The Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) has its first-ever draft pick, with Taylor Heise going to Minnesota with the first overall pick.
Draft order was determined via lottery, with the Minnesota franchise receiving the first pick. The full first-round selections were as follows:
A total of 268 players are eligible and have declared for the draft, with many believing that NCAA standout Heise would be the first overall pick. A Minnesota native who played for the Golden Gophers and was co-captain her senior year, it seems almost scripted for her to begin her professional career at home under the leadership of Minnesota legend and PWHL general manager Natalie Darwitz, who was her coach at Minnesota.
“I’ve played in front of my Minnesota fans here for gosh, 15 years,” Heise told MPR News of the possibility of being drafted first overall to Minnesota. “Minnesota has the best fans in the nation. It’s the state of hockey for a reason. So it would mean a lot.”
And while Darwitz wouldn’t name names, she told the Associated Press that she already had a good idea of who she was going to select with the No. 1 overall pick.
Heise is the winner of the 2022 Patty Kazmaier Award, which goes to the top player in women’s college hockey. She also stars for Team USA, helping them to gold at women’s world championships in April.
“Minnesota is my home. Everyone that I love is there and it’s the state of hockey,” Heise said on the broadcast. “I’m just really honored I am going to be able to play and be able to show the little girls that anything is possible if you keep working hard.”
While players aren’t automatically signed to teams as a result of the draft, Heise’s signing is all but a given. Teams will retain the rights of drafted players for two years. Players can then re-enter the draft, but they are only allowed to do so once.
“Trailblazing is bold. It’s brave, and it can be very scary,” PWHL co-founder Billie Jean King said Monday before announcing Heise as the first PWHL pick. “It’s not about a single moment. It’s about a movement. Finally giving women professional hockey players the structure, the support and the platform they deserve. That hockey deserves.”
As the draft continues, Just Women’s Sports takes a look at who’s already signed with teams during the free agency period.
Heise rounds out what was a stout free agency period for Minnesota and Darwitz, which featured two of the team’s three signings hailing from the state. Kendall Coyne Schofield was the lone outsider, and even then she’s from Illinois. The USA Hockey star was joined by Kelly Pannek and Lee Stecklein, who both also captained the University of Minnesota.
Having the final pick of the first round in the draft meant that Montreal and general manager Danielle Savageau needed to make a splash elsewhere, and they did. They signed Marie-Philip Poulin, arguably the top player in the women’s game and captain of Team Canada. She’ll be joined by Laura Stacey, whose versatility is overshadowed by Team Canada’s star power. In net, the team will have Ann-Renée Desbiens, automatically making them a contender in this league.
Boston and general manager Danielle Marmer have the most balanced signings of any team, starting hot with Team USA captain and reigning world champion Hilary Knight at forward. Megan Keller, a three-time Patty Kazmaier Award finalist at Boston College, backs her up on defense, while Northeastern star, 2021 Patty Kazmaier Award winner and world champion Aerin Frankel will star in net for the Boston team. There’s a lot riding on this team, as Boston were three-time champions and two-time reigning champions in the PHF.
Pascal Daoust brought the present and future to New York with his signings, bringing in young star Abby Roque while adding decorated veteran Alex Carpenter to help guide Roque. Carpenter has a wealth of professional experience, and had nine points at the world championships this year en route to winning a gold medal with Team USA. Team Canada defender Mica Zandee-Hart is the heart of the defense, and the lone player to not sign with a team in her home country as a native of British Columbia.
Gina Kingsbury started her tenure as general manager by signing a pair of star forwards in Sarah Nurse and Blayre Turnbull. She also added Renata Fast, one of just four defenders signed in the initial free agency period.
Three Team Canada veterans joined general manager Michael Hirshfeld’s squad in free agency: forwards Emily Clark and Brianne Jenner and goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer.