Canadian Goalies Dominate Inaugural NWHL Draft
In the inaugural National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) draft held on Saturday, three Canadian goaltenders playing in the NCAA were drafted by the four new teams. The NWHL will begin operations this coming fall with an eighteen-game schedule and will be the only professional women’s league in North America where players are paid to play.
Top prospect Emerance Maschmeyer went in the second round (7th overall) to the Boston Pride.
— NWHL (@NWHL_) June 20, 2015
A rising senior at Harvard University, Maschmeyer has been considered a top goaltender in women’s college hockey since her freshman season. In 2013-14, she won ECAC’s Goaltender of the Year award and was a finalist for that and for Patty Kazmaier Award for the 2014-15 season, in which she posted a .943 save percentage and 1.48 GAA in 26 games.
Amanda Leveille of the University of Minnesota was chosen by the Buffalo Beauts in the third round (12th overall).
The Minnesota Golden Gophers is the team that developed Noora Raty, so Leveille has had some very big shoes to fill, which she has done admirably. In her three seasons with Minnesota, she has played 82 games with an impressive .949 save percentage and a 1.13 goals-against average.
The final goalie selected was Kim Newell of Princeton University. Taken 17th overall, by the New York Riveters, Newell has 83 games at Princeton with a .916 save percentage and 2.64 GAA.
— NWHL (@NWHL_) June 20, 2015
All three goaltenders have some time with Hockey Canada. Maschmeyer in particular has been tabbed to make the women’s team in upcoming tournaments. She was on the roster for the IIHF Womens World Championship this past May but did not play any games.
It is notable that no American netminders were drafted, given that the new league is seen by some as an “American” league that could help further USA Hockey’s efforts to develop and train players between Olympic years, while the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) performs a similar function for Team Canada.
The players drafted on Saturday will not play in the NWHL’s opening season beginning in October. They are expected to play out their NCAA eligibility before signing with the NWHL. Drafting teams get one year to sign their players before they can become free agents eligible to sign with any NWHL team if their college careers are over.
Thus for the upcoming season, free agency will be a bigger tell, not only about the competitiveness of the teams individually, but about the viability of the league as a whole. Should prominent players jump from the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to the new league, it could change the landscape of professional women’s hockey in North America.
There are signs that the free agency process is well underway for the NWHL, although very little has been made public. For instance, the Connecticut Whale did not take a goalie in this year’s draft. Whale GM Chris Ardito said in a question and answer session on Periscope: “I think we’re going to be fairly strong in net,” indicating that this position has already been or will be addressed with free agents. Training camps for free agents were held in May.
More will be known as the summer progresses. NWHL free agency ends on August 17 and the CWHL draft, which features graduating college seniors available to play immediately, will be held on August 23.