Each year the NWHL holds a draft where its teams draft players who have completed their junior seasons. As a result, NWHL fans have learned to pay close attention to NCAA players in their final year of college hockey.
Today at The Ice Garden we’re going to take a look at the senior seasons of the prospects selected by the Connecticut Whale and the Metropolitan Riveters from the 2017 NWHL Draft.
Sam Donovan - F
Brown University | New Brighton, MN, USA
Donovan was one of two players from the 2017 NWHL Draft class to sign with her draft team and play in the 2017-18 season. After leading Brown in scoring, the Minnesotan appeared in three games for the Whale. Donovan picked up her first NWHL point in the Whale’s final regular season game of the season on March 10.
Although we only got a small taste of Donovan on NWHL ice, she still managed to leave an impression. Despite not being able to practice with the Whale, Donovan stood out in her first three NWHL games. Hopefully Whale fans will soon be treated to a full season of the team’s top pick from the 2017 Draft.
Eden Murray - F
Yale University | Medicine Hat, AB, CAN
Due to an injury, Murray played just seven games in her senior season and the Bulldogs definitely missed her. However, Murray didn’t need a full senior season to prove that she was an exceptional player at the NCAA level. The Albertan finished her career with 69 points in 97 games and earned Yale’s Mandi Schwartz Award after her standout junior season.
Whether or not Murray will be able to make a pro career in the NWHL work remains to be seen, but the Whale could certainly use her ability to create offense. It’s also worth mentioning that Murray’s sister, Kelly, played for the Calgary Inferno in 2017-18.
Denisa Krizova - F
Northeastern Univ. | Horní Cerekev, CZE
Krizova, the only European player selected in the 2017 NWHL Draft, is a must-watch player. Although she put up fewer points in her senior season than she did in her first three years with the Huskies, there’s no denying that Krizova is a rare talent.
Krizova, a natural winger, is unafraid of the dirty work despite having hands made out of magic. When she wasn’t creating chances for the Huskies in the offensive zone, she was blocking shots and doing whatever it took to help her team win games.
Krizova finished her career as the sixth-highest scoring skater in Northeastern history. She will be a staple on the Czech women’s national team for years to come and would be a huge addition to any pro team, in any country.
Nina Rodgers - F
Boston Univ. | Minnetonka, MN, USA
Rodgers, the Whale’s final pick of the 2017 Draft, split her NCAA career between the University of Minnesota and Boston University. Rodgers is a physical winger who has shown she’s capable of putting up some impressive numbers when she has the right players around her.
The former Golden Gopher and Terrier is coming off of a relatively quiet senior season. Rodgers registered 75 shots and scored only six goals in 28 games this year, making it difficult to predict where her ceiling is due to the big drop in her production from her junior season. With that being said, Rodgers could bring some valuable depth to a Whale team that needs to add offense.
Taylar “T.T.” Cianfarano - F
Quinnipiac Univ. | Oswego, NY, USA
Cianfarano played just two games in her senior season due to a serious injury, but that wasn’t nearly enough for women’s hockey fans to forget about her. The MVP of the World U-18s in 2014 had 110 points in 111 NCAA games and is arguably the best player in Quinnipiac history.
Riveters take Taylar Cianfarano 3rd overall. Quiet junior season, huge sophomore season in 2015-16 with 52 points in 37 games. Quinnipiac. https://t.co/WVIZeZhDLl— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) August 17, 2017
By all accounts, Cianfarano has the skills not only to turn pro, but also to be a serious contender for a roster spot on the United States’ women’s national team. However, there are lingering concerns about the future of her hockey career because of the injury that nearly erased her 2017-18 season. Testing herself in the NWHL just might be Cianfarano’s best path forward to the national team.
Victoria Bach - F
Boston Univ. | Milton, ON, CAN
Bach led all NCAA seniors in scoring this year. She scored 39 goals for the Terriers in 33 games, thanks in part to registering four hat tricks and leading the nation in shots on goal. Bach was also a finalist for the 2018 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. So, yeah, she’s pretty good at this whole “hockey” thing.
Bach’s aspirations to play for Team Canada in the 2022 Olympics makes her future in the NWHL pretty unlikely. Don’t be surprised if she decides to play in the CWHL so she can be closer to home and share the ice with other Canadian stars. Wherever Bach plays next, she’s going to be a star.
McKenna Brand - F
Northeastern Univ. | Nevis, MN, USA
Brand put up some solid numbers with the Huskies after hitting her stride in her junior season. Brand, who is perhaps best described as a goal-scoring winger, led Northeastern in goals both in 2016-17 and in 2017-18. She also averaged more than four shots per game in her senior year.
The Minnesotan winger proved herself to be as tough and durable as they come during her NCAA career; Brand holds the Huskies’ program record for games played (150). In many ways, Brand feels like a player who could take her game to the next level as a pro.
Toni Ann Miano - D
Boston College | Bronx, NY, USA
Miano was born in the Bronx across the river from where the Riveters franchise began in 2015. Seriously, need we say anything more?
Miano brought the thunder in her senior season with the Eagles. She scored 18 goals from the blue line in 38 games this year. Yes, you read that right. That offensive explosion helped Miano set several program records and establish the Hockey East records for career points by a defender.
The all-time Eagles great has the potential to be the next great Riveters offensive defender, but Miano is far from one-dimensional. She finished in the top 20 in blocked shots and was on the ice in all situations for BC. If she was a few inches taller, Miano would look a lot like every coach’s dream defender.
ICYMI: Take a look at Toni Ann Miano's game-winner in OT yesterday - her FOURTH goal of the game. Great pressure low by Newkirk to set it up. pic.twitter.com/ymZer49bao— BC Women's Hockey (@BC_WHockey) January 14, 2018
Rebecca Leslie - F
Boston Univ. | Ottawa, ON, CAN
Leslie’s 57-point senior season at BU speaks for itself. She finished second among all NCAA seniors in primary assists and picked up two or more assists in 11 games this year. We’re guessing that she had a lot of fun playing with Victoria Bach.
It’s a pretty safe bet that the Ontario native will be selected in the 2018 CWHL Draft. Any team that adds her to their lineup is going to get a special player. Back in December, her head coach Brian Durocher told the Daily Free Press what set Leslie apart as a player and as a leader:
“She’s really developed into a three-zone player, being more responsible defensively, being really smart about the game, but not least of all, I think she’s finally believing that she can shoot the puck.”