PWHL draft power rankings: Montreal walks away big winners

On a historic draft day for the PWHL, Montreal came away with some of the biggest names available to supplement an already excellent core.

The 15-round PWHL Draft took place Monday afternoon in Toronto with 90 players selected to fill out the bulk of the six rosters in the fledgling league.

As expected, Minnesota selected University of Minnesota star and Team USA offensive leader Taylor Heise first overall, followed by Team Canada veteran Jocelyne Larocque going to Toronto second overall, and Swiss superstar Alina Muller going to Boston third.

While each team found talent in the draft, some did better than others. Here’s a ranking of the 2023 PWHL Draft classes:

1. Montreal

The riches Montreal came home with, adding to their existing trio of Marie-Philip Poulin, Ann-Renee Desbiens, and Laura Stacey, were shocking.

Montreal grabbed fellow Canadian national team members Erin Ambrose and Kristen O'Neill, along with Czechia national team members Dominika Laskova and Tereza Vanisova, plus Swedish national team leading scorer Lina Ljungblom.

The scoring punch up front that Montreal will roll out will keep their opposition spinning, as the team also selected former PHF MVPs Kennedy Marchment and Jillian Dempsey, NCAA stars Gabrielle David and Maureen Murphy, and longtime Canadian national team member Ann-Sophie Bettez. They also added offensive defenders Kati Tabin — who led the PHF in scoring from the blueline last season — and flashy NCAA grad Maude Poulin-Labelle. They’ll be a fun team to watch.

2. Toronto

Adding to Sarah Nurse, Renata Fast, and Blayre Turnbull, Toronto GM Gina Kingsbury took a wealth of players familiar to the Canadian National Team, including current members Emma Maltais, Jocelyne Larocque, Kristen Campbell, and Natalie Spooner. She also grabbed former USA National Team members Kali Flanagan, Jesse Compher, and former Canadian National Teamer Victoria Bach.

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 18  -  Blayre Turnbull, Renata Fast, Sarah Nurse, and GM Gina Kingsbury flank fifth round draft pick Jesse Compher at the inaugural Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) Draft at CBC's headquarters  in Toronto. September 18, 2023.          (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto's core, including free agency signings Blayre Turnbull, Renata Fast, and Sarah Nurse, is built around an intriguing combination of high-skill game-changers and effective role players. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

There’s a lot of skill and speed on Toronto’s roster, but Kingsbury also selected role players. It’s a model Kingsbury and head coach Troy Ryan, who also helms the national program's squad, have followed at the international level.

With Team Canada, they’ve leaned into choosing players suited to bottom-six roles, and they did this again in Toronto, grabbing players that will excel on both sides of the puck. One wild card to watch is Hannah Miller, who was the 2022 World Championship D1A MVP while playing for China.

3. Boston

Boston will have a freighting power play with Hilary Knight, Loren Gabel, Alina Muller, Megan Keller, and Sophie Jaques. General Manager Danielle Marmer also did a nice job of infusing players that can move up and down her lineup, including former Toronto Six captain Shiann Darkangelo and Taylor Girard, a powerful forward who finished fourth in PHF scoring last year. Marmer also nabbed versatile forward Jamie Lee Rattray, USA veteran Hannah Brandt, Wisconsin standout Sophie Shirley, and Austrian star Theresa Schafzahl.

Perhaps where Marmer stole the show, however, was by putting together potentially the best goaltending tandem in the league. With Aerin Frankel already signed, Marmer dipped back into the netminding pool, selecting World Championship Best Goaltender Emma Soderberg of Sweden.

4. Ottawa

After signing Brianne Jenner, Emily Clark, and Emerance Maschmeyer in free agency, Ottawa managed to grab past and present Canadian and American National Team players including Savannah Harmon, Ashton Bell, Jincy Dunne, Gabrielle Hughes, and Hayley Scamurra.

They also selected Czech national team members Aneta Tejralova and Katerina Mrazova, plus German national team netminder Sandra Abstreiter. Ottawa found good value in the draft claiming former Patty Kazmaier Award winner Daryl Watts, and USports All-Canadian Audrey-Anne Veillete.

It’s a well-rounded roster that will have every ounce of potential squeezed out from it under the guidance of head coach Carla MacLeod.

5. Minnesota

Getting Taylor Heise first overall is a game-changer for the next decade. General manager Natalie Darwitz also claimed arguably the top remaining goaltender in Nicole Hensley, a member of Team USA, and added Susanna Tapani, a Finnish legend who could become the steal of the draft.

Darwitz also grabbed a handful of former Minnesota Whitecaps players in Denisa Krizova, Liz Schepers, Sidney Morin, Sydney Brodt, Amanda Leveille, and young defender Maggie Flaherty, who signed with the Whitecaps in the offseason.

It’s a veteran roster, and Minnesota has perhaps the best remaining pool of free agents available to choose from geographically outside of Toronto’s crop.

6. New York

New York General Manager Pascal Daoust wasted no time addressing his blueline, picking Ella Shelton and Jaime Bourbonnais to pair with free agent signing Micah Zandee-Hart. New York also grabbed highly underrated netminder Corinne Schroeder, who was the reigning PHF Goalie of the Year and could turn into the PWHL’s top netminder.

TORONTO, CANADA - JANUARY 29: Corinne Schroeder #30 of Team Canada skates during the Premier Hockey Federation 2023 All-Star Show Case at Mattamy Athletic Centre on January 29, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Corinne Schroeder, the reigning PHF Goalie of the Year, could be a huge coup between the pipes for New York. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)

Where New York may struggle is with their lack of firepower up front outside of Alex Carpenter and Abby Roque, both of whom were signed in free agency, and the team's third-round selection Jessie Eldridge.

Players like Elizabeth Giguere, Jill Saulnier, and Chloe Aurard are intelligent puck movers with slick skills, and Jade Downie-Landry is one of the better value picks made in the draft, but this team will undoubtedly look to supplement its potential scoring deficiencies with passed over offensive players like Madison Packer, Mikyla Grant-Mentis, and Allie Thunstrom in free agency.