For second-year GM Hayley Moore, the NWHL draft was all about getting top-tier talent, regardless of where that talent came from. Still, you might as well start calling the Pride “WCHA East” if they manage to sign all their picks next year — all five players were from the westernmost conference in the NCAA.
She snagged Ann Renee Desbiens with the team’s first round pick, a finalist for this year’s Patty Kazmaier award given annually to the top collegiate player in the country. She also got a gem in Halli Kryzaniak in the fourth round.
However, it’s slightly concerning that Boston didn’t draft a single American-born player. Their first four picks are all Canadian and they have all played for Canada’s national team at some point in their career.
The NWHL and CWHL have, up until this point, seemed to use their leagues’ borders to divvy up who signs where: Canada’s national team members sign in the CWHL while the American players stay in the NWHL. But Moore thinks that will change.
“I think that if we ultimately want to have the league with the best players in the world, then that’s our responsibility to continue to grow this league and continue to make this an attractive environment and the best place for these women to continue their hockey careers,” she said.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Ric Seiling, Buffalo’s GM and head coach.
“I think you’re going to start seeing players coming across from the Canadian national team very quick, very soon. Once one or two start to go across, I think others will follow. I think they’ll realize the fact that they’re playing at a high level of play and at the same time, making a wage for it, and it will draw more over.”
It will have to change for this draft to be considered a success for Boston. They already lost one of the best goalies in the game when the CWHL confirmed that Emerance Maschmeyer will be drafted into their league and sign with a team.
If it happens again with Desbiens, it’s a bad look for Moore. But if they manage to sign a top prospect from Canada’s national team, it could signal a shift in the NWHL’s legitimacy.
Ann Renee Desbiens – Goaltender, University of Wisconsin
Desbiens was far and away the best goaltender in the draft, well worth the first round pick that Boston used to select her. She led all Division I players in 2015-16 with an unreal 0.960 save percentage and a 0.76 goals against average.
In 38 games played, Desbiens had 21 shutouts — that’s 55 percent. She played four games in the 2015 Women’s World Championships and earned a silver medal, and though she missed making the team this year thanks to Emerance Maschmeyer, she’s destined to be a part of Canada’s national team for a long time.
If Boston manages to sign Desbiens, they’d be golden in goal. If she’s still there, it’s possible that Desbiens and Brittany Ott could split time in net, but Desbiens is fully capable of taking total control.
Sarah Nurse – Forward, University of Wisconsin
When asked which player he’d steal from another team if he had the chance, Riveter’s head coach and GM Chad Wiseman thought for a moment before mentioning Sarah Nurse, and for good reason.
A forward from Wisconsin, Nurse scored 25 goals, leading the Badgers in goal scoring, and had 13 assists this last season. She spends time on the penalty kill and is known for her speed, both which contributed to her third team all-conference selection this season in the WCHA.
If they can afford her, Nurse would make an excellent depth player on a team that looks to have a strong forward corp for a long time. If one of the nation’s top scorers could play on the second or third line, the rest of the NWHL better watch out.
Ashleigh Brykaliuk – Forward, University of Minnesota Duluth
Boston’s third round pick also led her team in scoring, scoring 18 goals and 29 assists for 47 points in 37 games in her first year as the team’s captain. She’s worn the maple leaf for Team Canada twice, both in the U18 championships where she earned gold medals in 2012 and 2013. Her versatility could serve the Pride well, according to her head coach, Maura Crowell.
In an article for the Westman Journal, Crowell described Brykaliuk as a player with many talents:
“She’s an unbelievably fast and quick skater…She can make things happen for herself or for those around her by getting around opponents or cutting into open lanes. She is extremely crafty with the puck, too and has the patience and vision to slow the play down when needed or ramp it up, depending on what’s open. She can shoot the puck well, so to me, she has the tools to put the puck in the net or help others do it.”
Halli Krzyzaniak – Defender, University of North Dakota
This was one of the surprises of the day. Hayley Moore, along with others following the draft, were shocked that a player like Krzyzaniak fell so far down the draft ladder.
But Moore isn’t complaining. “I definitely had her on my radar, and she’s a player I’ve watched since she was high school,” said Moore. “I was definitely surprised to still have her available when I picked her, and very pleased to have that pick. I think she’s an incredible player and she’s only getting better.”
Krzyzaniak, the only defender that the Pride drafted, has caught the eye of many during her college career. Last year, she scored five goals and had 12 assists for 17 points while captaining North Dakota’s team. She’s played for Canada’s U18 team as well.
A right-handed defender could fit in well with Boston, if she decides to sign with them.
Lara Stalder – Forward, University of Minnesota Duluth
Boston used their final pick on Lara Stalder, a teammate of Brykaliuk on Minnesota-Duluth. Stalder, who hasn’t yet graduated college, is already an Olympic medalist, playing on the bronze-medal winning Switzerland team at Sochi.
She’s Minnesota-Duluth’s second leading scorer, behind just Brykaliuk, with 17 goals and 24 assists. She’s also the first Swiss player to be drafted in the NWHL, and she’d be the first to play in the league, as well, should she sign a contract next year.