WCHA Prospects to Watch for the 2024 PWHL Draft

Midwestern schools, draft in Minnesota… it just makes sense!

WCHA Prospects to Watch for the 2024 PWHL Draft
Source: St. Cloud State, Credit: Jason Soria

Editor's Note: The following is a guest post from LJ Bachenmeier (@leajamieb).

The WCHA is well-represented in this year’s PWHL draft pool. Nineteen players from five different schools are eligible to be drafted by one of six teams in the 2024 PWHL Entry Draft. A powerhouse conference that hosts both of the 2024 national finalists and the last two national champions (who happen to be the same teams), it makes perfect sense that successful collegiate players from the WCHA are looking to make the jump to professional play with the PWHL. As you watch this year’s draft and the upcoming season, here are some prospects from the WCHA you’ll want to keep an eye on. 


Klára Hymlárová (St. Cloud State, CZE)

A versatile player who’s proved her worth to both her NCAA and national team, Klára Hymlárová could easily be a great pick for a team looking for skill and flexibility. In the WCHA, Hymlárová led St. Cloud State in points, a significant achievement considering she spent a chunk of the 2023-24 season playing defense. She’s also been a regular on the rising Czech National Team, where she was used as both a center and on the wing to generate energy and push play forward. The PWHL is known for having greater physicality than the NCAA, but Hymlárová likely won’t have an issue with that, with her knack for physical play. Teams in need of talent and versatility might be keeping their eyes on Hymlárová.

Jennifer Gardiner (Ohio State, CAN)

Ohio State is well-represented in the 2024 PWHL Draft pool, so there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the 2024 NCAA National Champions. While Hannah Bilka might be the OSU forward on everyone’s mind, I want to draw some attention to Jennifer Gardiner, who was the Buckeyes’ captain and a big part of that championship-winning team. Gardiner was Ohio State’s second-most prolific points-getter, just behind Bilka with 45 points in 39 games, but the scoresheet doesn’t tell the whole story. Gardiner is a skilled player on both ends of the ice who knows what to do in big moments, something that has gotten her attention from Team Canada. Gardiner played in the 23-24 Rivalry Series, but was the last cut before this year’s World Championships, so success in the PWHL could be a path to national team play in the future. 

Honorable Mentions:

  • Hannah Bilka (Ohio State, USA): I don’t need to give her a feature, Bilka’s success speaks for itself. An elite talent with Team USA experience who led national champions Ohio State in points and goals, Bilka is sure to be one of the draft’s top picks. 
  • Britta Curl (Wisconsin, USA): Another young Team USA standout with a lot of offensive talent. It’ll be worth paying attention to where she lands, though, as Curl’s support for transphobic sentiments puts her at odds with the PWHL’s stated goals of diversity and inclusion.
  • Mannon McMahon (Minnesota-Duluth, USA): UMD’s captain was one of the NCAA’s best when it came to face-offs, making her a good addition at center. She’s also got a knack for clutch scoring, with four game-winning goals this past season including a double-overtime dinger to send the Bulldogs to the NCAA Regional Finals. And I give McMahon props for having perfect attendance- she played in all 173 consecutive games of her college career. 


Cayla Barnes (Ohio State, USA)

One of the best defenders in the 2024 draft pool, Cayla Barnes is the kind of player who can make an instant difference for a team. She’s been a staple on the Team USA blueline, and she had a fantastic year at Ohio State after four years at Boston College, eventually culminating in a national championship win where she assisted on the lone goal. Barnes had 36 points in 39 games for the Buckeyes, leading her team in scoring among defenders, but she also had a whopping, nation-leading +71 rating throughout the season, proving her ability to drive scoring. She’s a true two-way player, too, skilled on both ends of the ice but with enough toughness to play a shutdown role. It’s hard to say where exactly she’ll land, but any team looking for more talent for their blueline should be looking to draft Cayla Barnes. If she’s still available after the first round, I’ll be surprised. 

Anna Wilgren (Wisconsin, USA)

Wisconsin may have lost the national championship to Ohio State, but their talent-laden roster means a player like Anna Wilgren is worth paying attention to. Wilgren came to Wisconsin as a graduate transfer after being a leader on and off the ice at Minnesota State. In 2023-24, she tallied 24 points in 40 games, including a 5-point night during an early-season blowout against Lindenwood. She also registered 55 blocked shots throughout the season, with a willingness to get behind play. Wilgren has been involved with Team USA, most recently featuring on the 23-24 Rivalry Series, so her familiarity with different systems could be beneficial in the PWHL. She’s an intelligent defender who could be a good addition to a team’s defensive depth.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Stephanie Markowski (Ohio State, CAN): Markowski is tough to play against, with a knack for blocking shots and no lack of penalty minutes. Her physicality will benefit her in the PWHL, but so will the smart decision-making and defensively sound play that made her a stalwart for Clarkson and Ohio State in the NCAA.
  • Hadley Hartmetz (Ohio State, USA): Another of Ohio State’s talented defenders in the draft pool, Hartmetz is good on the rush, yet capable in her own zone. She was a significant contributor to the Buckeyes’ season, and recognized multiple times by the WCHA for her performance.
  • Madeline Wethington (Minnesota, USA): Wethington is a big, physical defender who can play big minutes. One of the top defenders in the WCHA, she could add to a PWHL team’s blueline depth.
  • Chayla Edwards (Wisconsin, USA): A steady defender and reliable shot-blocker who contributed to two National Championships with Wisconsin. While not as recognizable as her younger sister Laila, Edwards could be a stable third-pairing defender.


Raygan Kirk (Ohio State, CAN)

Of the two goaltenders who declared for the PWHL draft out of the WCHA, Raygan Kirk is the one to keep an eye on. She started as a third-stringer at OSU after transferring from the cut program at Robert Morris, but worked her way up to starter. In 2023-24, she had a .945 save percentage, 1.05 GAA, and 10 shutouts in 24 games through the regular and postseason. Most notably, Kirk backstopped Ohio State to a national championship against Wisconsin with another, 26-save shutout. There’s a lot of goaltender talent vying for a spot in the PWHL, so it’s hard to say where Kirk could fit in, but her championship-winning season could be enough to garner some consideration.