Over the past week in the NWHL we saw 5 players signed for Season 7, as well as two trades that involved only draft picks and the announcement of a new GM. With the 2021 NWHL Draft on the horizon (June 29) the six teams are trying to navigate their scouting and drafting options while also signing experienced players to their rosters.
The Boston Pride and the Minnesota Whitecaps are believed to have already made signings, but they just haven’t released any names yet. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Beauts currently lead the way with eleven players already signed for the upcoming season. The Connecticut Whale have signed six players, while the Toronto Six have signed five so far and the Metropolitan Riveters have signed one.
Also of note, on June 22 the Whale announced Alexis Moed as their new GM and fourth in franchise history. She is the president and founder of the Islanders Girls Elite hockey program (established in 2016) and played four seasons at Boston College. Assistant coach Laura Brennan, who had been serving as interim GM during the search after Amy Scheer’s departure, has been named assistant GM in addition to her role on the bench.
We Have a Trade to Announce
On June 16 we witnessed not one, but two trades! This is extremely rare in the NWHL, as they were only the ninth and tenth trades in the six-plus-year history of the league (credit to Mike Murphy for that nugget!). The Beauts flipped the first overall pick to the Whale in exchange for the second overall pick as well as Connecticut’s 3rd round pick (14th overall). Buffalo then made another swap, acquiring Boston’s 2021 3rd round pick (15th overall) in exchange for the Beauts’ 2022 2nd round pick.
Buffalo now has a league-high seven draft picks in the 2021 NWHL Draft, and they may be aiming to add multiple players that can jump into their lineup for the upcoming season. Toronto has six selections, followed by Minnesota’s five. Connecticut and the Riveters have four each, and Boston has two. Connecticut is now on the clock and this is the first time that the Whale has the first overall pick.
Updated 2021 NWHL Draft Order (June 29)
Previous NWHL 1st overall picks:
2020: Boston Pride – Sammy Davis (Boston University)
2018: Metropolitan Riveters – Annie Pankowski (University of Wisconsin)
2017: Boston Pride – Katie Burt (Boston College)
2016: New York Riveters – Kelsey Koelzer (Princeton University)
2015: New York Riveters – Alex Carpenter (Boston College)
The MVP is Back in the Six
The Toronto Six announced on June 16 that they have re-signed Mikyla Grant-Mentis, ensuring that the league’s reigning MVP will suit up for a second season in her home province. Grant-Mentis put up nine points (5g-4a) in six games at Lake Placid and added two points (1g-1a) in Toronto’s semifinal loss to Boston. Following the season not only did she win MVP, but she also took home the award for Newcomer of the Year, one of the NWHL Foundation Awards, and was voted as one of the Fan’s 3-Stars of the Year.
“It was important for me to re-sign because first, we didn’t win the Cup – which is something we want to do next year, and we never really played in my hometown yet, and that’s really what I wanted to do. So I had to make sure I can do that for next year,” said Grant-Mentis in the press release announcing the signing.
In 8 career regular-season games (Buffalo, Toronto) in the NWHL Grant-Mentis has 12 points (7g-5a) and has four points (2g-2a) in two playoff games. She joined the Beauts at the end of the 2019-20 season and earned Player of the Week after her first weekend as a pro.
Grant-Mentis rejoins forward Shiann Darkangelo, goaltender Elaine Chuli, and defenders Emma Greco and Taylor Woods on Toronto’s roster for Season 7.
Beauts Bolster Roster with Three More Signings
On June 15 the Beauts announced that they had signed forward Amy Budde, two days later announced the re-signing of defender Lisa Chesson, and on June 22 they announced the re-signing of defender Dominique Kremer. Budde played the last two seasons in the SDHL following four years at Lake Forest University. Chesson rejoins the Beauts for her fifth season and is currently the lone remaining player left with the franchise from their 2017 Isobel Cup championship. Kremer was an NWHL rookie last season.
“I chose to sign with the Beauts because of the wonderful culture, as well as the dedicated and driven character that they have. Sensing that from the entire organization is what drew me to the team. I want to win, and I believe that Buffalo is the team to do that with,” said Budde in the press release announcing her signing.
In 72 regular-season games in Sweden, she registered 23 points (9g-14a) and the hope is that she will provide the Beauts with some secondary scoring. Buffalo has identified their offensive flaws from the season in Lake Placid and has already begun to address them this off-season.
“I’m excited to be part of what is turning out to be a highly skilled and talented team. I want to help the Beauts bring the Isobel Cup back to Buffalo,” added Budde.
In 40 career NWHL regular-season games Chesson has 18 points (3g-15a) and has one assist in five playoff games. This past season she had the game-winning goal in Buffalo’s lone victory. Chesson has an Olympic silver medal (2010) and three medals (two gold, one silver) from the World Championships. She also was a part of the league’s All-Star Weekend in 2018 and 2019.
“We have so much potential,” Chesson said in the press release announcing her signing. “I think this year we need to focus on creating more offense. We have an amazing core group, starting in goal with CJ (Carly Jackson). If we can continue to build from the net out, we will be in great shape to win the Isobel Cup this year.”
Kremer played in six games as an NWHL rookie last season with the Beauts and her 16 blocked shots were second on the team. She played previously in the SDHL and was a draft pick of the Whale in 2018. On three separate occasions against the Pride in Lake Placid, including Buffalo’s lone win, Kremer sacrificed her body and blocked four shots in a game.
“I have been training very hard this off-season, both on and off the ice,” Kremer said in the press release announcing her signing. “I feel physically and mentally stronger than I ever have before. I am hoping this will propel me to have a great season where I can be a real go-to player for my team. I have high expectations to make this my best season yet.”
Chesson, Kremer, and Budde join forwards Cassidy Vinkle, Erin Gehen, Cassidy MacPherson, and Autumn MacDougall, defenders Marie-Jo Pelletier and Emma Keenan, and goaltenders Caty Flagg and Jackson as players signed for the Beauts in advance of Season 7.
Pack Is Back
On June 22 the Riveters announced that the franchise’s all-time leader in multiple categories, Madison Packer, would be returning for her seventh season with the team and league. Packer, who briefly retired following the league’s second season, won the Isobel Cup in 2018 and has been voted to the NWHL All-Star Game four times.
She will enter her third season as captain of the Rivs and is the franchise leader in games played (87), points (85), goals (42), assists (43), PiM (137), and shots on goal (284). Packer, who turns 30-years-old at the end of this week, also holds the single-season Riveters record for points (34), assists (21), and penalty minutes (48). Her 13 career power-play goals are the most in league history.
On June 18 the Rivs revealed their new logo, the third makeover that Rosie has gotten in seven years. Steel Rosie is “nonracial and inclusive for all our players and fans.” Now that the new brand/logo has been revealed we can expect more signing announcements from the team.
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.