Princeton’s Kelsey Koelzer had the honor of being the first overall pick for the New York Riveters in yesterday’s 2016 NWHL Draft. Koelzer was a slam dunk pick for the Rivs, hailing from Horsham, PA, a two-hour drive from New York City. With the league still in its infancy, the financial and residential support of nearby family is often essential in determining who goes where.
Still, Koelzer was a solid number one pick in her own right, leading the Princeton Tigers to their first NCAA appearance in a decade last season. Tall dynamic defenders are rare in hockey and Koelzer embodies both coming in at 5-9 and tying for the team lead in goals last season for the Tigers.
The Riveters definitely had an eye on improving their blueline, selecting Wisconsin’s Jenny Ryan with the 9th overall pick. Koelzer and Ryan will be welcome additions to a team that often saw it’s goaltenders play out of their minds out of sheer necessity.
The Beauts went defense-first as well, taking Minnesota’s Lee Stecklein with the second overall pick. Stecklein was arguably Minnesota’s best player in the 2016 NCAA championship game, all but shutting down the high-scoring Boston College Eagles. If the 6-0 Stecklein signs next season and the Beauts bring some of their key players back, they’ll be a team of monsters. Last year saw 5-11 Paige Harrington and 5-10 Tatiana Rafter hit the ice. The Beauts have also signed 5-10 Emily Janiga out of Mercyhurst and are no-doubt working on a contract for 6-1 Jenna Dingeldein, also from Mercyhurst from the 2015 draft.
We’ve seen the Beauts go hard after hometown players with Getzville native Emily Pfalzer signing last season and the East Aurora native Janiga and this year’s draft was no different. The Beauts selected Williamsville’s Hayley Scamurra from Northeastern and Lewiston’s Maddie Elia from Boston University. Both Lewiston and Williamsville are 35 minutes or less from Buffalo on a good day.
The Whale drafted almost a full lineup, selecting all three forward positions, a defender, and a goalie. With a disorganized front office and abysmal coaching, it’s tough to tell if this is a calculated move or more lack of planning out of Connecticut. It’ll be interesting to see how elite NCAA talents Dani Cameranesi and Andie Anastos adapt to the pro game.
Boston, as the defending champions, had the fewest holes to fill and this seemed to allow them take some chances in the draft. The Pride didn’t take a single USA-born player selecting Ann Renee Desbiens of Quebec, Sarah Nurse of Ontario, Ashleigh Brykaliuk and Halli Krzyzaniak of Manitoba, and Lara Stalder of Switzerland. I don’t know if the Pride have assurances of inking any of them in a year, but it’s a development to watch heading forward.