Olympic champions to college stars: 10 most intriguing players available in PWHL's 1st-ever draft

Each of the new Professional Women's Hockey League's six teams signed three players in a free agency period that ended last Sunday. On Monday, each general manager will add 15 more players to their roster, as they build their teams from scratch ahead of a January puck drop.

Dissecting the most notable talent available as teams look to bolster their rosters

A female American hockey player in a blue jersey skates with the puck, as a Canadian player tries to impede her with her stick.
American Taylor Heise, pictured here on the left during a Rivalry Series game in December 2022, will likely be the first overall pick at the first PWHL draft. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Olympic gold medallists. College stars. Premier Hockey Federation (PHF) standouts. Players who've shined on the world stage, but never played professionally in North America.

Ninety of the best female hockey players in the world will find a new hockey home on Monday, when the Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL) holds its first draft. 

Each of the new league's six teams signed three players in a free agency period that ended last Sunday, taking big names like Marie-Philip Poulin, Sarah Nurse and Hilary Knight off the board.

On Monday, each general manager will add 15 more players to their roster, as they build their teams from scratch ahead of a scheduled January 2024 puck drop.

The draft will take place in downtown Toronto at CBC headquarters.

Live streaming coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. It will also be available on and the Radio-Canada info app, and for international audiences on CBC Sports' and Radio-Canada's YouTube pages.

Minnesota will pick first, followed by Toronto, Boston, New York, Ottawa and Montreal. It will be a snake draft, meaning the order will reverse after each round, giving Montreal the first pick of Round 2.

Panel of experts identified player pool

Before the new league officially launched late last month, officials with the PWHL enlisted a panel of nine experts in women's hockey to identify players who could potentially play in the league.

"We came up with a list of over 300 players from around the world that we believe are eligible and will be interested in this league," the PWHL's senior vice president of hockey operations, Jayna Hefford, said last month.

"It's a big list, but it's not exhaustive. There is for sure a chance that we have missed a couple of players, but we're really confident in that group that we've put together."

WATCH | Hefford discusses PWHL with CBC Sports' Devin Heroux:

Jayna Hefford on what will make the PWHL different than previous pro women’s leagues

1 month ago
Duration 6:23
Featured VideoCBC Sports’ Devin Heroux sits down with the PWHL’s SVP of Hockey Operations Jayna Hefford after their announcement of the founding six franchises.

Players had to declare for the draft by Sept. 3, and 268 eligible players did so. The PWHL released the list of eligible players on Wednesday.

Since the list was finalized, general managers — who have only been on the job for a couple of weeks — have been busy working the phones, talking to players and their agents, and trying to determine who could be a good fit for their team.

For Toronto GM Gina Kingsbury, the big piece of the puzzle is personality. She wants to make sure each player they pick fits the team's vision and wants to be in Toronto.

"I think that's really critical in building a championship team," Kingsbury said last week. "I think too often we just think we can put the best players together and hope that you win and you're successful, and that's not how it works."

The list of draft-eligible players is highlighted by Taylor Heise, a USA Hockey star and Minnesota native who is a lock to be taken first overall by Minnesota GM Natalie Darwitz.

"We do have a really good idea who our first round draft pick will be and we're excited about that," Darwitz hinted last week.

Here's a list of 10 of the most intriguing players available in Monday's draft:

1. Taylor Heise (Forward)

It would be a shock if Heise's name isn't the first off the board on Monday afternoon. The 5-foot-10 Heise won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best female player in NCAA Division 1 hockey in 2021-2022, when she put up 66 points in 39 games with the University of Minnesota. Darwitz was one of her coaches with the Gophers.

Heise turned that great season into a spot on the American roster at the 2022 world championship, and that's where she really shined. The Americans took home silver that year, but Heise was named tournament MVP after leading all players in scoring with 18 points. Darwitz has said she'd like to build a team that's fun to watch and scores a lot, and Lake City, Minnesota's Heise certainly fits the bill.

"As I look at the number one pick, obviously I want that to be considered more of a franchise pick, somebody who we can hopefully have around for a really long time," Darwitz said last week. "Not only that, who can grow the game and grow the market in Minnesota, who has great visibility."

Who better to do that than a Minnesota born-and-bred superstar? 

A hockey player wearing a red Switzerland jersey holds up her arms in celebration on the ice.
Swiss forward Alina Müller, seen here during the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, would be a great fit in PWHL Boston, a city where people have watched her play in college for several years. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Alina Müller (Forward)

The Swiss forward was a Patty Kazmaier Award finalist in all five seasons she played at Northeastern University. Even though she's only 25, she's been on the Swiss senior national team for almost a decade. She scored the game-winning goal in the Swiss team's bronze-medal win at the 2014 Olympics when she was only 15. Four years later in Pyeongchang, she was named best forward after scoring 10 points in six games.

Müller would be a natural fit as the third-overall pick in Boston, where hockey fans have been watching her play for the last few years. Müller is clearly comfortable in the city: she signed to play with the Boston Pride in the PHF before the league was sold and shut down. But she would also be a tempting option for Kingsbury, who holds the No. 2 selection.

3. Natalie Spooner (Forward) 

Team Canada veteran Natalie Spooner returned to skating four weeks after giving birth to her son, Rory, in December. She returned to competitive hockey at a PWHPA showcase in Florida in February, and made Team Canada's world championship roster a couple months later, promptly scoring a goal in her first game back in the red and white. While Spooner hasn't played as much hockey in the last year and a half as other players on this list, it's hard to believe every team in the league wouldn't like to see her on their roster and planted in front of the opposing team's net.

4. Kennedy Marchment (Forward)

Marchment finished second in scoring in the PHF last season with the Connecticut Whale, earning a nod as a finalist for the league's most valuable player award. It was her second year in the PHF after posting eye-popping numbers in the SDHL, the Swedish women's league. According to The Ice Garden, Courtice, Ont.'s Marchment was set to make $130,000 US this upcoming season with the Whale before the league shut down. Marchment has racked up points everywhere she's played, including at St. Lawrence University, where, per EliteProspects, she still ranks sixth-all in time in points. At No. 4? That would be Toronto GM Kingsbury.

Women's collegiate hockey player holds up mesh from net in celebration.
Toronto's Sophie Jaques won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the best female player in U.S. NCAA Division 1 hockey in 2022-23. (Justin Berl/NCAA Photos/NCAA Photos via Getty Images/File)

5. Sophie Jaques (Defence)

The offensive defender from Toronto was the 2022-23 Patty Kazmaier Award winner, after a stellar season with Ohio State University. This week, she's at Hockey Canada's senior national team camp, a high-profile audition that's surely caught the attention of all six PWHL GMs. While Toronto already has one right-handed defender in Renata Fast, the idea of having hometown Jaques on the blueline for years to come has a lot of appeal.

6. Erin Ambrose (Defence)

Erin Ambrose's hockey brain and power-play prowess would be welcome in any PWHL dressing room. Ambrose had a great 2022 Winter Games while paired with Olympic rookie Claire Thompson. Neither Ottawa nor Montreal have any defender on their roster yet. Could Ambrose make a return to Montreal, where she played with Les Canadiennes of the CWHL from 2017 to 2019?

A female goaltender in a USA jersey is in net, tracking a puck to her left.
American goaltender Nicole Hensley could be a target for a PWHL team needing a dependable starting goalie. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

7. Nicole Hensley (Goalie)

Three out of six PWHL franchises still need a starting goaltender. Enter Nicole Hensley. While Hensley lost the American national team's starting job to PWHL Boston signee Aerin Frankel this past spring, she posted great numbers on the PWHPA's Dream Gap Tour last season.

8. Jamie Lee Rattray (Forward)

You may remember it was Rattray who scored a nifty game-winning shootout goal after nine rounds against the Americans in the preliminary round of the 2023 world championship. A player who can play up and down the lineup (but, seriously, why isn't she playing higher in the lineup?), Rattray would be a tantalizing pick for Ottawa, having grown up in Kanata, Ont. Last season, Rattray played on a stacked (no hamburger pun intended) Team Harvey's in the PWHPA, proving she can play in a top six role with players like Poulin and Emily Clark.

9. Corinne Schroeder (Goalie)

A team looking to go a bit younger in goal might look to Schroeder, who was solid in her first professional season with a powerhouse Boston Pride team in 2022-23, posting a PHF-leading 1.67 GAA, per EliteProspects. She was named the league's rookie and goaltender of the year.

A female hockey player wearing a Team Canada jersey competes for the puck. An American skater is behind her.
Canadian defender Claire Thompson broke an Olympic record in 2022, scoring the most points by a defenceman. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters)

10. Claire Thompson (Defence)

Thompson broke out at the Beijing Olympics for Team Canada, carving out a spot for herself in Canada's top four and breaking an Olympic record for most points by a defender (13) along the way. Thompson is attending medical school in New York, but still found time to travel to every PWHPA Dream Gap Tour showcase last season. It's difficult to imagine her playing anywhere but New York while she's contending with a demanding academic schedule.

Honourable mention

Loren Gabel (Forward): Gabel tore up the PHF last season with the Boston Pride in her first campaign in the league, and was named most valuable player in the process.


Karissa Donkin is a journalist in CBC's Atlantic investigative unit. Do you have a story you want us to investigate? Send your tips to

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now