Predicting Needs for PWHL Boston at the 2024 Draft

Boston has a number of strong returning players, but with a big hole in the lineup and questions at some positions, their selections will come down to what the front office views as the more dire needs.

Predicting Needs for PWHL Boston at the 2024 Draft
Boston players celebrate at home. Photo by Meghan Murphy/PWHL BOS, via PWHL.

PWHL Boston’s inaugural season was full of ups and downs. They stuttered and started through most of the regular season, then turned on the jets after the international break, winning four of five to squeeze into the playoffs. They swept the second seed, then took the Walter Cup Finals series to five games while selling out the Tsongas Center for the first time all year. Although their season ended in disappointment, Boston had a wild ride and a lot to be proud of.

With the fourth pick in the second PWHL draft, Boston has the opportunity to select an elite player to join their squad. But with a big hole in the lineup and questions at some positions, their selections will come down to what the front office views as the more dire needs.


You couldn't ask for much more from Aerin Frankel. The Northeastern graduate played in 18 games in the regular season and posted a 2.00 goals against average, giving her team a chance to win every night. In the playoffs, she found another level, posting a .953 save percentage and making saves that seemed impossible. There was talk of Frankel earning the Playoffs MVP Award, though it eventually went to the leading scorer of the championship team, Taylor Heise. Boston has Frankel locked up for two more years, which is an ideal situation.

The team’s backup status is a little less certain. Emma Söderberg, on contract for the 2024-25 season, finished last among all PWHL goalies with a .900 save percentage and third to last with 2.54 goals allowed per game. These numbers need to be viewed in the context of Boston’s system, which kept her from facing a high quantity of shots, but exposed to her a number of high-danger chances. Despite this, she earned wins in four of her eight games.

Counting stats aside, Söderberg’s produced wins for this team and that’s worth a lot, especially for a rookie. Putting her in for eight games rather than loading up Frankel with starts or giving third goaltender Cami Kronish a chance says that Boston has confidence in Söderberg’s abilities.

Still, Boston scored the fewest goals of any team in the league this year, so they need their goalies to steal games for them. They may not be desperate to upgrade at this position, but if the right candidate becomes available, I wouldn’t put it past them to take advantage. 

The main point of interest is the availability of Gwyneth Philips, who played behind Aerin Frankel at Northeastern and won the NCAA Goaltender of the Year Award in 2023. She also followed Frankel’s footsteps with the national team, attending the World Championships as the third goaltender in Team USA’s silver medal effort this year.

If Boston is interested in reuniting the Huskies, it may come at too high a cost. Philips is one of the top goaltending prospects this year, and there are teams that need help at that position more than Boston. If she were to fall to the fifth or sixth round, the draft team could decide it’s too good of an opportunity to pass up. Or they may feel that they need the skaters available more than they need to bolster their goalies.

Regardless of whether the team lands a player they want or chooses to pass, I would expect to see competition in net at Boston’s training camp in the fall.


PWHL Boston used one of their three signings before the inaugural PWHL draft to sign Megan Keller to a three-year contract, and that decision has paid off for them. Keller was one of the most reliable players on this team, eating big minutes and quarterbacking the power play. She finished third among the league’s defenders in scoring.

The other defender Boston has on contract, for one more season, is Jessica DiGirolamo. DiGirolamo doesn’t show up much on the scoresheet, but her defensive play and skating added a strong element to Boston’s transitions up ice, and she was one of their better defenders in the playoffs.

Other standouts on defense this season were Emily Brown, a primarily defensive player, and Kaleigh Fratkin, whose hockey IQ and puck control may even be able to outplay her PIMs. Both of these players made enough of an impact to at least earn camp invites next year, but between Keller, DiGirolamo, Brown, and Fratkin, only Fratkin naturally plays on the right side.

Boston’s answer to a top-pairing right side defender was supposed to be Sophie Jaques, selected tenth overall by Boston in the 2023 draft. But she was traded to PWHL Minnesota for Susanna Tapani and Abby Cook, and no one really managed to fill that hole for the rest of the season.

Boston will likely target a strong transitional defender given their need to produce more offense. They’ll also want one who can quarterback a power play to take some strain off Keller and given their struggles with the advantage this year. As such, Cayla Barnes should be at the top of Boston’s list to fill this role. She is the best defender available in this draft, and there is reason to believe Boston will have a chance at her with the fourth overall pick given the number of high-end forwards available. Barnes is an elite all-around defender who is particularly strong in transition, plus she’s a good power-play quarterback. To make matters even better, while they are not a frequent pairing, she already has significant chemistry with Keller, having played with her on Team USA for the past six years. If she’s available when Boston goes on the clock for the first time, she’s a no-brainer.

If Barnes does not turn out to be available, or if Boston decides to utilize their first round pick on another position, they’ll have their options. Maja Nylén Persson has been named the SDHL’s Defender of the Year in 2022, 2023, and 2024. This season, she led the league’s blueliners in assists and points. Boston could also take an interest in Allyson Simpson, a Colgate product who made her Team USA debut in the 2023-24 Rivalry Series.

Boston has good defenders, and allowing some late round picks, free agents, and returning players to battle it out in training camp for the bottom pair wouldn’t be the end of the world. But they need a real top-pairing defender they can rely on to play big minutes next to Megan Keller, and they’ll need to find her in the first three rounds.


Boston has seven forwards on contract for next season, on the higher end of that category in the league. Three of them are signed for two more years: Hilary Knight, Alina Müller, and Jamie Lee Rattray.

Müller was PWHL Boston’s first ever draft pick, at third overall, and she has lived up to every expectation. The only five-time Patty Kazmaier Award finalist in NCAA history led PWHL Boston with 16 points in 24 games and showed off her creativity and poise on Boston’s top line. Boston will be overjoyed to have her for two more seasons.

Rattray finished in the double digits in scoring for Boston. Few were at their most productive offensively for Boston this season, Rattray included, but her energy and relentless hard-nosed forecheck were valuable parts of the Boston offense. Since she looked like herself in all other aspects, there’s good reason to believe she’ll find her scoring touch again if she has more consistent (and better-suited) linemates next season.

While team captain Hilary Knight had an excellent World Championships showing with Team USA, she posted only 11 points in 24 games for PWHL Boston, and none in the playoffs. Her lack of offensive production was unexpected and created issues among Boston’s lines as players were shifted around in an attempt to find a situation where she could be the offensive threat she has been in the past. Still, the 2023 IIHF Female Player of the Year is signed for two more seasons, and could light up the scoresheet with just a little more help on her line.

Boston’s four forwards who are contracted for one more season are Loren Gabel, Taylor Girard, Susanna Tapani, and Theresa Schafzahl. Gabel, Girard, and Schafzahl finished in the top ten of scoring for the team and are players Boston can feel comfortable with returning. Tapani, a mid-season trade, earned the top-line center spot and was a big part of Boston making it to game five of the final.

Of Boston’s seven returning forwards, only Tapani has spent significant time at center, although Müller played center at Northeastern and for Switzerland. Boston didn’t give her much of a look there beyond the first few games, but they would do well to let her play it next year. The issue may be that neither she nor Tapani had significant success alongside Hilary Knight. Despite having two elite players at the position, Boston may need to look for another center who can help activate their captain.

Hannah Brandt should be high on Boston’s list to re-sign. Centering the middle six, she was one of Boston’s most versatile players and head coach Courtney Kessel trusted her enough to use her in all situations. She was also a clutch scorer: she finished with five goals and five assists, with many coming in some of the biggest moments of Boston’s season. Her hand injuries in the playoffs affected her ability to handle the puck, and her diminished impact was felt throughout the lineup. 

Lexie Adzija, Sophie Shirley, and Amanda Pelkey also brought interesting elements to Boston’s forward group and would be good players to have in Boston’s training camp in the fall to compete for roster spots.

Another player Boston may wish to invite to camp is Jillian Dempsey. The top scorer in PHF history, she centered Loren Gabel in the 2022-2023 season and both players finished in the top three in league scoring. Dempsey is a 200-foot player with a lot of offensive upside, but she played a defensive role on PWHL Montréal’s fourth line this season. She is a beloved figure in the Boston hockey community, having played her whole career in the city. 

Boston also owns the rights to right winger Caitrin Lonergan, acquired from Ottawa at the trade deadline. The Clarkson University alumna posted big numbers in her rookie season with the Connecticut Whale of the PHF in 2023, then sat out most of the 2024 season before signing as a reserve with Boston just before the deadline. While there’s no guarantee of a contract, Boston will want to see what she can offer in training camp at the very least.

With the third overall pick, Boston may choose to fill a hole in their defensive corps, but if they want to take a forward in the first round, there are elite options. One player they may be interested in is right winger Amanda Kessel. She has played on Team USA for over a decade and may be the solution to Hilary Knight’s line. The pair have extensive experience together and are known for putting up points. She is also the sister-in-law of Boston’s head coach, which could be a plus or a minus depending on how Boston’s staff view such a dual relationship.

Speed and creativity are big factors Boston should be looking for in their picks up front. With a big and feisty defensive corps, they can afford to go for skilled forwards that compliment their returning players. Someone like Ohio State’s Jennifer Gardiner could be a good compliment on the left side with her speedy and responsible play. Dara Greig, a Colgate alumna, could help build a strong third line alongside Hannah Brandt if Boston chooses to re-sign her. Boston may also aim for Anna Meixner, the captain of the Austrian national team and the MVP of the SDHL in 2023. Her skating and creativity in the offensive zone could be a fun look on a line with players like Müller or Tapani. 

Boston may also look for players in later rounds who could contribute in the bottom six grit with size and physicality as well as offensive upside. Clarkson graduate Brooke McQuigge is signed in the SDHL for the season, but her contract contains an opt-out for the PWHL draft. Laura Kluge plays in the German league, not one of the top leagues in Europe, but she has NCAA and SDHL experience and has performed well on the German national team. Either player could fit the profile.

Boston has a lot of questions up front, but they have a strong cast of returning players. Despite their regular season ups and downs, they have the chance to come back next season as one of the most dominant teams in the league, and it starts with the draft.