With the pre-draft free agency period now resolved, we have cause to reflect on how each of the PWHL's six franchises are positioned before the draft. That draft, which takes place on September 18th, is rapidly approaching.
Each PWHL team now has a core trio of talented players signed to three-year deals to build around. When analyzing these trios, it's difficult to say which franchise has the upper hand heading into the draft. Each team is well-positioned with talented, marketable players. With that said, there is cause for the fans of the New York team to be particularly excited.
The trio of Abby Roque, Alex Carpenter, and Micah Zandee-Hart is the youngest in the league. It may also represent the best foundation for both the present and future. There is a lot to work with and build around for general manager Pascal Daoust and recently named head coach Howie Draper heading into Monday's historic draft.
Carpenter, the veteran of the group at 29, has long been underrated because of Team USA's history of elite centers. For half a decade, Carpenter served as the understudy to future Hall of Famer Brianna Decker. More recently, Carpenter has shared the spotlight with Roque and Taylor Heise on the national team. But, make no mistake, the right-handed pivot remains one of the top players on the planet.
As evidenced by her production in major international tournaments and in pro leagues on both sides of the globe, Carpenter is full of talent. That talent is guided by an indomitable will which sets her apart as a fierce competitor and a clutch performer. She excels at creating offense and, by her own admission, Carpenter has come a long way in being a true two-way center. Those traits will be a huge part of this team's identity.
Wherever she's played and however she's been deployed, Carpenter has always made an impact. She will do the same for PWHL New York as the team's top center.
Abby Roque is a much different player than Carpenter but is just as effective. The left-handed center plays like someone who was forged by the hockey gods to play puck-possession hockey. Roque's balance, strength, and vision resulted in her making a big splash with her performance and production at the 2022 Worlds and Olympics and the 2023 Worlds.
Roque has come a long way since her collegiate career at Wisconsin, which was capped off with a dominant senior season. She had 31 primary points at even strength in 31 games as a senior in 2019-20 after picking up 11 primary points at evens in 40 games as a freshman in 2016-17. Of course, this is just a surface-level look at production but it helps tell the story here. It's been nothing but headlines and medals for Roque since that monster senior campaign with the Badgers.
The dots here are easy enough to connect – Roque is a rising superstar who has her best hockey still ahead of her. At 25, she's the youngest player of New York's pre-draft trio. She is a big part of the future of women's hockey and she's playing for New York. What's not to love about this fit?
All things considered, Zandee-Hart is a solid choice to build a blue line around. She's in her prime (26), she can play in every situation, and she's a tremendous leader. There may be more "exciting" defenders playing in the PWHL with more offensive upside than Zandee-Hart, but there aren't many who can measure up to her work ethic and consistency.
Zandee-Hart will never be the biggest player on the ice at 5-foot-8 but she wins battles all over the ice. Like Carpenter and Roque, she will pay the price to make plays. To give you an idea of what that looks like, Zandee-Hart finished her time at Cornell University with 225 blocks in 125 games – a program record. That's a lot of ice packs and a lot of cheers she heard from her bench. New York fans are going to love her for all of the things that don't show up in the box score.
With New York, Zandee-Hart will be the defense-first keystone of the blue line. It also puts Daoust in a position to target a partner with more offensive upside like Sophie Jacques, Claire Thompson, or a veteran like Kaleigh Fratkin or Kali Flanagan. With a partner as trustworthy as Zandee-Hart, some of the defenders who excel in that "rover" role could flourish on what is sure to be a tough-as-nails New York club.
Data courtesy of pick224.com and EliteProspects.com