The fourth NWHL draft took place on Dec. 19 and 20, with 25 players selected by the five teams. With more than thirty Division I and III programs, and each one of those programs graduating seniors, there were more than a few eligible players left undrafted.
Not all of the draftees will play for the team that picked them, for a variety of reasons. There are plenty of chances for the players who didn’t see hear their names called to sign an NWHL contract and play at the next level. Here are a few I expect to see at a free-agent camp this summer.
Julia Tylke, forward, St. Cloud State University (Delafield, WI)
Leading up to Senior Night this Saturday, we'll be featuring each of our five Senior Spotlights this week! Today's senior: Julia Tylke!— St. Cloud State WHockey (@SCSUHUSKIES_WHK) October 1, 2018
Winter is coming, but #SilkyTylke knows the way to warm up in St. Cloud is with a bag of Val's fries. And remember kids, just have fun #scsuwhk pic.twitter.com/hXJ2WY3a48
Count me shocked that Tylke remains undrafted. I put her in my WCHA players to watch for this year, and she hasn’t disappointed (although St. Cloud certainly has). She’s SCSU’s leading scorer for the third straight year, and just might have the best hands in the country. She’s interested in playing after graduation, too— she lists “play[ing] in Europe” as part of her plans for the future. Although she may not catch the Whitecaps’ eye, I can’t see all five teams letting “Silky Tylke” leave the U.S.
Maddie Rolfes, defender, University of Wisconsin (West Des Moines, IA)
Rolfes has spent the last four years shutting down current pros when they came to Madison, and is ready for the next level. Although she hasn’t been the highest-scoring defender in the NCAA, she’s four for four on Frozen Four appearances with Wisconsin, and has certainly helped the Badgers maintain their elite status among Division I programs. Wisconsin has a powerful offense, but it’s been defenders like Rolfes, Mellissa Channell (Furies), and Lauren Williams (Blades) who’ve kept the shots down.
Every team could use better defense, but the Riveters in particular haven’t yet adjusted to the loss of several of their elite defenders, especially Ashley Johnston. Rolfes could join former teammates Jenny Ryan and Courtney Burke in helping the Riveters back to the top.
Charly Dahlquist, forward, University of North Dakota/Ohio State University (Eden Prairie, MN)
Dahlquist was coming into her own at North Dakota when the program ended. After arriving in Columbus, she took the loss in stride, helping the Buckeyes to their first-ever Frozen Four appearance last year. We’ll see how she fares against NWHL talent when the Buckeyes take on the Whitecaps in an exhibition in Columbus in early January. She might impress and get the chance to join them with current teammate Lauren Boyle (3rd round) — or she could reunite with former Buckeyes Julianna Iafallo and Lisa Chesson in Buffalo.
Kristen Campbell, goaltender, University of North Dakota/University of Wisconsin (Brandon, MB)
I’m hesitant to predict Canadians to the NWHL, but I think Campbell might make the leap. After UND, Campbell landed at Wisconsin and immediately took over the crease. She’s started all but two games since, and helped Wisconsin to the top of the WCHA last year.
There’s not a lot of room in the CWHL for goalies right now. Campbell’s natural move is to the Calgary Inferno, but Alex Rigsby seems to have the starting spot locked up. It’s possible she could beat out Lindsey Post and/or Annie Bélanger for a backup spot, but that leaves Calgary juggling three starters, a situation that in the past (specifically, 2017) has not worked out well for any of the three netminders. The rest of Canada isn’t much better. Markham’s only carrying two tenders (the perennial Erica Howe and Liz Knox), and if anyone’s going to challenge Toronto’s Shea Tiley and Elaine Chuli for minutes next year it will be Kassidy Sauvé (Clarkson), who is almost definitely going pro and will probably be picked ahead of Campbell if both are available.
If Campbell’s looking for starting minutes, she’ll do best competing with the Riveters’ Katie Fitzgerald and Kim Sass, both of whom have looked mortal this year. Ultimately, there’s a spot out there for Campbell, and I have a feeling it will be in the United States.
Bonus: T.T. Cianfarano, forward, Quinnipiac University/Clarkson University (Oswego, NY)
Although Cianfarano was drafted by the Riveters as a junior in 2017, she only played two games before a season-ending injury forced her to redshirt her senior year. Thus, as her draft class joined the NWHL this year, she still had a year of eligibility left and the NCAA’s generous graduate transfer rules were in her favor. This year, she joined a dominant Clarkson seeking its third straight national championship. Although it’s possible she could join the Riveters next year, it’s more likely she’ll head towards Buffalo.
Of course, there are also more seniors, especially at the Division III level, that could make a successful run at an NWHL roster. Let us know what players you think could see some ice time next year in the comments.