Sunday afternoon marked a milestone for the Canadian Women's Hockey League -- the opening of its tenth season, heralded by the 2016 Entry Draft at the Dk (Doc) Seaman Resource Centre at the Mastercard Centre in Toronto.
Boston University's Kayla Tutino was selected first overall by the Boston Blades, while the Toronto Furies, Brampton Thunder, Calgary Inferno and Canadiennes de Montreal went with Clarkson's Renata Fast, Dartmouth's Laura Stacey, Harvard's Emerance Maschmeyer and BU's Sarah Lefort, respectively.
For the Clarkson Cup-winning Inferno, it was just a matter of tying up some loose ends, which they did admirably. Maschmeyer was a great start; coming off her impressive career with Harvard, she had an incredible showing at the World Championships this past year, being named Goaltender of the Tournament and solidifying herself as one of Team Canada's elite up-and-coming goaltenders -- something the Inferno couldn't go wrong with.
"It's incredible," she said of being picked by the Inferno. "Calgary is a great organization... even being drafted in the CWHL is super exciting."
Maschmeyer had been a draft pick for the NWHL as well, being selected as the Boston Pride's first-ever draft pick in 2015. She said she heard out both sides after graduating from Harvard, and cited both as having strong levels of competition; however, she has strong family ties to the C, with her sister Brittaney having played way back in 2010 for the now-defunct Edmonton Chimos (owned by an Arlan Maschmeyer -- unclear whether that's a relative, but still interesting).
The longevity of the CWHL also attracted her to the Canadian league, as well as the proximity of the Inferno to her hometown of Bruderheim (just outside the Edmonton area).
"Seeing that this league's been around for 10 years, that means it's pretty solid, so it's pretty promising," she said.
Calgary didn't ignore its other needs on the ice, grabbing Katelyn Gosling and Iya Gavrilova, a defender and a forward respectively (and both out of the CIS) in the next two rounds. Interim general manager Jeff Stevenson (more on that in a future post) spoke to the needs of his team after the draft, saying its success last season ensured no major rocking of the boat at this year's draft.
"I look at the Inferno as a team that's already at the top, so you don't want to go in there and start changing things too much," he said. "My philosophy has always been, when you have something good, look to add pieces to it that can make it better, but don't look at disrupting or changing things completely."
The choices at this season's draft added to the roster, while also filling in a number of spots left open due to retirement, among other things. Kathy Desjardins, Jenna Cunningham, Kelsey Webster, Kristen Hagg, and Rhianna Kurio have all hung up their skates in CWHL play. Cunningham, Webster, and Hagg are retiring from pro competitive play altogether, while Hagg is joining Stevenson in the Inferno front office as a member of the "management team" being put in place to divvy up duties for the season. Desjardins and Kurio are pursuing other paths.
The moves and additions to the roster will leave the Inferno looking a bit different, but still boast a lot of talent and promise, particularly in net. Here's the full list of draftees by Calgary, with a bit more information on each player:
1. Emerance Maschmeyer
Goalie, Harvard University
As mentioned before, Maschmeyer earned her Team Canada stripes at the Women's Worlds in April, posting a .956 save percentage in three games and keeping the Canadians in it until overtime of the gold medal game (where she allowed the only goal scored). Maschmeyer has a reputation for these kinds of performances, as her stellar turn in net during the 2015 NCAA playoffs earned the Crimson a chance at the National Championship (they lost to powerhouse Minnesota). The 21-year-old has a strong presence and a calm demeanor on the ice, and paired up with the Clarkson Cup MVP in Delayne Brian, should help provide Calgary with a solid tandem in net.
Further Reading: Check out Hannah Bevis's feature on Maschmeyer on Excelle Sports following this Sunday's draft.
2. Katelyn Gosling
Defender, Western University
Gosling is making the trek from London, Ont., to Calgary in part because she wants to pursue a career in firefighting, which is ironic considering the team who picked her has built a brand around stoking the flames. A relative newcomer to Hockey Canada, the blueliner has nonetheless built a notable career within the CIS, including two CIS All-Canadian First Team nods. She has a bit of an offensive edge to her play, with 18 points in 24 games in her senior campaign (2015-16) and similar numbers throughout her career for Western.
Further Reading: Hockey Canada ran a profile of Gosling back in fall 2015 detailing her journey to the national program.
3. Iya Gavrilova
Center, University of Calgary
Russian National Team member Gavrilova led the CIS in goals scored and plus-minus in 2014-15 and is reuniting with former Calgary Dino Hayley Wickenheiser, the Inferno's second draft pick in 2015. She's dipped her toes in multiple waters when it comes to North American women's hockey, playing briefly for Shannon Miller at the University of Minnesota Duluth (NCAA) and in the Western Women's Hockey League with the Minnesota Whitecaps. Of course, she's also made her mark within the National program in Russia, representing her country at three Winter Olympics (2006, 2010, 2014).
4. Misty Seastrom
There's not a lot of information on this blueliner, though she seems to have played competitively within the province of Alberta. She's also uploaded a video showcasing her skills to YouTube. The great thing about leagues like the CWHL is that they allow a chance for under-the-radar talent to shine, so should she get ample playing time come the season, we'll be able to judge for ourselves.
5. Akane Hosoyamada
Defender, Syracuse University
Hosoyamada was the CHA's Defensive Player of the Year in her junior season of 2012-13. Judging by her career stats, she's not overwhelmingly offensive, but might chip in a goal or assist here or there. The Inferno's offense was defense enough through the first part of the season, but their back end was certainly inconsistent until playoff time. Having a stable back-end presence wouldn't hurt them in the least.
6. Cara Schlitz
Calgary kept with their defensive trend for much of the draft, indicating they knew their weakness last season. Schlitz is another Alberta native (from Peace River, a seven-hour drive north of Calgary) with not much information out there on her. But the same rules apply as did to Seastrom: you never know what you might turn up.
7. Caitlin Zevola
Forward, Spruce Grove Saints (Northern Alberta Female Hockey Assoc.)
Zevola played in the same league Seastrom played in, tallying 31 points (20 G, 11 A) in 21 games played last season.
8. Claudia Tellez
Forward, Mexico Women's National Team
Tellez is the first Mexican player to apply for and be selected by a CWHL team in the Entry Draft. A dedicated member of Mexico's national team, she spoke as early as 2012 of her goal of getting to the Olympics, and playing for the Inferno is (to her) a step toward that goal. Currently, Mexico is ranked 35th in the world, so it's a steep hill to climb; however, the chance to play alongside and against current Olympians from both the American and Canadian teams is invaluable experience. The Inferno have been a home of sorts for multiple Team Japan players over the past couple of seasons, so drafting Tellez isn't a shock; rather, Stevenson sees it as an opportunity to grow the sport beyond North America.
Further Reading: Kaitlin Cimini did a Q&A with Tellez for Excelle Sports back in July.
9. Debbie Beaudoin
Forward, Vancouver Griffins
A member of the Vancouver Griffins of the now-folded first incarnation of the National Women's Hockey League, Beaudoin now has her own hockey school for players of all ages. She's apparently getting back into the swing of pro hockey with her application to the CWHL Draft.
Stay tuned for more info on the Inferno, the CWHL, and the upcoming season as we get closer to the opening faceoff.