With just four games left in her rookie season, Buffalo Beauts defender Emilie Harley has been well worth the second overall pick that GM Nate Oliver spent on her while overseeing the draft for the first time. Harley is third on the team in points chipping in four goals and four assists, and the six-foot-tall, 22-year-old has taken only one penalty in 16 games while defending against the best players in the PHF every weekend.
“I remember sometime in March right after our season ended, my coach at Robert Morris University came to me and said ‘hey the Buffalo Beauts General Manager wants to talk to you’, and I think my response was: what?!?”
Eventually, Toronto also showed interest in Harley, but as a native of nearby Syracuse, New York the Beauts were a perfect fit.
The @BuffaloBeauts have signed Emilie Harley (D/F), the 2nd overall pick of the 2021 NWHL Draft.— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) July 7, 2021
"We love Emilie’s professionalism and her character. We knew going into the draft that we were getting a great hockey player who is also a top-notch person." - GM Nate Oliver
“Haha. I had no idea that anyone even knew my name honestly, so it was pretty exciting,” said Harley smiling through her mask. “I was excited to sit down and have that conversation with Nate, and the first time we talked he spoke with my dad and I over zoom. I originally planned on going to med school but I felt like this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up - especially at this time in my life.”
“I really love hockey and I still wanna keep playing. When he told me that he wanted to draft me so high I thought that was really special, and it was the first time he had control of the draft, too. It’s definitely a special moment for both of us.”
Having seen Harley play three times in person this season the first thing you notice is her size. She towers over the majority of the other players and if she decides to play a few years she could become a dominant tower of power, and a perennial Defender of the Year candidate.
She’s also got some nasty skills on the offensive side of things, as I’ve seen her score three times in person, perhaps most impressively in Boston.
What a spin and snipe, Emilie Harley and this Beauts defense has some moves pic.twitter.com/SCnfAinJB0— PHF (@PHF) February 27, 2022
“Honestly I was looking for a pass,” Harley told me after the game, “but the opportunity presented itself to shoot. So I just needed to beat the first stick and get it on the net; I guess I was lucky the goalie wasn’t ready for it.”
Here is the rest of our conversation that night.
The Ice Garden: Are you finding more and more confidence as each game, each day passes here as we closer to the end of your first season as a pro?
Emilie Harley: Absolutely. I think we’re starting to hit our stride right now as a team and recognizing, as a defender, when I’m able to jump into a play to create offense is getting easier for me.
TIG: Is part of that process learning to use your size to your advantage against the myriad of quicker, smaller players in the PHF?
EH: For sure. I’m always trying to box out offensively or defensively, using my size to my advantage and finding my way to the front of the net.
TIG: It has been a long year for the Beauts with all of the stops and starts to your season, what has been your favorite thing about being on this team?
EH: Our team chemistry in the locker room; before games, we like to have a lot of fun. Especially some of the soccer games we get going - just being around this group of girls is always a great time because they are all fantastic people.
TIG: Is your head still spinning today thinking about last week’s outdoor game in Buffalo?
EH: Oh gosh, yes! I’ve never played in any game like that! We were supposed to actually play in one at RMU, but it got canceled because of covid. That was probably the most fun hockey game that I have ever been a part of. Just the entire experience with our fans there, and wearing the eye black — and our jerseys were sweet!
TIG: Has it been a big adjustment for you coming from college to the pro level?
EH: Honestly no, I feel like it’s been a pretty easy transition. Maybe the biggest challenge is that a lot of these players are ones that I am unfamiliar with from college. So for me, it’s just trying to pick out who’s a threat on the other team and really try to neutralize them.
TIG: So are you a big Dallas Stars fan?
EH: Yeah, haha, absolutely. I think my brother Thomas is with them right now, he’s been on the taxi squad, called up from the AHL, and sent back down so many times. But I do I try to watch his games when I can, but I don’t know if he’s seen as many of mine as I’ve seen of his. But I’ll let that slide and still watch him.