On June 20, 2015, the four teams of the NWHL took part in the league’s inaugural entry draft. Consisting of five rounds, the teams made their selections in an order based on a lottery that was held prior to draft day.
In this draft, the Buffalo Beauts had the final selection of each round, and welcomed five NCAA players – Courtney Burke (D) of Wisconson, Sarah Lefort (F) of Boston University, Amanda Leveille (G) of Minnesota, Emily Janiga (F) of Mercyhurst, and Jenna Dengeldein (F,) also from Mercyhurst.
The teams of the NWHL have surpassed the halfway mark of the season, and the collegiate season is nearly at the same point. Last week, the writers of Today’s Slapshot issued mid-season report cards for the four NWHL teams.
In this two-part article, TSS will take a look at the progress of the Buffalo Beauts draft picks through their midway point. Each player chosen has been an integral part of their collegiate teams, and some have even been chosen to represent their country in international competition. Have these players combined these experiences and their individual skills to develop into assets that suit the Beauts needs?
Bling bling, look at that ring! @BadgerWHockey @courtyy6 @smckibbon11 @emclark13 pic.twitter.com/WrCqzycxC2
— Paul Hickman (@ThePaul33) October 5, 2015
Taken in order, the study will begin with Buffalo’s first pick in the draft, Courtney Burke. The American defenseman has had a great season for the Badgers. Through 20 games, she has 3 goals and 18 assists – more than a point per game. Scoring isn’t necessarily an issue for the Beauts, but scoring on the power play is, and two of her goals have come with the man advantage.
Burke’s scoring is impressive, but the most important numbers are the defensive measurables – most notably, the team is allowing less than half a goal per game, and fewer than seventeen shots per game. She is an important part of this stalwart defensive unit, and given the Beauts’ problems with defensive consistency this season, Burke should fit in nicely with the current roster.
Forward Sarah Lefort is having a fantastic season with the Boston University Terriers. The feisty player has 23 points in just 18 games with Boston. On November 14, she set a BU women’s hockey record when she scored her 82nd career goal. The previous record holder, Marie-Philip Poulin, is considered one of the greatest women in Canadian hockey (Poulin was dubbed ‘The greatest women’s hockey player in the world’ by USA Today,) and now Lefort is following closely in her footsteps.
On November 4, Lefort travelled to Sweden to take part in the Four Nations Cup with the Canadian National team. Though she was held scoreless in the tournament, the experience for the 21-year old has clearly left an indelible mark; prior to the tournament, she’d scored only one goal, and since returning from Sweden, she has scored nine goals in ten games.
International experience, scoring streaks – even a game misconduct – all of these statistics reveal much about Lefort. But for the Beauts, the most important statistic lies in her special teams play. Of her ten goals, five have come on the power play, and one short handed. Buffalo’s well known power play woes could certainly use a talented, steady hand such as Lefort’s, and her short-handed prowess couldn’t hurt, either. Her speed, shown in the reel above, could also make she and Devon Skeats a great one-two punch that would be difficult to plan for, defensively.
As is probably true with all good GMs, it seems that Beauts general manager Linda Mroz had a crystal ball when she made her choices on draft day. Both Burke and Lefort address pressing needs for the suffering Beauts team. In part two, Today’s Slapshot will take a look at the remaining three choices Mroz made in the NWHL’s historic inaugural draft.