After just one win last season, Boston Blades General Manager Krista Patronick knew changes needed to be made in order for her team to return to its former glory. The 2016 CWHL, held on Aug 21, was her first big chance to begin those course corrections and, on paper at least, it looks as if she did just that.
With the first overall pick, Patronick drafted former Boston University Captain Kayla Tutino. Tutino, who hails from Lorraine, Quebec, earned 144 points in 164 games for the Terriers, including 63 goals and 81 assists.
"Scoring was a big focus going into the draft, and Tutino's definitely going to help with that," said Patronick. She continued, saying that, once she knew that Tutino was interested in staying in Boston, she had to pick her first.
Next, Patronick selected another froward: Northeastern University's Chelsey Goldberg. Patronick said that she had targeted the Husky last season, but injuries, including two broken legs, sidelined Goldberg for a year.
"Her body was telling her she needed a year off . . . but it's the best thing she could've done," Patronick said. "She's ready to play again. I think she's going to be a great fit for this team."
In the third round, Patronick looked to the blue line and drafted Cassandra Opela from the University of Connecticut. Patronick described her as a strong stay-at-home defensive player who will add some much needed depth at the position.
"What I love about [Opela] is that she's a great, stable defenseman. I feel like a lot of stay-at-home defesnemen don't really get the clout or stats that forwards get, or even offense defensemen, but they really have an important job on the team. It maybe doesn't look as pretty, but it's still effective," she said. "It's nice to get another really big body out there, for sure.
Another big factor in many of her picks was the impact on the team's off-ice chemistry. Despite the difficulties on the ice for the Blades last season, the team remained positive and upbeat in the locker room.
"We want keep that culture and have fun, but, obviously, we want to win," Patronick said.
Patronick admitted that it was a delicate balancing act to both improve the team and maintain the chemistry. That's why, for many of the selections, particularly the two former BU players and three from Boston College that she picked, Patronick relied on input from both Tara Watchorn and Kristina Brown, who went to BU and BC, respectively, to vouch for their fellow alumni.
"It's cool when you have players who have played with each other before and they know each other's habits. They've already bonded."
Case in point are the Blades next two picks, forwards Meghan Grieves from BC and Dakota Woodworth from BU. Grieves earned 45 points in 152 games with the Ealges. In an exhibition game with the Blades last year, she scored two goals playing on a line with other former BC players, Brown and Erin Kickham. That impressed Patronick, who instantly put Grieves on her short list.
"They worked so well together," said Patronick. "You can just tell there was chemistry there, which I love because it gives us so much to build on."
With 31 points in 151 games for BU, Woodworth is another solid depth pick, but, in addition to her production, it was her value inside the locker room that attracted Patronick to the player.
"She's going to be one of those kids in the locker room who helps keep that energy up and keeps everything together." Patronick projects her to play on the second or third line, possibly lined up with Blades veteran Megan Myers.
While many of the players drafted by the Blades played at schools in New England, one hails from the other side of the world. With her eighth pick, Patronick selected blue-liner Kikuchi Sato from Tokyo, Japan. Upon discovering that Sato declared for the draft, Patronick viewed a video of her sent by Sato's agent. Why Patronick was reticent to put too much stock on what she saw in a video, it impressed her enough to jump up in the draft to pick Sato.
"I wanted to draft her higher, and I did that specifically because I didn't want other teams to steal her," she said. "I'm really happy I did and I'm really excited to see what she can do."
Of the remaining 17 picks in the draft, Patronick selected five goaltenders, starting with Clarkson University's Lauren Dahm in the twelfth round. While she only expects to carry two goalies in the upcoming season, she explained the number of players vying for those spots will help raise the level of play for that position.
"We're going to have quite a few goalies at selection camp. Whenever there's competition for a roster spot, I think its a good thing."
Overall, Patronick was happy with the amount of depth that was added. Both ends of the ice had depth issues last season, with Patronick mentioning a drop-off after the team's second line and the heavy minutes carried by the team's four to five blue-liners. These picks should not only take pressure off of their D, but provide multiple offensive lines that can produce.
"It's going to be really awesome to have a strong second line, that third line even . . . to go out there and make things happen."
With the draft over, the Blades begin their selection camp on Sept 1 and will work towards crafting a 25 player roster before the start of the season.