NEW YORK – The National Women's Hockey League hosted the first two rounds of its 2018 draft on Wednesday (Dec. 19), with nine Americans selected among the 10 picks. The draft concluded with its final three rounds on Thursday (Dec. 20). In total, 20 Americans heard their names called.
U.S. forward Pankowski shot the puck during a game at the 2017 Four Nations Cup in Wesley Chapel, Florida.
Headlining the list was first overall pick Annie Pankowski (Laguna Hills, Calif.) by the Metropolitan Riveters. Pankowski has been a part of the U.S. Women's National Team program since 2010 when she made her debut as a member of the 2010 Under-18 Women's Select Team at the Under-18 Series vs. Canada.
A forward at the University of Wisconsin, Pankowski is also a two-time world champion, having helped the U.S. Women's National Team claim gold medals at the 2015 and 2016 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship. She has also skated in five Four Nations Cup tournaments with the U.S. and is a 2012 IIHF Under-18 Women's World Championship silver medalist.
Also in the first round, the Connecticut Whale selected Melissa Samoskevich (Sandy Hook, Conn.) second overall and the Buffalo Beauts chose Megan Keller (Farmington Hills, Mich.) third overall.
Samoskevich recently made her debut with the U.S. Women's National Team, helping the U.S. claim its fourth straight Four Nations Cup title November in Saskatoon, Sask., along with teammates Pankowski and Keller. Keller was also a member of the gold medal-winning 2018 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team that captivated the world in February, defeating Canada in a thrilling overtime shootout to claim gold.
Wednesday’s (Dec. 19) opening round also included 2018 Olympic champions Kelly Pannek (Plymouth, Minn.) and Kali Flanagan (Burlington, Mass.) rounding out the top five picks, going to the Minnesota Whitecaps and Boston Pride, respectively.
U.S. blueliner Keller (left) celebrated with teammates after winning Olympic gold this February in PyeongChang.
In the second round, American forwards Kendall Cornine (Livingston, N.J., Riveters), Makenna Newkirk (Scottsdale, Ariz., Whale), Sophia Shaver (Wayzata, Minn., Whitecaps), and Bailey Larson (Sycamore, Ill., Pride) were all selected.
The third round saw UW Eau Claire forward Courtney Wittig (Green Bay, Wis.) have her name called by the Riveters, while the Whitecaps tabbed Lauren Boyle (Los Gatos, Calif.), a defender from Ohio State.
Four Americans went in the fourth round, including Riveters pick Paige Voight (St. Michael, Minn.), Whale selection Dominique Kremer (Hudson, Iowa), Beauts pick Olivia Zafuto (Niagara Falls, N.Y.) and Whitecaps choice Grace Bizal (Minnetonka, Minn.), the latter three choices being defenders.
The fifth and final round was filled with Americans as well. Being selected were Cailey Hutchinson (Hicksville, N.Y.), Maggie Lague (Barre, Vt.), Nicole Shammel (Red Wing, Minn.), Karlie Lund (Eden Praire, Minn.) and Jenna Rheault (Nashau, N.H.) by the Riveters, Whale, Beauts, Whitecpas, and Pride respectfully.
The NWHL draft consists of players that are currently taking part in their senior season. Players are eligible to sign in the NWHL once their collegiate careers conclude.
NOTES: The five teams within the league each picked five players over the course of the 2018 NWHL Draft, including 16 forwards, eight blue-liners and one goaltender... Picks consisted of players from three different countries, ranging from USA (20), Canada (4) and Sweden (1)... Of the 20 Americans selected, nine states were represented, including Minnesota (6), New York (3), California (2), Arizona (1), Connecticut (1), Illinois (1), Iowa (1) Michigan (1), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), Vermont (1) and Wisconsin (1)…Total selections pulled from four NCAA DI conferences, including the Hockey East (9), ECAC (7), WCHA (6) and CHA (2), and a the WIAC (NCAA Div III) had one selection...