Women's Hockey 101: NWHL Draft

All of the rules, regulations, and history behind the NWHL's draft.

Starting this season, we’re introducing a series titled “Women’s Hockey 101.”

Our goal is to make women’s hockey more accessible for everyone, from brand new fans to seasoned women’s hockey vets. We know a lot of people who want to get into women's hockey but don't know where to start. There are an awful lot of leagues, teams, player, tournaments, etc. to keep up with, and it’s our mission to give you all the basics about everything women’s hockey.

No matter where you are in your women’s hockey fandom, keeping up with everything can be hard, and we want to make your lives easier. Welcome to Women’s Hockey 101!

We’ll update this as changes are made to the draft structure.



For the first time, the NWHL Draft will draft players who have already finished their college eligibility.

On April 23, the NWHL announced the 2020 Draft would be on April 28 and 29 on Twitter. As was with last year’s draft, the first two rounds will be on the first night and the other three the second.

The newest team to the league - the unnamed Toronto team - was awarded the first pick and then will drop one pick lower each round. The other teams were slotted based on their regular season standings.

Each team should only have one pick each round. The lone exception is that in round five, Connecticut will have two picks. This will account for the “future considerations” from the Maria Sorokina trade when the Whale traded the Russian goaltender to the Riveters in the 2018-2019 season.

As usual, the players drafted are not bound to the teams that draft them. They are free to sign with another team or not join the league at all.


Ahead of the 2018-19 season, the NWHL said it was rethinking it draft structure.

On Dec. 13, 2018, the league announced the 2018 Draft would be on Dec. 19 and 20, with the first two rounds on the first day and the other three on the second. Each team will pick once per round — for a total of 25 players drafted.

The order was based on the winning percentages in the first half of the season. The reigning Isobel Champions Riveters got the top spot as they’ve struggled this season. The Whale has the second pick, followed by the Beauts, Whitecaps, and finally the Pride.

2015 - 2017

What made the NWHL draft different than most drafts is that it was a junior draft. Unlike the CWHL, where players must register for the draft, the NWHL Draft allows teams to draft any player entering her senior year of college, though she is not allowed to play for a team until she has graduated college and is no longer under the NCAA rules (for those who play in the NCAA). While teams have the “rights” to players, there is nothing officially binding them to their club. Teams draft for five rounds so that 20 players total are selected per draft.

This has served as a bit of a double-edged sword for the NWHL. Some players, though drafted by NWHL teams, may choose to not play in the league at all — often, Canadian players like Erin Ambrose and Emerance Maschmeyer have registered for the CWHL draft and leave teams without even a draft tax as compensation.

The league briefly instituted a draft tax during the 2016-17 season when teams still had a fixed $270,000 salary cap (though whether that tax has remained or been modified is unclear with the league's salary cuts last year).

The draft tax meant that if a player signed with a team other than the one that had drafted her, then the team who signed her would have to pay a “tax” to the team they took her from. That tax varied on the round of the draft the player was taken — the higher the draft pick, the higher the tax.

Per the NWHL’s press release:

If player decides to sign with another club, that club will forfeit between $1,000 - $5,000 of their salary cap to the club that drafted the player. $1,000 for 5th round picks, $2,000 for 4th round picks, $3,000 for 3rd round picks, $4,000 for 2nd round picks, $5,000 for 1st round picks.

It’s a flawed system, to be sure, but because a player does not need to be drafted in order to play in the NWHL — teams are allowed to sign undrafted free agents — it's a system the NWHL has chosen to stick with.

From the 2015 draft, 10 out of 20 players drafted signed with an NWHL team in their first year of eligibility (though most did not sign where they were drafted). So far, only seven have signed with an NWHL team from the 2016 draft, though there's still time for teams to sign players.

Draft Picks


First round:
1. Alex Carpenter (NYR) (signed with Boston)
2. Hannah Brandt (CTW) (played for Whitecaps)
3. Kendall Coyne (BOS) (played for Whitecaps)
4. Courtney Burke (BUF) (signed with Riveters)

Second round:
5. Haley Skarupa (NYR) (signed with Connecticut)
6. Michelle Picard (CTW) (signed with New York)
7. Emerance Maschmeyer (BOS) (entered CWHL draft, played for Calgary)
8. Sarah Lefort (BUF) (entered CWHL draft, played for Montreal)

Third round
9. Erin Ambrose (NYR) (entered CWHL draft, played for Toronto)
10. Milica McMillen (CTW) (signed with New York)
11. Lexi Bender (BOS) (signed with Boston)
12. Amanda Leveille (BUF) (signed with Buffalo)

Fourth round
13. Dana Trivigno (NYR) (signed with Connecticut)
14. Maryanne Menefee (CTW)
15. Miye D'Oench (BOS) (signed with New York)
16. Emily Janiga (BUF) (signed with Buffalo)

Fifth Round
17. Kimberly Newell (NYR)
18. Cassandra Poudrier (CTW) (entered CWHL draft, played for Montreal)
19. Shannon MacAulay (entered CWHL draft, played for Brampton)
20. Jenna Dingeldein (BUF) (entered CWHL draft, played for Toronto)

2016 Draft

First round:
1.Kelsey Koelzer (NYR) (signed with NYR)
2. Lee Stecklein (BUF)
3. Dani Cameranesi (CTW)
4. Ann-Renee Desbiens (BOS)

Second round:
5. Sydney Daniels (NYR) (signed with Boston)
6. Cayley Mercer (BUF) (entered CWHL Draft)
7. Andie Anastos (CTW)
8. Sarah Nurse (BOS)

Third round
9. Jenny Ryan (NYR) (signed with New York)
10. Halyey Scamurra (BUF) (signed with Buffalo)
11. Mellissa Channell (CTW)
12. Ashleigh Brykaliuk (BOS) (entered CWHL draft)

Fourth round
13. Sydney McKibbon (NYR)
14. Emma Woods (BUF)
15. Paige Savage (CTW) (signed with Boston)
16. Halli Krzyzaniak (BOS)

Fifth round
17. Amy Menke (NYR)
18. Maddie Elia (BUF) (signed with Buffalo)
19. Sydney Rossman (CTW) (signed with Connecticut)
20. Lara Stalder (BOS) (signed with Linkoping HC)

2017 Draft

Despite making it to the Isobel Cup Final, Boston will had the first pick after acquiring it in a trade for Zoe Hickel.

2017 NWHL Draft Recap: Katie Burt goes first overall

2018 Draft

Breaking down past NWHL Drafts

The first two rounds of the 2018 NWHL Draft
Annie Pankowski was the first overall pick of this year’s draft

Rounds 3-5 of the 2018 NWHL Draft