We all need more #content, right? So, how about I take you through a few of the losers, and many more winners, of the 2020 NWHL Draft festivities?
WINNER: Offense and Fun
If the style of players selected this week are any indication, it’s about to get a lot more fun in the NWHL. The best offensive defender in both Division I and Division III hockey were both selected (Bridgette Prentiss of Franklin Pierce and Kelly O’Sullivan of Adrian College respectively). Many of the forwards chosen are small, speedy, skilled, and offensively biased. It’s as if the league saw the overpowered Pride attack this year and decided their best plan of action was to try their best to outscore them. Regardless, it should be fun.
Loser: Traditional Media
If the NWHL Draft proved anything, it’s how powerful social media can be as a platform. Despite the dearth of sports being broadcast at the moment, there wasn’t a single national platform in the United States or Canada which picked up the draft coverage and discussed it on-air. I mean, John Buccigross is one of ESPN’s most visible hockey personalities, but they had no time for a draft where he introduced the #1 Pick? NBC’s voice of Women’s Hockey in the Olympics, Kenny Albert, announced Tereza Vanisova’s selection, but the draft didn’t even crack the chyron at the bottom of the screen on any of their networks. Rogers Sportsnet in Canada came the closest by having not one but two members participate – Chris Johnston tweeted out the selection of Sammy Davis, then didn’t interact again, and Steve Dangle announced Buffalo’s 3rd Round Pick (Autumn MacDougall). But again, no live coverage, no on-air conversation about the draft picks or the massive trade. I didn’t hear a PEEP out of TSN. It’s sad that a week after the WNBA Draft pulled it’s biggest numbers on ESPN BECAUSE THEY BROADCAST IT ON THEIR MAIN CHANNEL AND MADE IT A CENTRAL PIECE OF PROGRAMMING not a single national media outlet even came close to providing the coverage it deserved.
Winner: Women’s Hockey Media
The good news that came out of the lack of national coverage was how brightly the dedicated few in the hockey media were allowed to shine. The Ice Garden held a live draft show (dubbed “The Draft Garden”) on both nights and provided hilarious and insightful analysis. Stats Man Mike Murphy (TM pending) was flying in and out with tidbits of insight. You had Nayan Patel’s brilliant data visualizations that I used in my draft analysis. Marisa Ingemi was breaking news left and right. Melissa Burgess was analyzing picks in real time. (admitted self-love) Pride Diehards came in strong in our second big NWHL event after the All-Star Game. It should say a lot that the people that fans turned to for news and analysis were often little-to-no pay bloggers and analysts and a currently (and befuddlingly) unemployed sportswriter. I hope every member of the Women’s Hockey media is proud after this week. We did good work.
Loser: Defense North of the Border
Toronto may have pulled off the steal of the draft, snagging Robert Morris’ Jaycee Gebhard at 6th Overall after trading down with the Pride and pulling a 1st and a 2nd rounder for next year out of the deal. But all four of their draftees are forwards, and reports have begun to surface that Gebhard has signed a contract in Sweden for the 2020-21 season. They currently only have a single goaltender and two defenders signed to their roster (Elaine Chuli between the pipes, and Emma Greco and Kristen Barbara patrolling the blueline). There are not a ton of high end defenders on the market right now with NWHL experience. Digit Murphy still has to hire both a general manager and a coach, but this may indicate an organizational philosophy. It’s certainly an interesting dynamic to follow.
Winner: Non-Traditional Development
There were three players selected out of Division III hockey and two out of U-Sports in Canada. That’s an entire round’s worth of selections. Amanda Conway (Norwich, Connecticut) shredded record books and is the third most productive DIII player of all time. Kelly O’Sullivan (Adrian, Buffalo) is one of the most productive offensive defenders of all time in DIII hockey. Teammate Nicole Guagliardo (Connecticut) played for three separate schools in four years, spending two years at Mercyhurst and one at Lindenwood before finishing her career at Adrian. Autumn MacDougall (Alberta, Buffalo) has been one of the most productive skaters in U-Sports for the past few years. Erin Locke (Toronto) has been a crucial part of a York Lions program that has seen increased success for the past few years. In addition, two players were drafted out of the youngest Division I conference, the NEWHA in Franklin Pierce’s Bridgette Prentiss (Metropolitan) and Sacred Heart’s Maddie Bishop (Connecticut), and three out of the CHA, Robert Morris’ Jaycee Gebhard and Nicole Marcuzzi (Toronto) and RIT’s Logan Land (Buffalo). It went a long way in showing that there is not simply one path to professional hockey for young women. I’ve long maintained that there is not a massive difference between the top end of U-Sports and Division III and the rest of Division I hockey – merely location and school preferences between players, and visibility (or lack thereof). It was great to see it play out in real time.
Sleep is optional this week, right?
Winner: New Hampshire?
Think about the pillars of women’s college hockey. Now tell me who had the most players drafted this week. Yes, it was Hockey East. No, it wasn’t BU, BC, or Northeastern. It wasn’t Clarkson (ECAC) or Minnesota or Wisconsin (WCHA). It was the University of New Hampshire, which now has a half-dozen alum in the league. The Pride took two of the team’s highest scorers in Taylor Wenczkowski (3rd Round, 18th Overall) and Meghara McManus (5th Round, 29th Overall), and the Connecticut Whale made defender Tori Howran (2nd Round, 7th Overall) the highest drafted Wildcat in league history. The team is coming off of their first semi-final appearance in a decade and their first winning season since Hilary Witt took the reins, and hopefully this is a sign that they are on the upswing towards a return to their former dominance.
Between the WNBA Draft the NWHL festivities, and the numerous female figures who took part in the NWHL Draft, women have really ruled the sports world over the past two weeks. The league got participation from Stephanie McMahon, Florence Schelling, WNBA stars Natalie Achonwa, Rachel Banham, and Jasmine Thomas, President of the Drone Racing League Rachel Jacobson, UFC fighter Roxanne Modafferi, Director of Women’s Hockey Programs for USA Hockey Katie Million, NLL Deputy Commissioner and EVP of Business Affairs Jessica Berman, and founder of Stathletes Meghan Chayka. That’s a whole heck of a lot of female star power, and it was incredible to see everyone be so supportive. There were even men who were in awe of what the league managed to pull off. I was thoroughly impressed (not that my opinion on such matters should really matter).
Be sure to stay tuned to Pride Diehards for more women’s hockey coverage.
By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey