2015 NWHL Draft Recap: Team-by-Team Breakdowns and Other Thoughts

The first-ever National Women’s Hockey League Draft was held on Saturday, with the four teams’ general mangers meeting in Boston to work through five rounds and a total of 20 players. Every team added some quality picks, but how did each franchise do as a whole? Who were some of the draft’s biggest risers and who added value in the later rounds? These answers and more here in At Even Strength’s post-NWHL Draft recap.

Quick Hits

  • The top three players available went 1-2-3 in the draft, with 2015 Patty Kazmaier Award winner Alex Carpenter going first overall to the New York Riveters. Minnesota forward Hannah Brandt went second to Connecticut, and Northeastern’s Kendall Coyne went third to the Boston Pride. There were no real surprises there, as these three forwards were pretty clearly the best three prospects available.
  • Wisconsin D Courtney Burke was the first blue-liner picked, going fourth overall to the Buffalo Beauts. A bit of a surprise pick, but Burke is still a strong defensive prospect and an Albany, N.Y., native.
  • The first goaltender to be picked was Harvard’s Emerance Maschmeyer, with the Boston Pride taking her in the second round at #7 overall. It was a bit lower than some had her pegged but she was a very good bet to be the first netminder off the board.

New York Riveters

Picks:
1. Alex Carpenter, F
5. Haley Skarupa, F
9. Erin Ambrose, D
13. Dana Trivigno, F
17. Kimberly Newell, G

The Riveters stocked up on pure talent at the skater position with their first four picks. They went for Boston College’s leading-scoring tandem first, drafting Alex Carpenter and Haley Skarupa at first and fifth overall, respectively. Both have high offensive ceilings; Carpenter was the country’s leading scorer and, as mentioned earlier, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner in 2015. She has the looks of a franchise-type player. Skarupa exploded for 71 points this season and helped Carpenter lead a dynamic attack.

New York grabbed Erin Ambrose with its next pick to start up its defensive pipeline. She’s a high-upside defender who will contribute to the offensive effort and has the potential to anchor a top pairing. In the fourth round, the Riveters picked another BC Eagle, this time adding forward Dana Trivigno to the mix. She’s not as well-established as her teammates, but she can bolster any of the top three lines, though she realistically projects as a secondary scoring-type.

In the final round, the Riveters selected a goaltender, going off the board to pick up Princeton’s Kimberly Newell. She hasn’t gotten a ton of recognition but she’s a big part of that Tigers squad and is in Hockey Canada’s pool of developing goaltenders. Overall, New York went for players with high ceilings, and the Trivigno pick gives them a player who can perhaps fulfill other roles in that forward group. There’s some risk with Newell, a lesser-known prospect, but that could be a very good pick-up in net for the team.

Connecticut Whale

Picks:
2. Hannah Brandt, F
6. Michelle Picard, D
10. Milica McMillen, D
14. Maryanne Menefee, F
18. Cassandra Poudrier, D

The Whale picked up one of the best forward prospects available in Hannah Brandt, who figures to be a centerpiece for their team just as she’s been for the Gophers. They then went the defensive route with their next two picks, selecting Harvard’s Michelle Picard and Minnesota’s Milica McMillen. Though both were among this draft’s top defensive prospects, they’re very different players who bring different skillsets to the Whale.

At #14 overall, Connecticut selected Maryanne Menefee, Brandt’s linemate of three years at Minnesota. If the Whale can keep those two together, that should prove to be a big pick-up for the team, and well-worth the fourth-round pick. They then elected to skip on a goaltender in the final round, taking defender Cassandra Poudrier at #18 instead.

With Poudrier, Connecticut adds a good amount of defensive depth, and some diversity at the position as well. McMillen is more of that offensive type, with size and a big shot, while Picard brings a ton of steadiness and defensive dominance. With Poudrier, they’ve got a bit more balance, and some of her offensive potential is still untapped. Their goaltending prospect pool is obviously dry, but the Whale still have an elite forward and a possible top-liner in Brandt and Menefee, as well as three strong defenders.

Boston Pride

Picks:
3. Kendall Coyne, F
7. Emerance Maschmeyer, G
11. Lexi Bender, D
15. Miye D’Oench, F
19. Shannon MacAulay, F

The Pride grabbed an already-made superstar in Kendall Coyne with their first pick, at #3 overall. She’s an elite forward prospect who can lead an entire offense, and has done so without the strongest supporting cast at Northeastern. She’s also spent three years playing in Boston already, so a transition to the Pride would theoretically be easier than to a team in a different city.

After Coyne, the club picked up one of the draft’s top goaltending prospects in Emerance Maschmeyer. Again, she’s comfortable with the Boston area, currently playing in Cambridge with the Crimson, and will surely be a top-notch goalie in the league. The Pride then took their first defensive prospect, Lexi Bender, at #11 overall. She’ll be a good addition to a defensive corps but lacks true number-one D upside, so they’ll have to address that at another point.

I thought the Pride got some great value with their last two picks. They selected Harvard forward Miye D’Oench in the fourth round and Clarkson forward Shannon MacAulay in the fifth. Both can be big contributors to a top-six, though their development still has a bit of a ways to go. But they add depth behind Coyne to Boston’s forward prospects. All in all, the Pride come away with a top forward and goalie while adding some value in their last three picks.

Buffalo Beauts

Picks:
4. Courtney Burke, D
8. Sarah Lefort, F
12. Amanda Leveille, G
16. Emily Janiga, F
20. Jenna Dingeldein, F

The Beauts went somewhat off the board in the first round, selecting Wisconsin defenseman Courtney Burke. This wasn’t a bad reach at all, as Burke is still a high-end defensive prospect, but just a little unexpected because she wasn’t the highest-ranked D going into the draft. They then took one of the highest-rated forwards at #8, in Boston University’s Sarah Lefort.

Buffalo went with a goalie with its next pick, taking Minnesota’s Amanda Leveille in the third round. Leveille is a proven starter on a championship squad, but benefits from playing behind a strong Gopher defense. In the final two rounds, the Beauts took Mercyhurst’s duo of Emily Janiga and Jenna Dingeldein, both of whom are top producers for the Lakers.

With Lefort and Burke, the Beauts add a potential top-line wing and top-pairing defender, which are both obviously good pieces to have. They also picked up a solid goaltending prospect in Leveille, though it may take some work for her game to fully translate. The same goes for Janiga and Dingeldein, but both have top-six upside and can add a scoring punch. There isn’t a ton of versatility among the forward prospects, which is one possible area of weakness that stands out, but that can be addressed in free agency and in future drafts.

Closing Thoughts

Value Picks: I thought Boston picked up some quality later-round picks in MacAulay and D’Oench. Both have their own areas of strength that have helped them shine over certain stretches, and there are certainly tools there for both that give them more potential to tap into. Being able to snag Ambrose in the third round was a good get for the Riveters, especially considering the forward talent they were able to add first. The same goes for McMillen and the Whale, who perhaps reduced some of the risk of McMillen’s defensive liabilities by picking up Picard with their previous pick.

Draft-Day Risers: As noted, Burke went sooner than expected at fourth overall, but that could prove to be a great reach by the Beauts. She was a clear number-one D for Wisconsin without the most outstanding talent around her on the blue line. New York also went way off the board with Newell, which might not have been the most necessary move but in my mind, she was definitely worthy of consideration. Leveille was picked a little sooner than I might’ve thought, especially considering only two other goalies were taken and Newell was more off-the-radar anyways.

Teammates Sticking Together: I don’t know how much the GMs consciously focused on taking players from the same college club, but that was definitely a trend on Saturday. The Riveters picked three Boston College forwards, the Whale grabbed three Gophers, the Pride took two Harvard players, and the Beauts ended with the Mercyhurst forward tandem. Whether it was a focus or not, we’ll see if it makes any difference next summer as teams try to hang on to their picks.

Best Defenders Haul: I thought Connecticut ended up with three very good picks from a defensive class that was a little top-heavy. All three (Picard, McMillen, and Poudrier) bring different things to the table but have high ceilings in their own right.

Best Forwards Haul: Speaking purely from an offensive upside standpoint, I think the Riveters got the best haul up front with their three Eagles picks. Carpenter is on another level entirely, but Skarupa also has a ton of potential to produce and Trivigno can contribute regularly to an attack while providing some versatility as well.

Best Overall Draft: I really liked the Pride’s draft as a whole. Coyne was an obvious choice at #3 and they’ll have an elite forward in her. They also got a great goaltending prospect in Maschmeyer, and selected Bender in the third round when they needed to pick up a good defensive prospect. With D’Oench and MacAulay, Boston is getting two players who are already shouldering a lot of the offensive responsibilities for their respective college teams. I think those were excellent adds in the fourth and fifth rounds and could pan out very well for the Pride.

Who’s Left: There were, unsurprisingly, several good players left on the board. Out of my own top-20 NCAA players, which I ranked for AES, two went undrafted on Saturday: goaltender Shelby Amsley-Benzie (#7) and forward Becca Kohler (#13). Bemidji State’s Stephanie Anderson and Kaitlyn Tougas, Boston University’s Kayla Tutino, Harvard’s Mary Parker, Vermont’s Dayna Colang, and Clarkson’s Olivia Howe are all senior forwards worth keeping an eye on this year. Out of the defenders left on the board, Clarkson’s Renata Fast, North Dakota’s Tanja Eisenschmid, and Quinnipiac’s Cydney Roesler are also worth watching, and Connecticut’s Elaine Chuli and Lindenwood’s Nicole Hensley were among the top netminders left.

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