian National Team so the two Hungarians selected obviously weren’t pulled out of thin air. But, curiously, Gasparics was selected even though she already re-signed with her EWHL team (MAC Budapest) in June.
Košecká was at Free Agent Camps with the Beauts, Whale, and Riveters and the Rivs obviously saw someone who they were impressed with. Raselli won a bronze medal with Switzerland back in 2014 and has been a champion in the SWHL four times.
Pucky and Hutch
On July 26 the Connecticut Whale announced that they had signed forward Cailey Hutchison who spent her first two seasons in the NWHL with the Metropolitan Riveters. Over 27 regular-season games, Hutchison has posted 12 points (4g-8a) while serving as an alternate captain. Originally a 2018 draft pick (21st overall) of the Rivs, the 24-year-old was named a 2020 NWHL All-Star and has played in one playoff game.
“I’m beyond excited to start the next chapter of my career with this great organization. I really believe in the culture and direction that the ownership, management, and coaching staff have set forth,” said Hutchison in the press release announcing her signing. “I’m looking forward to getting on the ice with our team and making something special happen this season!”
During the last full NWHL season (2019-20), Hutchison won the fifth-most face-offs (249, 51.3%) in the league as a rookie and played in all special teams’ situations for the Riveters.
“Cailey brings experience to her first season with the Whale. She is a hard-working forward with speed and a tremendous work ethic. She will contribute great support to our club both on and off the ice, and we are all very excited to have her with the Whale,” said GM Alexis Moed.
Hutchison is the 11th player under contract with the Whale for the upcoming season. She joins forwards Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Kennedy Marchment, Emma Vlasic, Emma Polaski, and Taylor Girard, defenders Allie Munroe, Hanna Beattie, and Tori Howran, and goaltenders Abbie Ives and Mariah Fujimagari.
Eastwood at Home in the Six
On July 21 the Toronto Six announced they have re-signed defender Lindsay Eastwood, who returns for her second season in the league. Last season (in their second game) she scored the franchise’s first-ever goal and finished with six points (1g-5a) in six regular-season games. Eastwood’s six points were good enough for second on the team behind Mikyla Grant-Mentis.
“I had a ton of fun last year, we had such a good group and we have some unfinished business. I think first and foremost, we were on a hot run there in Lake Placid and then I think if the situation was different, we would have had a different outcome on the season,” said Eastwood in the press release announcing her signing. “I love the team, it was one of the most fun seasons I’ve had in a long time. The city of Toronto is a fun city. Hopefully, now it’ll open back up, we’ll be able to live a little more normal and hopefully have a regular season as well. So I’m really looking forward to starting fresh and seeing what it’s all about this year.”
Eastwood is the tenth player signed by the Six for the upcoming season. She joins forwards Shiann Darkangelo, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, Emma Woods, Maegan Beres, and Leah Marino, defenders Emma Greco, Taylor Woods, and Saroya Tinker, and goaltender Elaine Chuli.
Rivs Re-Sign Trio
On July 22 the Metropolitan Riveters announced that they had re-signed defender Allie Olnowich and forward Theresa Knutson for their second seasons with the team/league, and forward Mallory Rushton for her third season with the team/league.
Both Knutson (one goal) and Olnowich appeared in all three games with the Riveters in Lake Placid, while Rushton carries 27 games (2g-12a) of NWHL experience with her into Season 7.
With the trio re-signed the Riveters now have seven players signed for the upcoming season. They join forwards Madison Packer and Emily Janiga, defender Leila Kilduff, and goaltender Sonjia Shelly.
Beauts Ink Draft Picks Segall, Berndtsson
On July 22 the Buffalo Beauts announced that they had signed the third of their three 3rd round picks from the 2021 NWHL Draft, forward Missy Segall from Hamilton College. Segall, the 15th overall pick, appeared in 76 games over three seasons and finished her collegiate career with 51 points (25g-26a).
On July 26, the day after the NWHL International Draft, the Beauts announced that they had signed goaltender Lovisa Berndtsson. The 32-year-old has played 14 pro seasons in Sweden, highlighted by an SDHL championship in 2017. This has been a deal that was in the works for some time and was slowed down by the creation of the International Draft.
“It’s such an honor to be the first player to represent Hamilton in the NWHL Draft,” said Segall in the press release announcing her signing. “In the past couple of years, the program has been gaining a lot of visibility and is only on its way up. I hope that the Beauts drafting me only encourages more good players to play at Hamilton College because it’s such a special program.”
Hamilton College also produced another name that NWHL fans are familiar with – goaltender Sam Walther. Segall is the fourth player from the Beauts’ 2021 Draft Class to sign a contract for Season 7 of the NWHL. Because of the pandemic, she was unable to play any games last season.
“She is a proven champion in one of the finest hockey leagues in the world, and she has found a lot of success in her career all because of her hard work and determination,” said GM Nate Oliver of Berndtsson. “She is the epitome of an athlete who does not have an ounce of quit.”
The Swedish netminder is definitely excited to start her NWHL career in Buffalo – as evidenced by her showing off a new Beauts-themed mask in a post-draft interview with host Katie Gaus. “It means a lot to me and I’m very happy that the Beauts have given me this opportunity,” Berndtsson said in the press release announcing the signing. “After many years in Sweden, it will be a great experience to play in North America. I feel extremely honored to represent the Buffalo Beauts this coming season and can’t wait to get the season started!”
Berndtsson will join Carly Jackson and Caty Flagg as the Beauts’ goaltending trio for Season 7, and has been on Oliver’s radar for some time.
“After having my senior season canceled because of coronavirus, I’m excited to be playing hockey games again,” added Segall. “While practices are fun, there’s nothing like playing an actual game. This past year I missed all aspects of the game day; from bus rides to the drop of the puck, to postgame cooldowns. I’m just excited to be playing hockey games again and to do so in Buffalo.”
With the signing of Segall and Berndtsson, the Beauts are up to 20 players under contract for Season 7. She joins forwards Taylor Accursi, Amy Budde, Autumn MacDougall, Kennedy Ganser, Cassidy MacPherson, Erin Gehen, Emilie Harley, Anjelica Diffendal, Brittany Colton, Taylor Wasylk, and Cassidy Vinkle, defenders Marie-Jo Pelletier, Lisa Chesson, Dominique Kremer, Samantha Fieseler, and Emma Keenan, and goalies Carly Jackson and Caty Flagg.
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.