The National Women's Hockey League has the calendar marked for its first annual draft, and two of its prospects are Golden Gophers.
Defenseman Milica McMillen and goaltender Amanda Leveille join an elite class of players who have completed their junior year of college or university and are thus eligible for the draft on June 20. Other names announced so far include Harvard's Emerance Maschmeyer and Michelle Picard, UMD's Kayla Black and Clarkson's Erin Ambrose.
McMillen and Leveille each had solid individual seasons this year, capped off by another National Championship in late March. McMillen led her blueline in scoring with 27 points, thriving on the power play (seven PPG) and scoring multiple points in nine games during 2014-15. Meanwhile, Leveille ranked second in the nation in save percentage with a .946 and made up for a lackluster performance in last year's final against Clarkson with a clutch one against Harvard this season.
The NWHL consists of four teams -- the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters -- and touts itself as the first American's paid professional women's hockey league. The league held training camps throughout May (check out the recaps on Watch This (which I also write for, full disclosure) and Stanley Cup of Chowder) to help determine a current roster, with the promise of another camp for international players in late July.
Meanwhile, it has been rolling out names regularly leading up to the draft in 10 days, and with 10 more names to be revealed, it'll be interesting to see who else could be a member of one of these pioneer teams come October. Leveille and McMillen can become free agents if they are not drafted or end up not signing with their draft team after graduation; however, it's hard to imagine a team passing on either of them. The Riveters hold the first pick via lottery, but any team could benefit from having a good puck-moving D or a solid force between the pipes.
Stay tuned for more as the draft approaches.