Toronto takes Larocque; Ottawa picks Harmon; Montreal adds Ambrose
Click on the video player above to watch live coverage of the inaugural Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) draft from CBC headquarters in downtown Toronto.
Former University of Minnesota star Taylor Heise is staying home to begin her professional hockey career.
The Lake City native, who topped the NCAA in scoring in each of her last two years with the Gophers, was selected first overall by Minnesota in the inaugural Professional Women’s Hockey League draft on Monday at CBC headquarters in Toronto.
The historic selection was announced by tennis legend and women’s equal rights advocate Billie Jean King, who is a board member of the upstart league.
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“Everyone I love is there [in Minnesota],” Heise, 22, told CBC Sports’ Anastasia Bucsis. “I’m honoured to be able to play and excited to get started.”
Heise, considered the most skilled player available with a nose for the net, is familiar to Minnesota general Natalie Darwitz, a former Gophers assistant coach.
WATCH | Minnesota’s Heise taken No. 1 in PWHL draft:
When considering her options after Minnesota won the draft lottery on Sept. 1, Darwitz focused on a player who could remain with the organization long-term.
“Not only that, [a player] who can grow the game and grow the market in Minnesota, who has great visibility,” Darwitz, former captain of the U.S. women’s team, said recently.
And who better than a homegrown player?
At a Monday news conference, Heise spoke of seeing girls lined up for autographs. During her childhood years, Heise once waited one hour for signatures from the U.S. and Canadian national teams.
“I want [girls] to know this is an opportunity for them, too,” she said.
Added defender Erin Ambrose, who was chosen sixth to end the first round Monday: “Your dream is just beginning. Dream big, and chase those dreams.”
WATCH | ‘It’s a dream come true today’: Billie Jean King, PWHL advisory board member
The 23-year-old Heise scored a combined 58 goals the past two seasons in college and in 2022 won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best female player in NCAA Division 1.
Manitoba’s Larocque 1st Canadian drafted
Last September, the smart five-foot-nine centre scored seven goals and 18 points to help the United States women win a world championship silver medal.
Defenceman Jocelyne Larocque of Ste. Anne, Man., was the first drafted player to join one of the three PWHL’s Canadian-based teams, going second to Toronto.
WATCH | No. 2 pick Larocque joining 3rd women’s pro league:
The PWHL will be the third pro league for the 35-yaer-old Larocque, who previously played in the Western Women’s Hockey League and Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
“But this feels different and it is different because of the infrastructure behind it,” said Larocque, who worried she would be retired by the time a day like Monday arrived. “The fact that I get to play, I’m ecstatic.”
With Toronto, Larocque will be reunited with Renata Fast, her national team defence partner.
Boston chose Swiss forward Alina Müller with the third selection. The five-time Patty Kazmaier Award finalist has been on the Swiss national team for nearly a decade.
Müller returns to Massachusetts, where she starred at Northeastern University. The 25-year-old signed to play with the Boston Pride before the Premier Hockey Federation was sold and shut down.
“Unbelievable. It’s pretty emotional,” said Müller, fighting back tears. “I’m super happy. Boston does so much for women’s sports.”
At 15, she scored the winning goal in the bronze-medal game at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Four years later, Müller was named the tournament’s top forward after amassing 10 points in six games at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
WATCH | Jayna Hefford discusses PWHL with CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux:
New York GM Pascal Daoust picked defenceman Ella Shelton of Ingersoll, Ont., fourth overall out of Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y.
The 25-year-old has yet to make her professional debut but won a 2022 Olympic gold medal with Canada and world titles in 2021 and 2022.
Defender Savannah Harmon, the first American player, went fifth to Ottawa.
She had a great season last year with PWHPA Team Harvey’s of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association (PWHPA). Harmon was a member of the U.S. squad that defeated Canada 6-3 for world gold in April.
Ambrose, who made her Olympic debut for Canada at the 2022 Beijing Games, had her name announced by Montreal GM Daniele Sauvageau.
She played two seasons with Les Canadiennes de Montréal before the Canadian Women’s Hockey League ceased operations in 2019.
“I am ecstatic. I couldn’t be happier to be returning [to Montreal],” Ambrose told CBC Sports. “I can’t wait to get started.”
Ambrose, 29, also can’t wait to join her new teammates, namely Canadian women’s national team captain Marie-Philip Poulin, forward Laura Stacey and goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens.
“Those are three cornerstones,” she said. “On the [defence] side of things that’s big for me.”
Ninety players among a pool of 268 will be chosen for the original six franchises — including Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa — during a 15-round selection period. Each general manager will build a roster ahead of a scheduled January 2024 puck drop.
The Post Minnesota drafts homegrown forward Taylor Heise 1st overall to PWHL Originally Posted on www.cbc.ca