For the first time ever, a female has been drafted in the OHL Priority Selection, a big moment in the history of the league and a massive accomplishment for Taya Currie. The Sarnia Sting took Currie in the 14th round (267th overall) in the OHL Priority Selection Saturday after she spent the 2020-21 season playing for the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs, a program with a rich history of graduating players to the OHL.
Currie now has her name among players like Boone Jenner, Bo Horvat, Travis Konecny, Lawson Crouse, and Shane Bulitka as Chiefs graduates to be drafted to the OHL. Unlike those before her, she is blazing a new trail for women and girls in hockey.
This Is Not a Publicity Stunt
Currie being drafted couldn’t be further from a publicity stunt for the Sting. A publicity stunt would imply that she doesn’t deserve to be in the league and hasn’t done enough to be picked, but by all accounts, that doesn’t ring true of the young netminder. Although she comes in at five-foot-seven and 134 pounds, both smaller and lighter than the typical draft pick, she has what it takes to play at a high level.
“Taya Currie is a very athletic goaltender,” said Darrell Woodley, the OHL’s director of central scouting. “[She’s] not the biggest goalie in the world at 5’7 and 140 pounds, but she makes up for it in her athleticism and her quickness. She does a great job of taking away the bottom of the net with her butterfly style.”
“She is known to be a good rugby player, a soccer player, and the one that I found very interesting was a barrel racer,” said Woodley. “Those things just prove how athletic she is. She challenges well, she moves well in her net. She has been playing with the boys in ‘AAA’ since Minor Atom (U10), so she has been there for seven years so she is well-accustomed to the speed of the game and she has no trouble keeping up. She is one of the best goalies I have seen this year in the Alliance.”
Time to view players has been limited thanks to COVID-19, and for the average person looking to find tape or even stats on many of the OHL draft-eligible players this year, it’s borderline impossible. Very little has been made available, putting all the more importance on draft interviews.
“I would describe myself as an athletic, flexible, and quick goalie,” said Currie. “I’m a very competitive person and coachable taking what I learn in practices into the game. I want to be known as the goalie that everyone hates to play against but loves to have on the team.”
“I would say my strongest skill would be my determination to make the extra save, I think that’s very important as a goalie with my quick reflexes and speed side to side,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that I model my game after anyone in particular, I have my own unique style, but Shannon Szabados is a well-rounded and versatile goalie.”
“Taya has a very bright future in the game of hockey,” said Woodley. “She’s been competitive all the way up and won numerous championships with the teams that she has played on. Moving forward in her hockey career, I’m sure she’s opening a lot of eyes with the way she has played this year and in the past couple of years.”
Her journey to the OHL is now underway, and she is one of the most interesting storylines heading into training camps when they eventually do happen. The road to playing games in the league won’t be an easy one, but with everything being said about her determination and desire, it’s a challenge she will likely be ready to take on.
The Sting’s Situation in the Crease
What stands between her and a chance in the OHL are the players the Sting are already working with and those that hope to find a way onto the team both in the immediate and long-term future. For the time being, the Sting are set with Benjamin Gaudreau, one of the top goaltending prospects in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
There is little to no chance that Gaudreau would step directly into the NHL come next season, and it is virtually certain that he would remain the Sting’s starting goalie for 2021-22. With their starting position essentially written in stone, the team can start looking at their second goaltender, something that is a little less clear. The second half of their 2019-20 goaltending tandem could also be back next season, as Ethan Langevin can come back as an over-age player should the Sting wish to have him back. Other options for the Sting include Dylan Grover, who they took in the eighth round out of the Kitchener Jr. Rangers in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection.
In the 15th round in this weekend’s draft, the Sting also selected Antonio Rizzo out of the Mississauga Rebels, just one round after Currie was picked. Sting Goaltending Instructor, Franky Palazzese, is excited with the depth that they added with the draft (from Sting Welcome 16 New Faces to Sting Nation Following 2021 OHL Priority Selection, sarniasting.com, June 7, 2021), and there won’t be any shortage of talent between the pipes when the Sting break camp.
Sarnia also drafted Anson Thornton in the 2020 U18 Draft last year. Thornton played for the Toronto Titans and is still eligible to play in the OHL. Alternatively, the Sting could look for outside help if they feel that they don’t have someone capable of backing up Gaudreau for the upcoming season. They can look to players who may have played in either the WHL or QMJHL but no longer have that spot, much like the Ottawa 67’s did in 2013-14.
There will be plenty of competition in the Sting camp this fall, and if Currie is there, her path to making the team will be very difficult. Many goalies don’t see playing time in the season immediately following their draft year, especially ones picked as late in the draft as Currie was, but none of that means that she won’t crack the roster eventually
The section by the Sting doesn’t guarantee that Currie will ever play a game in the OHL, but she has plenty of options when it comes to finding a place to continue her hockey career. Of course, the option to play in the OHL is open, but it wouldn’t be easy. The other thing to consider is that playing in the OHL would void her NCAA eligibility, something that could be counterintuitive for her.
With everything that has been said about Currie, it is virtually certain that she would receive some kind of scholarship somewhere in the NCAA. Heading to the United States would provide Currie with the chance to both get an education and play at a high level, although that would likely see her make the switch over to the girl’s game. This could also see her join the Hockey Canada program of excellence in preparation for competing internationally, something she has expressed interest in doing.
“I think Taya’s play this season has certainly put her on the OHL draft radar as well as opened many opportunities for her to continue playing after this,” said Rob Stewart, the Assistant General Manager of the Barrie Colts. “One of those might be the Provincial Women’s Hockey League that has produced a lot of Canada’s national team’s talent including names like Sarah Nurse and Natalie Spooner. For Taya, the future will be exciting and we’re hoping she continues to play whether that’s in the OHL or somewhere else. I think she definitely has some post-secondary hockey in her future.”
This would be something very similar to the route taken by many other women and girls looking to make a name for themselves and become Olympians with Team Canada. It has proven to be a viable option for girls in the sport, and Currie can certainly take it should she choose to do so. She has something that others haven’t, however. Options.
Currie’s play has opened many doors for her. She has made history and is on the radar of the average hockey fan after the OHL Priority Selection. What she does from here will be one of the most interesting stories to follow in the hockey world, and we might be seeing a glimpse of a future olympian and gold medalist with the Canadian Women’s program.