clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Boston PWHL Draft Results: An otherwise decent draft marred by a truly baffling whiff

The PWHL had their first draft, and Boston mostly did great!...with one huge caveat.

Bronze Medal Game - 2023 IIHF Women’s World Championship Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

The PWHL draft was yesterday, and I got some things to say. The vast majority of them are good! There are some concerns, but otherwise I like where this team is headed!

But first, let me introduce you to the picks of the Boston [TEAM NAME HERE].

Boston PWHL Draft Results

Name Position Nationality Last Team
Name Position Nationality Last Team
Alina Müller Forward Switzerland Northeastern (NCAA)
Sophie Jaques Defensewoman Canada Ohio State (NCAA)
Jamie Lee Rattray Forward Canada PWHPA
Loren Gabel Forward Canada Boston Pride
Hannah Brandt Forward USA PWHPA
Jessica DiGirolamo Defensewoman Canada PWHPA
Theresa Schafzahl Forward Austria Vermont (NCAA)
Emily Brown Defensewoman USA PWHPA
Taylor Girard Forward USA Connecticut Whale
Emma Söderberg Goalie Sweden Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Sophie Shirley Forward Canada Wisconsin (NCAA)
Shiann Darkangelo Forward USA Toronto Six
Emma Buckles Defensewoman Canada PWHPA
Tatum Skaggs Forward USA PWHPA
Jess Healey Defensewoman Canada Buffalo Beauts

What do I think about them? Well, I have mostly positive thoughts!

Good: Alina Müller is the future and is a Boston player.

I couldn’t get enough research together in time to post about Alina Müller’s signing for the PHF’s Boston Pride, and in retrospect I think the Boston [TEAM NAME HERE]s must’ve felt bad for me on that, because the choice of Müller is an absolute knockout.

Müller is one of the premiere forwards available in the world of Women’s Hockey; a Bronze Medalist at the 2014 Winter Olympics, and has been an instrumental part of the Swiss Women’s team’s eternal charge to the podium against much larger hockey nations at the World Championships, generally being a point leader if not the point-and-goals leader for the entire team, with her zenith coming in 2018. where she racked up all the awards.

At the College level, Müller has been a holy terror for the Lady Huskies of Northeastern; while COVID did put a dent in her games played, it didn’t really stop her output as every single year she’s been at or well over a point a game player, finishing her most recent season with a tidy 60 points in 38 games played, her third season where she accrued 50+ points at the NCAA level, and being a finalist for the NCAA’s top college player for the past five years. That she now gets to stretch her wings in Boston, a place she definitely has some strong positive feelings about, is just right.

The future of Boston’s women's hockey dreams rest with this young lady.

Good: Sniping Jaques when the rush for Defense began

At a certain point in the draft, teams came to the realization that high-end blueliners were going to be at a premium, and rather than waiting for a potential sleeper, the Boston [TEAM NAME HERE]s went straight for the throat; going after Sophie Jaques from Ohio State.

Jaques was a point per game player as a blueliner, finishing with 48 points in 41 games...which was slightly disappointing, because the year before she had 59 points in 38. Jaques is a nightmare, and and had already been pegged as a future gamechanger long beforehand. The minute Boston’s team announces their colors, I am sure she will be a true terror in them. Also roughly the same age as Müller, which means she’ll be around for a good, long time in Boston [COLORS].

Good: The Forward Corps is already a Murderer’s Row

Starting off with Hilary Knight is pretty damn solid. That could put any team on notice. Getting Alina Müller was even better. Picking up Loren Gabel; the only ex-Pride player to be drafted to the PWHL Boston team, was a coup. Then they kept going; Theresa Schafzahl hot off her incredible career as a Vermont Catamount. Jamie Lee Rattray; a Team Canada staple and CWHL legend. Shiann Darkangelo; a 2-time Isobel cup champion with Buffalo and Toronto. Sophie Shirley, a phenom for Wisconsin with 2 NCAA championships under her belt. Taylor Girard; a point per game Connecticut Whale. Hannah Brandt back to bring pure veteran leadership.

The point is that the forward corps for the [BOSTON TEAM NAME HERE] is absolutely unreal. I can think of only two teams that could actively rival it, and even then I think it’s close.

Good: Emma Söderberg being the cap off to a strong goaltending corps!

Emma Söderberg comes to the [BOSTON TEAM NAME] from the University of Minnesota-Duluth program, and was preposterously good for them; goaltender of the year in 2022-23, one of the best players at World’s in 2021, and all of that is coming to supplement current world champion Aerin Frankel, who posted a .932 SV%.

Safe to say, there is no real danger for the [BOSTON TEAM NAME] in net; they’ve got it well taken care of.

Good, but mostly just fun trivia: An international affair

Boston hockey in the 21st century has largely been defined by international players making their name with a Boston “B” somewhere on their sweater. Boston had one of the longer international reaches of the entire draft; picking a Swedish goalie, an Austrian goalscorer, and a Swiss phenom.

Not a terribly high number to start, but consider this; the draft was absolutely dominated by Canadians and Americans, and thus it stands out pretty hard. Only Ottawa and Montreal could say they’ve had a more eclectic bunch; with Czechs abound in Canada’s capital and Francophone Canada’s cultural capital.

Whiff: Overwhelming lack of balance on Defense and Wings

Getting Jaques on the backend was a huge get for the team, and especially now...because as of right now, the [BOSTON PWHL TEAM NAME] have an overabundance of defenders who are left-handed shots; with Jaques being the sole exception. On one hand, this almost certainly means one side of the defense is pretty much locked in stone which is good...but there is long-standing literature on having a balanced blueline in terms of handedness is also good, and this isn’t what you’d call “balanced”.

There’s incredible talent at forward still somehow available from the current pool, I don’t think Boston will prioritize it given that they need to solve this imbalance, because otherwise they’re going to have a lot of players potentially playing their off-side, and are in dire straits to try and even it up by going after RHD; an already coveted asset. Teams will be beating down Saroya Tinker’s door to begin with, it behooves them to now try and compete for the services of Free Agents who could possibly help fix this.

But most of that pales in comparison to this one last negative, but it’s a big one.

Biggest Whiff Possible: A Dempsey-less Boston, and a bigger point about winning fans to your cause

Okay. I know some of you do not watch Women’s Hockey full time or follow it casually. So please understand that what I’m about to say about the Boston PWHL’s decision to not draft forward Jillian Dempsey is as serious as the grave:

This decision is an enormous oversight, if not an active organizational failure that needs immediate rectification or restitution.

For those of you who are still new to this, Jillian Dempsey is as Boston Hockey as Patrice Bergeron. She’s from Winthrop, got three Isobel Cups and a Clarkson Cup to her name, she is a teacher in her hometown, and she has been here and STAYED here. She has been here the entire time; before the PHF/PWHPA split. Before the CWHL/PHF split. She even named the Bruins mascot; true story. Though the realities of the women’s game have been at times uncertain, she has remained a rock in this market.

Dempsey is in Boston, and all is right with the world...Up until now, where she’s in Montreal after spending several rounds wasting away.

Fans were a little more than “bummed”, they were absolutely livid.

Most were distraught, others were furious, and even conspiratorial in some cases; blaming other players in the Boston organization for something that should be totally random or a tremendous oversight by the incoming organization! While I think this could merely be chalked up to obviously very hurt fans venting frustration, and they’re free to do so; I think this does also highlight a bigger issue that has been festering for some time and has otherwise been ignored by larger media outlets:

Fans in former PWHL markets, and ESPECIALLY Boston, are still deeply hurting from losing a team, and the PWHL has made almost no real attempt to try and assuage that hurt.

The PHF was not perfect and I will make no claims to that being the case, but if there was any team that actively worked to ingratiate themselves to their market, it was 100,000% the Boston Pride.

People loved that team and continue to love that team long after the league’s demise. They brought their kids and their own selves to go watch Jillian Dempsey be Miss Boston Hockey. All of that is gone now, and fans are are enormously skeptical on the reasons why it had to go, and extremely skeptical of what the PWHL has to offer that they didn’t already have.

Because this Draft was honestly the first tangible thing beyond pointing at a CBA and a handful of free agent signings they have to offer fans; no team names, colors, or jerseys have been announced to the point that fans are guessing at color schemes thanks to a lower third graphic used on the broadcast, no arena locations have been officially confirmed and rumors about one of them might sink it before it’s even started, the team presences on the information super-highway are obtuse and exceedingly corporate, and players with National Team ties effectively talking down to their fanbases.

Those fans might’ve first fallen in love with the game with those Olympians, but they fell in love with the team that showed up at Warrior (and the Bright arena at Harvard early on) every other week or so; played good games and won championships under a familiar color scheme, but a unique spin on it. Jillian Dempsey was a huge part of that. It is borderline criminal that doesn’t get to be true again.

I am excited to see what this team turns out to be. I am glad the players finally have what they want. Maybe Dempsey will even get a grand coming home if/when she decides to move on from the Montreal team, but the PWHL put itself in a weird position where they have to win fans back, and this super doesn’t help an already difficult climb for the young league.

The Great Hope: Free Agency truly begins now

There is still an insane amount of talent out in the ether for the Boston [TEAM NAME HERE]s to potentially sign. Allie Thunstrom, Kaleigh Fratkin, Mikyla Grant-Metis, Saroya Tinker, Madison Packer, Noora Raty, Jonna Albers...all of them and more need new sweaters come this winter, and now six teams need to convince some of these incredible talents to play for them...especially since they didn’t draft any of them.

The Boston [TEAM NAME HERE]’s have a strong foundation, but are far from done.