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Senior speculation: NCAA grads that should sign up for the CWHL draft

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These four players would look great in Furies blue and white

2014 NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Championship
Cayley Mercer in 2014 (in green), en route to winning her first NCAA championship. Could a Clarkson Cup be next?
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Over the past month, college seniors and other eligible players from around the globe have submitted their names for entry into the CWHL Draft, to be held this August. The list is expected to expand further over the coming months, but today, we’re going to ignore it. Today, we’re going to talk about the players we want to see submit their names for contention. Today, we’re going to dream big.

Settle back, grab a beverage of your choice, and let me hype up some draft-eligible players from southern Ontario for your enjoyment. These are a few players I’d love to have to fight Brampton to draft see don a Furies jersey next season.

Cayley Mercer

Cayley Mercer is my pie-in-the-sky dream for next year. She’s won two national championships with the Clarkson Golden Knights, as a freshman in 2014 and as a senior and team captain in 2017. She scored 62 points this season, tying Minnesota’s Kelly Pannek for first in the NCAA, and also led the nation in goals with 28. Not surprisingly, she was a top-three Patty Kazmaier finalist. In March, she scored two goals in Clarkson’s 3-0 upset over Wisconsin to win the NCAA championship.

As might be expected with a player of her caliber, she didn’t go unnoticed in the NWHL’s junior draft last year. She was chosen sixth overall by the Buffalo Beauts, who are generally the team of choice for Canadian players wanting to live in Canada but play in the NWHL. However, because the NWHL and CWHL drafts function very differently, a selection in the NWHL draft is not a strong indication that the player will sign. (Five of the top-ten picks in the 2015 NWHL draft ended up playing in a different league.) The NWHL is also in a much more significant state of public upheaval than it was in October of 2016, when the linked article was written.

Mercer would be a great addition to any team, but I would love seeing those hands and playmaking skills on the Furies, especially with Natalie Spooner centralized. While the Furies found depth scoring at various points last year, Spooner still drove that offense. Combine that with Kelly Terry’s retirement, and Michela Cava signing with MODO Hockey in Sweden, and the Furies are losing their three top scorers from last year. They really need players who can put the puck in the net.

Brooke Webster

At St. Lawrence University, in the same upstate New York county as Clarkson, Brooke Webster put together her own highly impressive season. She ranked third in the country in points with 57, a twenty-point jump from her junior season, while playing on one of the best lines in the women’s NCAA last year.

These highlights from an ECAC quarterfinal game against Yale show some of Webster’s skillset. The clip opens with her scoring on a beautiful solo rush, and about a minute in, she sets up Maggie McLaughlin for a power-play goal with a lovely pass from below the goal line. Her creative passing stands out in a lot of her highlights, accented by the chemistry she has with her linemates, Kennedy Marchment and Hannah Miller.

St. Lawrence made the NCAA tournament this year for the first time since 2012 (only to be unceremoniously thumped by Boston College, 6-0, but baby steps). Webster’s individual performance earned her a spot as a top-ten finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award. Like Mercer, she’d immediately improve the team that drafted her, and it would be very nice if that team was Toronto, right?

Sarah Nurse

So, the only reason Sarah Nurse isn’t at the top of this list (with little sparkly hearts around her name) is that she’s centralized for Canada. At best, she’d be around for a couple months at the end of the season. However, fellow centralized Canadian Mélodie Daoust has now tossed her hat into the ring for the draft — presumably as a back up in case she’s cut or for the remainder of the season post-Olympics — so the possibility of Hamilton native Nurse doing the same bears mention. And the idea of Sarah Nurse in a Toronto Furies jersey is enough to send me into fits of glee.

Nurse spent last season playing for the Wisconsin Badgers, the same team Mercer’s Golden Knights upset for the national championship. Both of Nurse’s linemates — Canadian Emily Clark and American Annie Pankowski— are also centralized for their respective countries, and the three of them united were one of the scariest lines in the NCAA last season. In 39 games, Nurse racked up 53 points, and her 25 goals were tied with Pankowski for second in the NCAA. The woman’s hands are good enough to give me the vapors.

Nurse might not help the Furies through the majority of next season, but imagine her post-Olympics, finishing off Natalie Spooner’s passes. Seriously, close your eyes and imagine that. If enough of us do it, maybe we can will it into reality.

Mellissa Channell

While Nurse is the stuff scoring dreams are made of, the biggest goal of Wisconsin’s season was scored by defender Mellissa Channell in their Frozen Four game against Boston College. After 59 scoreless minutes of tremendous hockey (and tremendous goaltending) Channell threaded a point shot through traffic and past BC goalie Katie Burt with sixteen seconds remaining. Her goal sent the Badgers to the national championship game against Clarkson.

Channell skated on the top pairing for the frighteningly stacked Badgers this season, and put up 17 points in 36 games in the process. She was also named to the Frozen Four All-Tournament Team. With both Erin Ambrose and Renata Fast centralizing for Canada, a skilled defender who can hammer shots from the point is a very appealing prospect. Even if it’s the loss in scoring talent that worries me the most, the only position with any sort of stability at the moment is in goal (that being said, please don’t leave us, Kessler). Adding someone like Channell to the mix would go a ways toward solidifying the defense in the absence of the Furies’ shiny young D-pair.

We’ll have more to come on the CWHL Draft closer to the event itself, including draft predictions grounded in considerably more reality when the prospect list has filled out in a few months. Until then, join us in wild speculation and/or starry-eyed fantasy in the comments! I’ll be off adding Sarah Nurse to my Toronto Furies vision board.