Minnesota picks Taylor Heise 1st in the inaugural Professional Women’s Hockey League draft

FILE - Team USA Taylor Heise (27) with teammates after the IIHF World Championship Women's ice hockey match against Japan in Herning, Denmark, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2022. The newly launched Professional Women's Hockey League is taking shape. Each of the six franchise's head coaches are expected to be announced on Friday, Sept. 15. And Minnesota is looking ahead to the league's inaugural draft on Monday, when the yet-to-be-named franchise is expected to select Taylor Heise with the No. 1 pick. (Bo Amstrup/Ritzau Scanpix via AP, File)

If Minnesota regards itself as the State of Hockey, the Twin Cities’ Professional Women’s Hockey League franchise will feature plenty of homegrown 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 newly launched league’s inaugural draft on Monday.


“It’s an unreal feeling,” the 23-year-old Heise said.

“It’s my home. Everyone I love is there. And it’s the State of Hockey,” she added. “I’m just honored that I’m going to be able to play and to show little girls that anything is possible if you keep working hard.”

Heise heard her named called by tennis legend Billie Jean King, a member of the league’s board of directors in opening the PWHL’s 15-round draft held in Toronto.

Heise joins a franchise whose general manager, former U.S. national team player Natalie Darwitz, is from Minnesota, and who had already signed fellow Minnesotans Kelly Pannek and Lee Stecklein in the pre-draft free agency period.

Darwitz then dipped into the state’s deep depth of talent 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 Premier Hockey Federation Minnesota Whitecaps and is related to Whitecaps founder Jack Brodt.

Toronto selected veteran Canadian defender Jocelyne Larocque second, and Boston took Swiss center Alina Muller third. Muller was the only non-North American player picked in the first three rounds. Muller gets to stay in Boston after spending her college career at Northeastern.

New York used the fourth pick to select Canadian national team defender Ella Shelton. Ottawa reached across the border to draft U.S. national team defender Savannah Harmon at No. 5. And Montreal rounded out the first round by choosing Team Canada defender Erin Ambrose.

New York general manager Pascal Daoust consulted with his three signed players — Abby Roque, Alex Carpenter and Micah Zandee-Hart — on who to target in the draft. Their feedback led to him to selecting Shelton and fellow Canadian defender Jaime Bourbonnais.

“(I was) asking them, ‘Who would you like to play with?’ And most importantly, ‘Who you don’t want to play against,’” Daoust said. “I was trying to build something.”

Harmon is from Illinois, but eager to head to Ottawa, where she represented the U.S. in a Rivalry Series game against Canada.

Overall, 47 Canadians and 28 Americans were chosen, plus two players who hold dual citizenship, which reflects the talent pool of the sport’s two global powers. Five members of the fast-rising Czech Republic national team were also selected.

Sweden, Finland, France and Germany also had players drafted to a league bringing together the world’s top female players and set to begin play in January.

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