TORONTO, ON – Four U SPORTS players heard their names called at the inaugural Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) Draft, as the league’s six teams selected 90 women’s hockey players.
Participating in a nearly five-hour snake-style draft, the hockey clubs from Minnesota, Montreal, Toronto, New York, Boston and Ottawa formed their teams for the league’s opening season, set to drop the puck in January for a 24-game campaign.
All four of the U SPORTS picks came from the RSEQ.
Former McGill Martlet Jade Downie-Landry became the first U SPORTS-experienced player to join the league, with the New York franchise selecting the forward in the 9th round, 52nd overall.
The 27-year-old played for the Martlets from 2016-2022, scoring 14 goals and 27 points in her final season before turning pro to the now-defunct Premier Hockey Federation, signing with the Montreal Force. In 24 PHF games, she scored 10 goals and 23 points.
Joining Downie-Landry among the U SPORTS selections was Ann-Sophie Bettez, a fellow former Martlet, who played for the school from 2007-2012 before going on to play in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and PWHPA. Montreal selected Bettez in the 14th round, 79th overall, with the PWHL set to become the fourth pro-level team she has played on in Montreal.
Last season, Bettez played alongside Downie-Landry with the PHF Montreal Force, scoring 11 goals and 11 assists in 23 regular season games.
In the draft’s final round, PWHL executives called the names of two Montreal Carabins alumni, with Alexandra Labelle heading to New York and Audrey-Anne Veillette to Ottawa.
Veillette, selected 89th overall, the draft’s penultimate pick, comes off a breakout year with the Carabins, having scored 26 goals and 35 points in 22 RSEQ games. The 22-year-old forward also played a critical role with Team Canada in a gold medal win at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games.
Meanwhile, Labelle, 27, finished with the Carabins in 2020 and played two seasons with the Montreal PWHPA section before spending the 2023 season with the PHF’s Force.
With Daoust out of the selections, the four U SPORTS players is near what was expected heading into the draft and maintain a significant footprint for Canadian university talent in the league.
Outside of players, head coaches and hockey operations staff have developed in U SPORTS, with New York head coach Howie Draper spending 26 seasons with the Alberta Pandas. At the same time, former Calgary Dinos head coach Carla McLeod takes the reigns of the Ottawa team, and former Dalhousie Tigers bench boss Troy Ryan will coach Toronto.
Still, Montreal has the most significant U SPORTS influence with head coach Kori Cheverie, a former assistant with the TMU Bold men’s hockey team, working with former Carabins director of hockey Daniele Savegeau and ex-McGill hockey analyst Mikael Nahabedian.
Heise makes history; nine Toronto Six players taken
University of Minnesota Golden Gophers standout Taylor Heise, 23, earned the nod as the first overall selection by the Minnesota franchise, as she stays where she played in the NCAA. She won the 2022 NCAA top player award and was a member of Team USA’s World Championship-winning team in the spring of 2023.
“Everyone I love is there [in Minnesota],” Heise told CBC Sports’ broadcast. “I’m honoured to be able to play and excited to get started.”
Yet, the first Canadian selection came to Toronto, with the club selecting defender Jocelyne Laroque with the second overall selection. The other Canadian first-round picks included American defender Savannah Harmon to Ottawa and Canadian national women’s team forward Erin Ambrose to Montreal.
While Canadian and American national team players dominated the first few rounds of the 15-round draft process, former PHF players also saw their names called, with 33 earning the nod to the league.
At the same time, nine members of the final PHF champion Toronto Six were drafted to the PWHL, including Dominika Laskova (Montreal), Katie Tabin (Montreal), Darryl Watts (Ottawa), Tereza Vanisova (Montreal), Brittany Howard (Toronto), Shiann Darkangelo (Boston), Michela Cava (Minnesota), Elaine Chuli (Montreal), and Emma Woods (New York)
Expected to be selected high in the draft, former McGill standout and Team Canada veteran Mélodie Daoust pulled out of the process, choosing to focus on other elements of her life in Montreal. However, she has offered to participate with the PWHL’s Montreal team as a practice player.
The first season of the PWHL is set to hit the ice in January 2024, and the full draft selection can be found HERE. Those players not selected in the draft will be eligible to sign with PWHL clubs as free agents and attend pre-season training sessions.
Kristen Campbell – PWHPA – Canadian
Renata Fast – PWHPA – Canadian
Jocelyne Laqroque – PWHPA – Canadian
Kali Flanagan – PHF – American
Alliie Munro – PHF – Canadian
Melissa Channel – PWHPA – Canadian/American
Olivia Knowles – NCAA – Canadian
Sarah Nurse – PWHPA – Canadian
Blayre Turnbull – PWHPA – Canadian
Emma Maltais – NCAA – Canadian
Natalie Spooner – PWHPA – Canadian
Jesse Compher – PWHPA – American
Vitoria Bach – PWHPA – Canadian
Brittany Howard – PHF – Canadian
Maggie Connors – PWHPA – Canadian
Hannah Miller – PWHPA – Canadian
Alexa Vasko – PWHPA – Canadian
Ann-Renée Desbiens – PWHPA – Canadian
Elaine Chuli – PHF – Canadian
Erin Ambrose – PWHPA – Canadian
Dominika Laskova – PHF – Czech
Kati Tabin – PHF – Canadian
Madison Bzial – NCAA – American
Maude Poulin-Labelle – NCAA – Canadian
Marie-Philip Poulin – PWHPA – Canadian
Laura Stacey – PWHPA – Canadian
Kristin O’Neill – PWHPA – Canadian
Maureen Murphy – NCAA – American
Kennedy Marchement – PHF – Canadian
Tereza Vasinova – PHF – Czech
Gabrielle David – NCAA – Canadian
Jillian Dempsey – PHF – American
Claire Dalton – NCAA – Canadian
Ann-Sophie Bettez – PWHPA – Canadian
Lina Ljungblom – SDHL – Swedish
Emerance Maschmeyer – PWHPA – Canadian
Sandra Abstreiter – NCAA – German
Savannah Harmon – PWHPA – American
Ashton Bell – NCAA – Canadian
Jincy Dunne-Roese – PWHPA – American
Aneta Tejralova – PHF – Czech
Zoe Boyd – NCAA- Canadian
Amanda Boulier – PHF – American
Emily Clark – PWHPA – Canadian
Brianne Jenner – PWHPA – Canadian
Gabrielle Hughes – NCAA – American
Hayley Scamurra – PWHPA – American
Daryl Watts – PHF – Canadian
Katerina Mrazova – PHF – Czech
Kristin Della Rovere – NCAA – Canadian
Lexi Adzija – NCAA – Canadian
Caitrin Lonergan – PHF – American
Audrey-Ann-Veilette – U SPORTS – Canadian