2021 NWHL Draft Preview: Unpredictable draft projected

NWHL
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Last season’s Twitter draft feels like a lifetime ago, but the 2021 NWHL Draft is Tuesday night, and so much has happened since then. There’s a new Isobel Cup champion in Boston, the league went through a bubble in Lake Placid then shut it down then restarted, and there’s new management seemingly everywhere.

Since last season, Toronto has entirely restructured with a new general manager, Kristi Clarke, Connecticut has a new GM in Alexis Moed, and the Riveters named Anya Packer their new GM.

It’s a weird draft year. Until a couple of weeks ago, nobody really knew who was even eligible or interested. So many players are returning for their fifth years, it feels like an impossible task to even predict who might take who.

There’s somewhat of a clearer idea now, but until Connecticut makes its first pick later tonight, we really don’t know for sure. How fun!

NWHL Draft Order of Selection

Round 1: Connecticut (from BUF), Buffalo (from CTW), Toronto (from BOS), Toronto, Toronto (from MET), Minnesota

Round 2: Buffalo, Connecticut, Toronto (from BOS), Toronto, Metropolitan, Minnesota

Round 3: Buffalo, Buffalo (from CTW), Buffalo (from BOS), Toronto, Metropolitan, Minnesota

Round 4: Buffalo, Connecticut, Boston, Toronto, Metropolitan, Minnesota

Round 5: Buffalo, Connecticut, Boston, Toronto, Metropolitan, Minnesota

Boston Pride

If you want any indication of how much stock the Pride are putting in this draft, they traded all picks away but their fourth and fifth.

The Pride aren’t going to lose much, but they might look to replace Lexie Laing, who isn’t returning as one of their top forwards.

They always like local players, so perhaps Northeastern’s Veronika Pettey could get a look if she drops into the lower rounds. UMass Boston defender Bri Colucci was at Beauts free agent camp earlier this month, but the Pride didn’t have a camp. If they want a lower-level defender, she would be that hometown pick.

Buffalo Beauts

Going into the offseason, the Beauts needed defense, but now need to deal with the retirements of forwards Jordan Juron and Emma Ruggiero. They have seven picks so there’s room to experiment, and GM Nate Oliver has been on top of things.

They traded the top pick, which, in a year where there’s not really any standouts, makes sense for the value. The Beauts have gone for Adrian players before, and forward Brooke Schembri should be available.

Mercyhurst defender Claire Werysnki was at their free agent camp earlier this month. So was former Ohio State forward Kate Maroney.

Connecticut Whale

The Whale are looking like more than bottom dwellers since they sold to new ownership. Kennedy Marchmant is one of the best acquisitions in the entire league all offseason. The big question for them is how to replace Shannon Doyle on defense and, well, in this draft they’re not going to.

New Hampshire forward Grace Middleton has been a solid depth player who has the tools to make the leap as a responsible middle-of-the-lineup forward the Whale could take a look at. They also like Quinnipiac players, so perhaps Taylor Girard gets a chance.

Norwich defender Samantha Benoit was at Whale camp in the past month, so she’s a clear draft target.

Metropolitan Riveters

It feels like the Rivs could lose Rebecca Morse and they already lost Saroya Tinker, so look for defense. Sacred Heart University defender Jordan Sanislo was at free agent camp and could be a target.

Forward Ellie Sasaki of New Hampshire could be a nice depth addition with their second round pick. Syracuse forward Emma Polaski should also get a look. She attended Whale free agent camp.

Minnesota Whitecaps

The Whitecaps haven’t announced any signings yet this offseason so it’s tough to have a read on what they might do. Taylor Wente with the Minnesota Golden Gophers should be a target if the Whitecaps believe she would make the jump to the NWHL and not the PWHPA.

Defender Mak Langei of Bemidji State is a Minnesota native who should get a look.

Toronto Six

The Six have had a nice little offseason for themselves as far as adding on-ice talent, and the Tinker addition is going to be huge for their defense.

The Six are going to have the fast track on any Canadian players. That’s already proven true in free agency with Tinker. University of Alberta forward Kennedy Ganser is a proven scorer who could help replace some bottom of the lineup forwards who likely won’t return. Hamilton native MacKenzie Lombardi with Morrisville projects similarly.

The 2021 NWHL Draft takes place on Tuesday, June 29 beginning at 7 p.m. ET via Twitch online at twitch.tv/NWHL 

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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