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What to watch for in the 2021 NWHL Draft

Michelle Jay

NWHL Draft day is nearly here!

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 28, beginning at 7 p.m. eastern the 2021 NWHL Draft kicks off on Twitch. Fans can watch their favorite teams make their picks at twitch.tv/nwhl.

This marks the second season that 30 NCAA and USports players will be selected in the NWHL Draft. This also marks the first time in league history that the Connecticut Whale will have the top pick. Oh, and the Toronto Six have three picks in the first round — and the Buffalo Beauts have seven picks.

2021 NWHL Draft Order of Selection

Round 1: Connecticut (from BUF), Buffalo (from CTW), Toronto (from BOS in 2020), Toronto, Toronto (from MET), Minnesota
Round 2: Buffalo, Connecticut, Toronto (from BOS), Toronto, Metropolitan, Minnesota
Round 3: Buffalo, Buffalo (from CTW), Buffalo (from BOS), Toronto, Metropolitan, Minnesota
Round 4: Buffalo, Connecticut, Boston, Toronto, Metropolitan, Minnesota
Round 5: Buffalo, Connecticut, Boston, Toronto, Metropolitan, Minnesota

Those are just a few of the storylines to keep an eye on tonight.

Who is getting drafted?

Any player who has completed their NCAA and/or USports athletic eligibility or players graduating from an education institute resulting in a degree acknowledged in the United States or Canada is eligible to be drafted. The International Draft will be held on July 25 but we could still see international players selected if they played college hockey in North America — such as Tereza Vanišová because she played college hockey at Maine.

Any undrafted players may sign as a free agent on June 30 beginning at 9 a.m. eastern. Teams will have a two-week window to sign the players they draft before they hit the open market as unrestricted free agents on July 14 at 9 a.m. eastner.


What to watch for

Boston Pride

Mike Murphy | @DigDeepBSB

What do you get the team that seems to have everything? Well, I guess you get them the best available player(s) in the draft. The Pride have tons of depth and expect between 75%-80% of last year’s championship squad to return. They also only have two picks to make on Tuesday as a result of some trades. I expect Boston to add some forward depth because that’s what they seem to do every offseason. Why break with tradition?

Buffalo Beauts

Angelica Rodriguez | @ReinaDeLaIsla

The Beauts are a team building from the net outward, but with some key back-end pieces sorted out, it’s time for them to look at the front lines. With seven (!) picks heading into the draft, plus the retirement of Jordan Juron and Emma Ruggiero, we should expect at least a couple of those dedicated to faceoff specialists and those who excel on special teams. Puck possession was not the name of the Beauts’ game in Lake Placid, so finding skaters who can anchor a line and protect the puck well will be the key.

Connecticut Whale

Casey Bryant | @CaseyBryant51

You know that scene in Moneyball where the scouts and Brad Pitt are sitting around talking about the Oakland A’s losing power-hitting Jason Giambi in free agency? “You can’t replace Giambi,” Pitt says. “But we can recreate him in the aggregate.” That’s kind of where things stand with the Whale and losing Shannon Doyle. They won’t be able to find another defender to block shots while also putting up points at the rate she did in the draft, or even the free agent market. But they can stockpile defenders willing to buy into a system that suffocates and transitions with speed like Doyle did.

Adding Tori Howran to the blueline last season is a good example of the kind of player the Whale ought to target through the draft. And with a trade made with Buffalo to select first overall, they clearly have a player in mind. Simply put, Connecticut needs more skill up front and more skaters on the back end.

Metropolitan Riveters

Mike Murphy

The Riveters should be in the market for a puck-moving defender who can play first or second pairing minutes and play the point on the advantage. They should also be targeting forwards with speed who can carry the puck through the neutral zone and help the Riveters’ offense get established at even strength.

Also, don’t be surprised if the Riveters take Sacred Heart University defender Jordan Sanislo off the board. She was at the Riveters’ free agent camp in Newark earlier this month and looked like she might have the goods to compete at this level as a depth defender.

Minnesota Whitecaps

Anne Tokarski | @annetokarski

The Whitecaps will look to deepen their offense with the addition of a forward or two, as well as shore up their blue line. The most efficient means of tackling these two needs would be to draft an offensively productive defender or a defensively-reliable forward — or both! Think players like Grace Bowlby or Alexa Vasko, who can guard the net and generate scoring chances.

Toronto Six

Holly Morrison | @HollyyMorrison

The Six have three picks in the first round of this year’s draft. They also don’t seem to be having any trouble getting Ontario-born players to sign with them as free agents. They’re in the market to replace some players. Julie Allen retired following the 2021 season, and it’s doubtful that any of Natalie Marcuzzi, Taytum Clairmont or Mackenzie MacNeil will be back because of their job commitments.

I’d expect the Six to use their draft picks to replenish their forward group and worry about adding defenders after the fact.