If Minnesota considers itself the State of Hockey, the Twin Cities Women’s Professional Hockey League franchise will feature many local players, including Taylor Heise.
The 2022 women’s college hockey player of the year, who played for the Golden Gophers and grew up 75 miles from Minneapolis, is staying home after the yet-to-be-named Minnesota franchise used The No. 1 pick to select Heise in the new launched the league’s inaugural draft Monday.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Heise, 23, said.
Boston is one of six markets with a team in the new women’s professional hockey league.
What we know about the new Professional Women’s Hockey League team in Boston
“It’s my house. Everyone I love is there. And that’s the state of hockey,” she added. “I’m just honored to be able to play and show little girls that anything is possible if you keep working hard.”
Heise heard his name called by tennis legend Billie Jean King, a member of the league’s board of directors during the opening of the 15-round PWHL draft held in Toronto.
Heise joins a franchise whose general manager, former U.S. national team player Natalie Darwitz, is a Minnesota native and who had already signed fellow Minnesotans Kelly Pannek and Lee Stecklein during the free agency period before the draft.
Darwitz then tapped into the depth of talent in the state by using seven of 15 picks on Minnesotans. She used her final pick, 85th overall, to draft Sydney Brodt, who played for the now-defunct Minnesota Whitecaps and is related to Whitecaps founder Jack Brodt.
Toronto selected veteran Canadian defender Jocelyne Larocque second, and Boston selected Swiss center Alina Muller third. Muller was the only non-North American player chosen in the first three rounds. Muller remains in Boston after spending his college career at Northeastern.
New York used the fourth pick to select Canadian national team defender Ella Shelton. Ottawa moved across the border to draft U.S. national team defender Savannah Harmon fifth overall. And Montreal completed the first round by choosing Team Canada defender Erin Ambrose.
New York general manager Pascal Daoust consulted with his three drafted players — Abby Roque, Alex Carpenter and Micah Zandee-Hart — about who to target in the draft. Their feedback led him to select Shelton and fellow Canadian defender Jaime Bourbonnais.
“(I asked them), ‘Who would you like to play with?’ “And above all, ‘who you don’t want to play against,'” Daoust said. “I was trying to build something.”
Harmon is originally from Illinois, but she’s looking forward to heading to Ottawa, where she represented the United States in a Rivalry Series game against Canada.
“I had the chance to play a game in the USA jersey against Team Canada, but the atmosphere was incredible, the rink was incredible, the fans were incredible,” Harmon said.
A total of 47 Canadians and 28 Americans were chosen, as well as two players with dual nationality, reflecting the talent pool of the sport’s two global powers. Five members of the growing Czech national team were also selected.
Sweden, Finland, France and Germany have also signed players to a league of the world’s best players that is expected to begin play in January.
The PWHL is financially backed by Los Angeles Dodgers owner Mark Walter, who purchased seven-team rival PHF in late June to pave the way for a North American women’s league. Walter was recruited by the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association as part of its members’ vision to establish a league with a sustainable business model and fair wages.
The PWHPA, made up of a majority of members of the U.S. and Canadian national teams, had 25 players drafted, with another 18 already signed in free agency. The PHF had 32 former players selected, led by Czech defender Dominika Laskova, 19th overall to Montreal.
In Boston, general manager Danielle Marmer expected Heise to be the No. 1 pick and was happy Muller was available at No. 3. Boston then selected Ohio State’s Sophie Jacques, this season’s Patty Kazmaier Award winner as the best player in college hockey. .
The two join a roster that already includes established U.S. national team players Hilary Knight, Megan Keller and Aerin Frankel, who were Boston’s three free agent signings before the draft.
“We wanted someone young, dynamic, who could play in the middle. And the career she’s had so far is pretty incredible,” Marmer said of Muller. “We wanted to target scorers early in this draft, especially natural scorers. And I think we’ve done a really good job of that.
Heise just finished her fifth and final year at the University of Minnesota, where she was a first-team All-American after leading the NCAA with 30 goals. She finished second in points with 67 and tied for third in assists with 37, in 39 games for the Gophers.
Internationally, the 5-foot-9, 160-pound Heise was named the top forward and tournament MVP at the 2022 World Championships, leading all players with seven goals and 18 points.
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno and the Canadian Press contributed to this report.
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