Wednesday, 18 July 2012

2012 CWHL Draft report card

While all the franchises had different needs, all had the same common goal: building the next Clarkson Cup champion. Although the Montreal Stars have made winning look easy, the embarrassment of riches in the 2012 CWHL Draft has contributed a great confidence to every team. With several national team members from Canada and the United States available in the draft, the biggest challenge was determining which player would be selected first overall.

The superlative quality of goaltending available resulted in Mercyhurst Lakers backstop Hillary Pattenden (and NCAA record holder for wins) going first overall to Alberta. Pattenden becomes the first goaltender to be selected first overall in the history of the CWHL Draft.

With the second pick overall, Canadian national team member Rebecca Johnston went to the Toronto Furies, in the hopes of improving their offensive woes. Haley Irwin (another Canadian national team member) was selected by the Brampton Thunder in the hopes of returning to the Clarkson Cup final.

Winter Games silver medalist Hilary Knight is reunited with several United States national team members in Boston. The Blades selected her with the fourth pick overall to address their need of adding more scoring. All-World goaltender Charline Labonte went fifth overall to the defending Clarkson Cup champion Montreal Stars.  

ALBERTA
# of players drafted by position: Defense (2), Forwards (2), Goaltender (1)
Nationalities drafted: Canadian
First selection: Hillary Pattenden, Goaltender, #1
Most intriguing selection: Leah Copeland, Forward, #21
Needs addressed: Defense, Goaltending, Special Teams

Assessment: (A+) In hoping to build a team that can compete for a postseason position while having long term success, Alberta has drafted wisely. As a second year club, Alberta’s biggest challenge was addressing special teams. Picks Jocelyne Larocque and Tara Watchorn will be able to relieve a lot of pressure from the face of the franchise, Meaghan Mikkelson.

Alberta Pandas forward (and CIS national champion) Leah Copeland hopes to bring her championship ways to the club. An accomplished player that helped the Canadian national team capture the gold medal at the 2009 Winter Universiade, Copeland is out to prove that CIS players are capable of excelling in the CWHL.  

The only obstacle that Alberta needs to overcome is finding the patience to build a team and develop team chemistry. The pieces that are now in place reflect a great leadership ability which should help develop the squad into a cohesive unit. While not yet ready to win a Clarkson Cup, Alberta is going in the right direction.

BOSTON

# of players drafted by position: Defense (1), Forwards (3), Goaltender (1)
Nationalities drafted: American, Canadian
First selection: Hilary Knight, Forward, #4
Most intriguing selection: Genevieve Lacasse, Goaltender, #9
Needs addressed: Goaltending, Offense

Assessment: (B) Although Brampton and Montreal are the class of the league; Boston has been clawing at their heels since their inception into the league. The acquisition of Hilary Knight makes Boston capable of pulling off an upset in any contest. Knight, Kelley Steadman, and Jen Schoullis add another scoring line to a team that relied too often on their top line for production.

While the Blades sorely miss the presence of Angela Ruggiero on the blueline, the superlative quality of their goaltending can overcome any deficiencies. While Florence Schelling played her entire NCAA career in the Boston area (with the Northeastern Huskies), the Blades surprised many by selecting Canadian national team members (and Providence Friars legend) Genevieve Lacasse.

Although Schelling would have been the sentimental favourite, Lacasse has proven in the NCAA that she can singlehandedly make any team better. The only factor holding back the Blades is how well the new players will adjust to the league. 

BRAMPTON

# of players drafted by position: Defense (1), Forwards (4)
Nationalities drafted: Canadian
First selection: Haley Irwin, Forward, #3
Most intriguing selection: Suzanne Fenerty, Forward, #23
Needs addressed: Infusion of youth to aging offense

Assessment: (A-) In the hopes of claiming the elusive Clarkson Cup, Brampton has added a group of young accomplished forwards (Haley Irwin, Bailey Bram, Laura MacIntosh). While Charissa Stadnyk (captain of the Princeton Tigers) was the sole defender selected in the draft, the forwards selected will help to ensure that Brampton has a core group of players in place for long-term success.

While not as prolific a scorer as her fellow draft picks, Suzanne Fenerty is a quiet, dignified player that has all the makings of a future captain. A key factor in helping turn the St. Francis Xavier X-Women into a national power, the native of Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia (Sidney Crosby’s hometown) was the X-Women team captain in her senior season. CIS scoring champion (and teammate) Alex Normore cited Fenerty as an influence, while the St. FX coach called Fenerty a game changer.

TORONTO

# of players drafted by position: Forwards (5)
Nationalities drafted: Canadian
First selection: Rebecca Johnston, Forward, #2
Most intriguing selection: Jordanna Peroff, Forward, #22
Needs addressed: Offense

Assessment: (A) Coming off a difficult season in which the team did not recover from Jennifer Botterill’s retirement, the Furies seem ready to strive forward. While not yet ready to gain the upper hand in the Battle of Toronto (versus their cross town rivals Brampton), the Furies have started to build a solid foundation.

Jordanna Peroff is another prominent player from the CIS that is ready to prove her worth to the young franchise. While playing in the shadows of several superstars as a member of the McGill Martlets, the stoic, hard working Peroff was a key contributor to the Martlets five consecutive appearances in the CIS National Tournament. An alternate captain with the Martlets (and Most Valuable Player at the 2011 CIS National Tourney), Peroff also boasts a gold medal with Team Canada from the 2011 Winter Universiade.

Despite the loss of NCAA legend Jesse Scanzano being a visceral one for the team, the Furies have done a superlative job of rebuilding their offense. Fourth round selection Catherine White played with Rebecca Johnston at Cornell, and should complement each other’s skills nicely. The draft day acquisitions of Rebecca Johnston, Natalie Spooner, and Jenn Wakefield have put the team a quantum leap ahead of what it was last season.

MONTREAL

# of players drafted by position: Forwards (3), Goaltenders (2)
Nationalities drafted: Canadian, Swiss
First selection: Charline Labonte, Goaltender, #5
Most intriguing selection: Florence Schelling, Goaltender, #20
Needs addressed: Added youth and depth to offensive corps

Assessment: (A) Part of the reason that Montreal is the model franchise of the CWHL is attributed to their ability to acquire strong leaders with a winning attitude. Case in point, the selections of Winter Games medalist Charline Labonte and 2012 BLG Award winner Ann-Sophie Bettez make Montreal that much tougher. Having both emanated from the McGill Martlets program, both have been groomed to be leaders under the tutelage of legendary head coach, Peter Smith.

With a franchise rich in goaltending, the acquisition of Florence Schelling was surprising. As the team already has Kim St. Pierre, Jenny Lavigne and a first round investment in Charline Labonte, Schelling still offers many possibilities. Schelling can be brought along slowly, or pursue an opportunity in Europe, while Montreal retains her rights. Should St. Pierre or Lavigne decide to retire, Schelling would help Montreal maintain its status as the finest team in the league.  

While the Big Three (Meghan Agosta, Julie Chu, Caroline Ouellette) of the Stars are among the finest players in the world, the Stars selections may be the Next Three (Ann-Sophie Bettez, Carolyne Prevost, Marieve Provost). Prevost has won the Frozen Four with Wisconsin and played for Mark Johnson, the head coach of the US National Team. Marieve Provost is the all-time leading scorer in CIS history, and another CWHL Draft Pick that can proudly state she has a gold medal from the Winter Universiade. The Stars have added depth and determination to a team that already has the best team culture in the CWHL.

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