Today, the Connecticut Whale announced the signing of 2021 1st overall pick Taylor Girard. The Whale made a deal with the Buffalo Beauts to move up in the draft to land the big forward who split her collegiate career between Lindenwood University and Quinnipiac University. This marks the first time the Whale have drafted the top pick of the draft and signed the top pick of the draft.
“We are thrilled to officially welcome our first overall draft pick, Taylor Girard, to the team. A first in franchise history,” said Laura Brennan, the team’s assistant general manager, and assistant coach. “She is a player who is coming off of a great career at Quinnipiac and we look forward to her continued growth and pro debut with us!”
"Thank you very much" -Taylor Girard 🔥— QU Women's Hockey (@QU_WIH) January 16, 2021
QU 4 | LIU 0 pic.twitter.com/DiJRvn5eJj
The addition of Girard represents an infusion of strength, skill, and size to a group of Whale forwards that could eclipse the quality of last year’s squad. This roster is still an unfinished puzzle — Girard is the ninth player and fourth forward to sign — but there is cause for real excitement here. Girard, Alyssa Wohlfeiler, Emma Vlasic, and newcomer Kennedy Marchment all have the talent to be on the top line and top power-play unit.
If the Whale can bring back Kayla Friesen, Melissa Samoskevich, and/or Janine Weber this might be the best top-six Connecticut has ever had. That is a big deal for a team that identifies itself as having a defense-first mentality.
Girard, in particular, is an exciting addition because of her ability to finish and create space for linemates. In a chaotic 2020-21 season that saw many athletes struggle to find consistency, Girard led the Bobcats with an average of 4.2 SOG/GP and seven goals. She finished the season with 16 points in 15 games thanks to a seven-game scoring streak to close out the year. She’s one of those players who always seems to make a mark on a game.
The Michigan-native played center in spells at Lindenwood and Quinnipiac but she was most productive on the wing. With that said, her 5-foot-10 frame could be put to good use in front of the net on the Whale’s top power-play unit with Marchment, Wohlfeiler, and defender Tori Howran moving the puck. Interestingly enough, only six of Girard’s 32 NCAA career goals were scored on the advantage but she still picked up plenty of helpers on the power play. Those are encouraging signs that suggest she can produce at the pro level.
😼→🐳— QU Women's Hockey (@QU_WIH) July 1, 2021
More 🔥 highlights to come in the future for Taylor Girard as a pro with the @CTWhale_NWHL!
Take a look at some of her goals from her senior season as a Bobcat ⤵️ (15 GP, 16 PTS) pic.twitter.com/ht78UX19Oc
As evidenced by a 13-goal sophomore season in Lindenwood, Girard can bury the puck in the net. Her size and strength will make her a natural target around the net for the Whale’s playmakers. Girard’s wingspan and hockey IQ also make her an effective forechecker, which fits right into the Whale’s identity. She is a player who can help Connecticut on and off the puck which bodes well for her ice time in her rookie season.
The challenge for Whale head coach Colton Orr will be balancing his scoring lines and finding the right fit for the top pick of the 2021 Draft. Fortunately for him, that’s a fun “problem” to have. In Girard, Connecticut is adding a player with the tools to be a true power forward who can pepper the net with shots. That’s an ingredient the Whale have been missing since the departure of Kelly Babstock.
Where Girard fits will depend very much on the moves that the Whale make next. General manager Alexis Moed and assistant general manager Laura Brennan are just getting started.