The NWHL’s second entry draft is set to take place on June 18, and though the league’s general managers have been giving much of their attention to free agency, the time has come for teams to shift their focus toward analyzing the plethora of prospects heading into their senior collegiate seasons in 2016-17.
The Buffalo Beauts finished their inaugural season in third place, which will give them the opportunity to pick second overall. This is a vast improvement from the 2015 draft, in which the lottery system had them choosing last through all five rounds.
Buffalo’s initial roster relied heavily on geographical proximity, with the team signing Buffalo natives, or drawing graduates who had attended college in Rochester, as well as signing players from the Ontario region.
Similarly, 2015 draft choice Emily Janiga is from the Western New York region, and fellow picks Sarah Lefort and Jenna Dingledein are from Quebec and Ontario, respectively.
Beauts’ general manager Ric Seiling recognizes the impact that Buffalo’s location has on their ability to draw players. “We lost our  first round pick because she had family she could live with elsewhere,” he explained, “but players are learning that this city and hockey go hand in hand. We have the top facility, and top-notch staff.”
“Being so close to Canada also has its advantages,” he added “These players don’t make a lot of money — jobs come into play. They can work in Niagara Falls or Fort Erie and come to Buffalo for games and practices, or they can live in Buffalo and commute to work.”
With consideration to skill, potential chemistry, and geography, there are dozens of great prospects that will be available to the Beauts at the onset of the draft – star players that could have an immediate impact as rookies in the burgeoning league.
With the second pick in the NWHL’s 2016 draft, Buffalo should take a close look at Dani Cameranesi from the University of Minnesota.
If there is one thing that the Beauts are known for, it is a roster full of small players that play big, and Cameranesi fits that bill to a tee. The 5’5” forward is a scoring force, leading the WCHA in her junior season for the National Champion Golden Gophers.
She scored 33 goals in the Gophers’ run, 13 of which came on the power play. Cameranesi was a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier award, and her superstar season earned her an invitation to Team USA’s National Team Camp, to be held June 1-5 in Colorado Springs, CO.
Seiling could easily follow up with another Minnesota prospect in the second round and choose defenseman Lee Stecklein. Stecklein will be joining Cameranesi at the National Team Camp, following a season in which she was selected as an All-WCHA First Team honoree. The Gophers’ 2015-16 co-captain had 22 assists for the team and was a plus-50 for the season. Stecklein’s vision leadership, and defensive accumen would be a welcome addition for Buffalo.
Buffalo’s goaltending core is strong – the anticipated return of Brianne McLaghlin, paired with National Champion Amanda Leveille may make for one of the best netminding tandems in the league.
With that said, CIS’s Valerie Lamenta appears to be an amazing prospect from across the border. Lamenta’s career statistics with University of Guelph are nothing short of astounding. The goaltender has posted a 1.06 goals against average, and a 0.953 save percentage. Lamenta is a premier prospect, to say the least, and deserves a hard look from Seiling and the Beauts.
Forwards Maddie Elia (Boston University) and Cassie Clayton (RIT) may also find themselves on Buffalo’s radar. Elia played her high school hockey at Buffalo’s Nichols School, and is from the nearby town of Lewiston.
Elia played in each of BU’s 39 games, recording 29 points, which included eight multi-point games. At 5’10”, Elia’s size and balanced scoring represents a trend in Buffalo’s 2015 draft picks Janiga and Lefort.
Though Clayton’s scoring stats are not as impressive as Cameranesi or Elia, the Tigers’ assistant captain led the team in faceoff wins with 377, and 0.511 faceoff win percentage. Defensive zone faceoffs were a weakness for the Beauts, and often led to excessive zone time for opponents. Even a slight improvement from a player like Clayton could improve Buffalo’s possession stats enough to impact the outcome of games.
Late-round selections may also include Mercyhurst defender Paige Horton. The 5’11” junior has been a leader for the Lakers, and though she is not known for her scoring, the sizeable blue liner committed only three penalties in 25 games in 2015-16. That brand of disciplined defense is something that Buffalo could benefit from, especially given their penchant for poor penalty killing.
Each of the players selected in the 2016 draft will be expected to complete their senior seasons with their college teams, which makes these decisions difficult for NWHL GMs. It is nearly impossible what weaknesses will need to be addressed on a 2017 roster that technically has no players, since the NWHL utilizes one-year contracts.
Seiling is confident that his experience in 2015-16 has prepared him for the upcoming draft. “We have a better feeling for the team and the type of players we have now, and what our needs are moving forward.”