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Thoughts on the 2016 NWHL Draft

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Teams are planning for the future.

Princeton D Kelsey Koelzer goes first overall in the 2016 NWHL Draft
Princeton D Kelsey Koelzer goes first overall in the 2016 NWHL Draft
NWHL

The NWHL's 2016 draft took place on Saturday at noon Eastern time. It was a quicker, simpler process than most professional drafts, taking place on various social media platforms and concluding within the hour.

  1. Kelsey Koelzer, D, Princeton RIVS
  2. Lee Stecklein, D, Minnesota, BEAUTS
  3. Dani Cameranesi, F, Minnesota, WHALE
  4. Ann-Renée Desbiens, G, Wisconsin, PRIDE
  5. Sydney Daniels, F, Harvard RIVS
  6. Cayley Mercer, F, Clarkson, BEAUTS
  7. Andie Anastos, F, Boston College, WHALE
  8. Sarah Nurse, F, Wisconson, PRIDE
  9. Jenny Ryan, D, Wisconson, RIVS
  10. Hayley Scamurra, F, Northeastern, BEAUTS
  11. Mellissa Channell, D, Wisconsin, WHALE
  12. Ashleigh Brykaliuk, F, Minn Duluth, PRIDE
  13. Sydney McKibbon, F, Wisconsin, RIVS
  14. Emma Woods, F, Quinnipiac, BEAUTS
  15. Paige Savage, F, Northeastern, WHALE
  16. Halli Krzyzaniak, D, North Dakota, PRIDE
  17. Amy Menke, F, North Dakota, RIVS
  18. Maddie Elia, F, BU, BEAUTS
  19. Sydney Rossman, G, Quinnipiac, WHALE
  20. Lara Stalder, D, Minn Duluth, PRIDE

(all links to eliteprospects.com)

The NWHL drafts players entering their senior year of university (an NWHL team has yet to draft a player from outside  NCAA Division 1), so teams are only allowed limited contact with their picks until graduation, at least a year later. This precludes the jersey-donning ceremonies of other leagues and leaves the consequences of the draft resting solely with the teams.

A player can choose to sign with another team after graduating (like 2015 draftees Courtney Burke and Milica McMillen), delay signing by "redshirting" her senior year and continuing with her university team the following year, commit to signing with another league (Erin Ambrose and Emerance Maschmeyer)  or simply end her hockey career when she finishes her undergraduate studies. Teams only receive compensation in the event that their draft pick is signed by another NWHL team -- between $5,000 and $1,000 from the other team's cap depending on the round of the pick.

The question then remains, who will sign?

So far only seven of the 2015 draft class have signed NWHL contracts. Only three have signed with the team that drafted them. The biggest new signing of 2016 has been the undrafted Amanda Kessel. Further, the NWHL has yet to address the impact of the 2018 Olympics on the 2017-18 season. Seven players from the 2016 draft class, including the second, third and fourth overall picks,  have current ties to their national team.  Will players be able to train and play with their national team while on a NWHL contract? If not, what happens to these draft picks?

Kate Cimini and Hannah Bevis joined the post-draft media call and tweeted that New York Riveters GM Chad Wiseman said he reached out to players to see if they were interested in joining the NWHL, but that the league also worked with the university Sports Information Directors and NCAA compliance.This marks a change from last year, when teams were banned from any contact at all, and does lead to more confidence that players from further afield such as the various Minnesotans and Georgia native Paige Savage may actually sign contracts next year.

This makes it that much more baffling that the Boston Pride's first four draft picks were all players invited to camp by Hockey Canada this summer and fifth round pick Lara Stalder is a veteran on the Swiss national team. The odds of these players playing in the NWHL at all are fairly low to start with and for the 2017-18 season lower still. I'm not sure what Boston Pride GM Hayley Moore's criteria for this draft was but it wasn't "players likely to sign".

Conversely, none of the Riveters picks have been involved with their national team in at least three years, and first overall pick Kelsey Koelzer comes from a town less than two hours drive from the Riveters' rink. The Beauts placed an emphasis on local players: with the exception of first round pick Lee Stecklein (a Minnesotan and current USWNT player), all of their picks hail from somewhere within driving distance of Buffalo. Although two are Canadian, neither has piqued the interest of the national team to date.

The draft class of 2016 is still in the driver's seat when it comes to signing, but most of the NWHL GMs made an effort to choose those likely to be both interested and available in 2017.

The 2016-17 NWHL season is expected to begin in October. The 2016 CWHL draft takes place in Toronto on August 21.