Canadian playmakers, Buckeyes, and European defenders highlight the second PWHL Draft

The PWHL kicked off its second season on Monday night as the league convened for its draft in Minnesota.
Dec 19, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Team Canada forward Sarah Fillier (10) celebrates a goal against Team United States during the second period of a Rivalry Series ice hockey game at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 19, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Team Canada forward Sarah Fillier (10) celebrates a goal against Team United States during the second period of a Rivalry Series ice hockey game at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

With the Stanley Cup Final in full swing, the PWHL Draft might've gone under the radar for most hockey fans. After an excellent first season, the PWHL began its second season with its second draft on Monday night, hosted by Walter Cup champions Minnesota. The seven-round affair showcased the next crop of talent to join the league's ranks.

While the NHL Draft features a lot of players before their college days as 18-year-olds, the PWHL provides an opportunity for women who have been playing at the collegiate level for several years as well as other professionals from Europe, players who opted not to enter the first draft, and players on reserve rosters during the previous PWHL season. For this year's draft, 167 players were eligible to be selected, but only 42 had the privilege of having their names called.

New York walked away as big winners

When your team gets the first pick in the draft, it's kind of hard not to be looked at as the winners of the night. However, New York's selection of Sarah Fillier first overall isn't the only reason I really liked their draft. New York finished the night with eight selections, thanks in large part to the only trade of the night that they made with Boston. In doing so, New York ensured themselves four picks in the Top 16.

That being said, drafting Sarah Fillier instantly makes New York a much better team. Fillier's resume is already loaded despite being just 23 years old. The three-time World Champion and one-time Olympic Gold Medalist with Canada lit it up at Princeton for five years, scoring 93 goals and 194 points during her college years. Joining a New York team that struggled to score last season, Fillier will be able to jump in and make an immediate impact.

A lot of Ohio State representation

As the defending NCAA champions, the Ohio State Buckeyes were well spoken for in the PWHL Draft. Eight of the nine draft-eligible women from the national championship team were selected on Monday night, led by forward Hannah Bilka going fourth overall to Boston and defenseman Cayla Barnes going fifth overall to Montreal. The Buckeyes had five players go in the Top 20 of the draft.

It was an excellent night overall for NCAA programs. Most of the 42 players selected were drafted out of college, including five of the six players in the first round. Colgate University had five draftees, while Northeastern had three. Izzy Daniel, the reigning Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner as the NCAA's top women's hockey player, was selected in the third round by Toronto.

Other takeaways from the PWHL Draft

There were several other noteworthy stories throughout the night. Canadian defenseman Claire Thompson, who took a year off from hockey while in medical school, returned to the game by being selected third overall by defending champions Minnesota. Speaking of Minnesota, they had a player from their reserve roster selected. After playing some games in the PWHL last season, Abigail Boreen was poached in the third round by Montreal. Boreen scored four goals and five points in 14 regular-season contests before adding an assist in five postseason appearances.

It was also a big night for the Swedish Women's Hockey League (SDHL), especially the defensemen who decided to make the jump to North America. Daniela Pesjova, Ronja Savolainen, and Maja Nylen Persson were each selected in the second round, with forward Noora Tulus going with the first pick of the third round. The final two rounds featured a few of the older draft-eligible players finding teams. Amanda Kessel was selected by Montreal with the penultimate pick, marking her return after taking some time off. The highly decorated American forward and younger brother of NHL legend Phil Kessel will look to make a big return after serving in the Pittsburgh Penguins front office this season.

All six teams made the most of their picks during the draft, giving us hope that year two for the PWHL will be even more competitive. The league has already announced that teams will be playing a larger schedule this season, allowing for more chances for the league to take center stage. Free agency will follow soon, with all roads pointing to the reveal of the team names later this summer before the puck drops around the holiday season.