With the inaugural National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) Draft coming up on June 20, it’s time to take a look at the top prospects available. The NWHL announced the order of selection earlier this week: the first pick belongs to the New York Riveters, the second to the Connecticut Whale, the third to the Boston Pride, and the fourth to the Buffalo Beauts.
The draft is open to all those playing at a four-year institution who have completed their first three years of eligibility. With that being said, the following is a list of At Even Strength’s Top 20 player rankings, taken out of the entire pool of rising seniors in the NCAA. CIS players are eligible for selection in the draft but were not included in these rankings due to a lack of viewings.
Top 20 Players
1. Hannah Brandt, Forward, Minnesota
122 games played, 90 goals, 131 assists, 221 points
Nearly a two-points-per-game player throughout her career, Brandt’s offensive potential is seemingly limitless. She’s been the centerpiece of the Gophers’ offense for the past two seasons and projects to be the same type of player at the next level. While the offensive tools are all there, it’s Brandt’s ability to change the game that separates her from the rest.
2. Alex Carpenter, Forward, Boston College
109 games played, 91 goals, 100 assists, 191 points
Carpenter has that same elite skillset and has displayed premier potential since she led the BC offense as a 17-year-old freshman (40 points in 35 games). She has since then grown to be a prominent figure up front in all facets of the game for both Boston College and the U.S. National Team, and is a surefire bet to do the same for an NWHL team.
3. Kendall Coyne, Forward, Northeastern
96 games played, 91 goals, 74 assists, 165 points
Coyne’s speed and relentlessness in front of the net are her best attributes, but she’s a dynamic offensive player in almost every other respect as well. Even with a smaller stature, she’s scored at almost a goal-per-game clip in her career with Northeastern, despite not having the deepest or most talented teams around her.
4. Sarah Lefort, Forward, Boston University
112 games played, 79 goals, 69 assists, 148 points
When star forward Marie-Philip Poulin was centralized with the Canadian National Team in 2013-14, Lefort stepped up to fill the void with a 32-goal, 55-point sophomore campaign. She’s a top-line player and a proven point-scorer who can potentially lead a whole offense.
5. Erin Ambrose, Defense, Clarkson
102 games played, 26 goals, 83 assists, 109 points
Ambrose’s skillset lends her the ability to dictate the pace of play, which is something you look for in high-end defensemen. She’s made a lot of noise from the blue line offensively for Clarkson, and she has a good defensive presence as well.
6. Milica McMillen, Defense, Minnesota
111 games played, 35 goals, 57 assists, 92 points
McMillen has also been extremely productive throughout her entire collegiate career, and her offensive ceiling may be even higher than Ambrose’s. She’s a big defender who can really drive the offense, and she’s especially dangerous on the power play, which is always an asset.
7. Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Goaltender, North Dakota
51-22-6 record, .928 save percentage, 1.74 GAA, 14 shutouts
Amsley-Benzie impressed with a big breakout season this year at UND; a .952 save percentage led the country, to go along with a 1.21 goals-against average and nine shutouts. She was a rock in goal all year for the team, showing she can dominate night in and night out.
8. Haley Skarupa, Forward, Boston College
103 games played, 80 goals, 85 assists, 165 points
Skarupa has always possessed a ton of individual skill, but this past season she seemed to take a step forward, becoming a bigger contributor with more developed awareness. Career-bests in all major offensive categories followed (31 goals, 40 assists, 71 points), and Skarupa was a key player for the nation’s most dominant offense.
9. Michelle Picard, Defense, Harvard
96 games played, 6 goals, 35 assists, 41 points
Picard won’t wow anyone with her production but she’s a very solid defenseman with a ton of experience at the highest levels already (Olympic silver medal in 2014, World Championship gold in 2013 and 2015). She’s versatile, and will be a mainstay in a top-four.
10. Emerance Maschmeyer, Goaltender, Harvard
46-17-9 record, .941 save percentage, 1.57 GAA, 15 shutouts
Maschmeyer has displayed outstanding abilities all throughout her Harvard career, posting excellent numbers since taking over the starting job as a freshman. Always strong on net, she can stand on her head when needed, and she can be relied on to make the necessary saves.
11. Courtney Burke, Defense, Wisconsin
113 games played, 13 goals, 60 assists, 73 points
Wisconsin seemed to completely control possession this season, and Burke’s play from the back end was a big reason why they were able to do that. She’s a #1 defender for the Badgers and though she might not completely fit that role at a higher level, there is definite top-pairing upside here.
12. Maryanne Menefee, Forward, Minnesota
113 games played, 57 goals, 65 assists, 122 points
Menefee has been a top-line player for the Gophers since she was a freshman, and at the very least should be productive in a supporting role at the pro level. She doesn’t have the same dominant skillset as linemate Brandt but she can be successful as part of a team’s core with top players like that.
13. Becca Kohler, Forward, North Dakota
107 games played, 20 goals, 38 assists, 58 points
At 6’0″, Kohler brings an enticing mix of size and skill that’s not easily found. She showed flashes of her potential during her first two years, but broke out this season with 11 goals and 30 points as she slotted into a much bigger role up front.
14. Miye D’Oench, Forward, Harvard
103 games played, 50 goals, 35 assists, 85 points
D’Oench is a high-energy player who also has a nose for the net. As a point-per-game player for the Crimson in each of the past two seasons, she’s a versatile option up front who can also be counted on to produce.
15. Lexi Bender, Defense, Boston College
113 games played, 13 goals, 49 assists, 62 points
Bender was the highest scoring D in this class this past season with 29 points, which is a nice plus on her resume. She’s a good puck-mover for the Eagles, helping to boost the transition game, and she’ll be a valuable pick-up if that ability translates.
16. Dana Trivigno, Forward, Boston College
107 games played, 40 goals, 51 assists, 91 points
Trivigno can be pesky to play against, and she matches that tenacity with an above-average skillset. She set career-bests this year with 15 goals, 19 assists, and 34 points for the Eagles. She pushes the pace well and should be a good fit in a secondary scoring role.
17. Shannon MacAulay, Forward, Clarkson
115 games played, 38 goals, 35 assists, 73 points
MacAulay’s size and physical tools are undoubtedly an asset, but she also showed as a junior and captain that she can play a more central role in the offense. She scored a career-best 16 goals, 17 assists, and 33 points in 2014-15 and would be a valuable addition to the top-nine.
18. Amanda Leveille, Goaltender, Minnesota
69-5-4 record, .949 save percentage, 1.13 GAA, 24 shutouts
Leveille seemed to grow a lot between her first and second years as a starter. She showed much more confidence this past season and gave up little to attacking players, and her improvement was a big reason why the Gophers finished as national champions.
19. Cassandra Poudrier, Defense, Cornell
94 games played, 15 goals, 44 assists, 59 points
Poudrier has shown that she can put up points from the back-end, and though she did not return to a near-30-point pace this past season, she took on more defensive responsibility overall for Cornell. She blocked 78 shots this year to go along with her 17 points. She’s a good all-around player who still has a bit more to tap into.
20. Emily Janiga, Forward, Mercyhurst
109 games played, 61 goals, 66 assists, 127 points
Janiga should slide pretty easily into any team’s top-six, with a bit of a higher ceiling if she can reach it. She’s developed into a leader for the Lakers in all facets of the game, and is coming off of a strong 27-goal, 45-point junior campaign.
Others to Consider*
Stephanie Anderson, Bemidji State
Dayna Colang, Vermont
Nicole Connery, Quinnipiac
Jenna Dingeldein, Mercyhurst
Meghan Dufault, North Dakota
Olivia Howe, Clarkson
Mary Parker, Harvard
Kaitlyn Tougas, Bemidji State
Kayla Tutino, Boston University
Ivana Bilic, Bemidji State
Tanja Eisenschmid, North Dakota
Renata Fast, Clarkson
J’nai Mahadeo, Mercyhurst
Lillian Ribeirinha-Braga, Boston University
Cydney Roesler, Quinnipiac
Kayla Black, Minnesota Duluth
Elaine Chuli, Connecticut
Nicole Hensley, Lindenwood
Kimberly Newell, Princeton