2020 NWHL Draft Recap: Whale, Riveters, Beauts

All three teams added missing pieces from last season

Read how Toronto, the Boston Pride, and the Minnesota Whitecaps drafted here.

Connecticut Whale

Connecticut has been dying for some goal-scoring depth for several years. Though they have some solid building blocks, they simply needed a shot in the arm. They injected some quality scorers in Friesen, Rennie, Conway and Guagliardo and addressed their need for an offensive-minded defender in Howran.

The Whale injected speed and skill into a lineup that desperately needed more speed and skill to get them out of the basement. Colton Orr and company will have some new tools to work with come autumn.

  • Kayla Friesen, F, Clarkson (2nd overall)/

After transferring from St. Cloud State to Clarkson in 2019, Friesen posted her best collegiate season. She recorded 10 goals and 20 assists in 28 games. The Whale are in dire need of playmakers and offense-drivers, and Friesen may be just the kind of leader they need up front. She plays the exact style that they need: crash the net, play between the hashmarks and pounce on rebounds.

Friesen also has a connection to head coach Colton Orr via a shared hometown- Winnipeg, MB.

  • Victoria Howran, D, U. of New Hampshire (7th overall)/

Another Canadian for Orr, this one from Ontario. Once again, the Whale seek to fill one of their biggest needs through the draft by luring an offensive defender. Howran finished second on the team and first among defenders in scoring last season, notching 22 points in 37 games. Should Howran elect to join the Whale, she will alleviate much of the pressure on Shannon Doyle to be one of the only defenders capable of quarterbacking the offense.

Howran was also a teammate of Friesen’s in 2016, as the two played together on Canada’s U18 team at the 2016 IIHF World Championships. Metro’s Tinker was also on that squad.

  • Savannah Rennie, F, Syracuse (13th overall)/

More Manitobans! Rennie is another playmaker for the forward core who finished third on the Orange in scoring last season. Eighteen of her 23 points came at even-strength. It was a superb rebound after a down junior season in which she only tallied seven points in 21 games. Still, she finished her collegiate career with 67 in 123 games and is a capable possession player for Connecticut.

  • Amanda Conway, F, Norwich (19th overall)
  • Nicole Guagliardo, F, Adrian (25th overall)/

Buffalo Beauts

Buffalo had difficulty keeping the puck out of the net last season. The solution? Drafting a goaltender third overall and three defenders over five rounds.

Carly Jackson will likely compete for the stating job, while Cross, O’Sullivan and Land will provide much needed support for Marie-Jo Pelletier on the blueline. The Beauts also added Autumn MacDougal, a speedy forward out of University of Alberta.

  • Carly Jackson, G, Maine (3rd overall)/

Jackson was the only goaltender taken in the first two rounds of the draft Tuesday night, and her arrival may signal a changing of the guard between the pipes for the Beauts. Jackson finished her senior season with a 12-11-7 record, 1.90 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. She recored three shutouts, giving her 10 in her collegiate career with the Black Bears.

The Beauts allowed the most goals in the NWHL last season (116). Mariah Fujimagari fell off hard after a decent start, and Kelsey Neumann’s inconsistency shot-to-shot often cost her team. Buffalo signed Lea-Kristine Demers from Merrimack late in the season, who performed very well in three starts, one in the Isobel Cup Playoffs.

Perhaps the Beauts are looking at a Jackson-Demers battery next season.

  • Codie Cross, D, Northeastern (9th overall)/

Part two of solving the goals-against crisis is helping out the player between the pipes. Cross was as steady a consistent contributor to the Huskies’ offense as possible, chipping in 62 points in 134 games over four years.

Though she is on the smaller side coming in at 5’3”, a diminutive stature didn’t stop Marie-Jo  Pelletier from emerging as one of the league’s preeminent defenders with the Beauts last season. Pelletier went from scoring 52 points in 143 games at University of New Hampshire to racking up 21 in 24 with Buffalo last season. In the NWHL, quickness and vision go a long way at the blueline- both attributes Cross has in spades.

  • Autumn MacDougal, F, U. of Alberta (14th overall)/

MacDougal becomes the first USports player ever drafted into the NWHL. A Cole Habour, Nova Scotia native, MacDougal was second in USports in scoring her senior season putting up 17 goals and 14 assists in 28 games. She joins Cross in being a shorter draftee measuring at 5’1”. Don’t be deceived, however- speed kills, and the Beauts are loading up.

She also earns the distinction of coming from the greatest school nickname in the draft: the University of Alberta Pandas. We stan a Queen Panda.

  • Kelly O’Sullivan, D, Adrian (20th overall)
  • Logan Land, D, RIT (26th overall)/

Metropolitan Riveters

The Riveters have a plethora of capable goal scorers up front, anchored by Madison Packer who will be returning for a sixth season. They lacked a true shutdown defender last season, one capable of chewing big third period minutes. They selected Saroya Tinker fourth overall, a smooth-skater with keen instincts at both ends of the ice, and Bridgette Prentiss who provides a scoring touch from the back end.

Not to mention they snagged power forward Delaney Belinskas and a goaltender in Tera Hofmann who could very well steal the starting job from Sam Walther. For only having four picks in the draft, Metro should feel very confident with their haul.

  • Saroya Tinker, D, Yale (4th overall)/

Metropolitan’s defense has been in dire need of reinforcements since the departure of two-way dynamos like Jenny Ryan, Courtney Burke and Kelsey Koelzer. They may have found their anchor of the future in Saroya Tinker.

Tinker finished her collegiate career with the Bulldogs with a personal high in points with 12 in 32 games. She also has experience on the international stage, helping Hockey Canada to a silver medal at the 2016 U18 IIHF World Championships. A tried-and-true pass-first shutdown defender, but unafraid to pull the trigger from the blueline, Tinker could immediately be thrust into a key role with the Riveters’ defensive core.

  • Delaney Belinskas, F, Boston College (10th overall)/

The Riveters were able to poach one of the better goal scorers in the NCAA at 10th overall. Belinskas was one of only 21 players to reach the 20-goal plateau last season. She led the BC Eagles in goal scoring and was tied for third in the HEA behind only international standouts Alina Müller and Chloé Aurard.

Belinskas has a lethal shot with a powerful frame. She’ll be a perfect complement up front with the likes of Madison Packer, Kendall Cornine and Kate Leary.

  • Tera Hofmann, G, Yale (16th overall)/

Hofmann turned heads in her senior season when she earned ECAC Goalie of the Week honors in November by pitching three straight shutouts against Dartmouth, Union and RPI. She ranks as one of the best goaltenders in Yale history, finishing third in goals-against average (2.62), fourth in save percentage (.914), and fifth in shutouts (6).

Sam Walther proved that she was a capable starting netminder in the NWHL last season, but it never hurts to have depth in the goaltending department. Hofmann could very well compete for the starting job next season.

  • Bridgette Prentiss, D, Franklin Piece (21st overall)/