The Connecticut Whale may have had the most complete draft of the NWHL’s 2016 Junior Draft, adding at least one player to every position on the team.
“Our strategy was find to the top players in each position and take them as they came,” head coach Heather Linstad told the media in a post-Draft conference call. “If it was the top forward, we would take the best forward at that time. We wanted to be balanced in our picks.”
This particular balance was achieved through front-loading its draft picks with forwards, which Linstad acknowledged in good humor.
“I think you can tell we were looking at offense,” she said. Offense wasn’t the only priority for Linstad and Giovanelli, though.
“We built the draft in trying to assess young women that we thought were going to be great in the locker room as well,” Linstad said. “Every year we’re building on our chemistry and our culture in our locker room, but [we’re looking for] kids that we’ve known have had good leadership skills through their college career and whatnot.”
3 Overall: Dani Cameranesi – Forward, University of Minnesota
Out of the University of Minnesota, Dani Cameranesi is a clear shot to the arm for the Connecticut Whale’s offensive prowess, stacking the team with strong finishing ability. Cameranesi led the Golden Gophers with a career-best 68 points (33G, 35A) in her junior season, also leading the team in goals and power play goals.
As a junior Cameranesi was named a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award top-10 finalist. While she didn’t take the trophy home, her opportune play, quick stick and ability to convert on the fly were certainly top reasons for her consideration.
She also earned a Second Team All-American nod, as well as places on the All-WCHA First Team and All-USCHO Second Team. Cameranesi’s 33 goals were worth a WCHA Scoring Champion title. To top it off she was named to the WCHA All-Academic Team and earned a Academic All-Big Ten honoree nomination.
7 Overall: Andie Anastos – Forward, Boston College
Anastos, another dynamic forward, was drafted with the Whale’s second pick, showing Connecticut’s focus on snapping up the highest-caliber offense available.
Anastos played for the past several years alongside the likes of Alex Carpenter and Dana Trivigno at Boston College. As a junior, Anastos served as of the Eagles’ three captains, helping to lead her team to an NCAA Finals finish. She played in all 41 games, recording a career-high 37 points on 14 goals and career-best 23 assists, ending the season with a plus-minus of plus-50, which ranked eighth nationally.
Anastos is driven to score, as she showed over the past season, something Connecticut would prize dearly under Heather Linstad’s system. Anastos recorded points in 25 games, including nine multi-point games and would shore up the offensive pressure on the Whale.
11 Overall: Melissa Channell – Defense, University of Wisconsin
The Whale’s first defensive pick of the day, Channell, a player out of the University of Wisconsin, was something of a sleeper. She doesn’t have the myriad of accolades that Cameranesi or Anastos have racked up, but she is a quietly effective defender. She has a very elastic shot, and is unafraid to use it.
As a junior Channell scored just 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) over the 38 games she played. Despite not leading her team in points, or something similar, she still posted far more points than most defenders on the Whale did last season, a sore point for Connecticut.
Channell participated in the 2011 Canada-USA series for Team Canada’s U-18 Team; in 2012 she she played in the Meco Cup with the Canadian Women’s U-22 team and was invited to the summer Team Canada U-22 camp. Most recently she played for Team Canada in the 2016 Nations Cup, recording an assist in Canada’s gold-medal winning game.
She will be a solid blueliner for Connecticut, should she sign during the 2017 offseason.
An interesting note: there may be bad blood between Channell and fellow Whale draft pick Cameranesi. This video on YouTube suggests that Channell was concussed after a cross-check to the back of the head after the play by Cameranesi. Channell did sit out at least one game that season, though whether or not it was due to a concussion is unknown at this time.
15 Overall: Paige Savage – Forward, Northeastern University
Savage was another unexpected choice by Connecticut, one who was seemingly off the radar. A power forward out of Northeastern’s program, capable of skating big minutes and wearing down the defense, Savage took the ice in all 38 games during her junior season, routinely on a line with Kendall Coyne.
She has a quick stick and is a fast thinker, which earned her 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists) on the season.
The addition of Savage suggests that the Whale are looking to replace Shiann Darkangelo at the power forward position during the upcoming 2017-18 season, when the Olympic players will centralize in September in order to prepare for the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Savage, who is not on the USWNT’s radar, could be a great, cheap replacement for Darkangelo from the outset.
19 Overall: Sydney Rossman – Goalie, Quinnipiac University
Last, but certainly not least, the Whale selected Sydney Rossman, a goaltender out of Quinnipiac University’s program. Rossman may have been the best pick of all; it is surprising she went so low in the draft.
She is a quick, efficient goaltender who eschews giant, wheeling acrobatic saves in favor of squaring herself up and quietly making the save the first time.
Rossman certainly has many accolades to be proud of. She was named ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Year as a junior, and an ECAC Hockey Player of the Year Finalist. At the 2016 ECAC Hockey Tournament she was named Most Outstanding Player and earned a nod on the All-Tournament Team. She scooped up a spot on the All-ECAC Hockey First Team, was named a New England Division I Women’s Hockey All-Star, as well as to the All-USCHO Third Team.
Rossman had the best season by a goaltender in Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey history, setting the program record for wins in a single season (30) and a winning percentage (0.855). She also set the program record for lowest goals-against average in a single season (0.90), which rings in at the fourth-lowest in a single season in NCAA DI women’s hockey history.
Rossman posted 16 shutouts in the 2015-16 season, tying the program record set by former Connecticut Whale goalie Chelsea Laden, the fourth-most in a season in NCAA DI women’s hockey. She posted a 0.949 save percentage, second-best in program history and set the program record with four consecutive shutouts and a shutout streak of 296:42.
“We talked about leadership; you never really put a ‘C’ on a goalie but you could see with the development of the Quinnipiac program, following after another goalie that they had a lot of success with too, she just stepped into that role at Quinnipiac and just kept the program going,” Linstad said regarding Rossman.
“She plays so hard,” she continued. “In watching her, she’s just so competitive and that’s what you’re looking for in a goalie. I think she knows it, maybe. I haven’t spoken to her, but she can take her game to another level and certainly as a goaltender that’s what you’re going to be relying on, especially in our league, where there’s so much scoring and talented scorers, that there’s a person that’s not afraid to stand between the pipes and make the big saves for us.”