files from The Canadian Press – Abdulhamid Ibrahim
Barrie’s Jessie Eldridge is going to take a bite out of the Big Apple.
The 25-year-old forward was selected in the third round, 16th overall by the New York franchise at the Professional Women’s Hockey League draft on Monday.
Eldridge is a 2019 graduate of Colgate University, and with the Raiders, she had 74 goals and 89 assists, which earned her the top spot on Colgate’s all-time points leaderboard.
She was a member of the Canadian national women’s ice hockey team during its Rivalry Series with the U.S. national team in February 2020, and skated with Team Bauer, representing the Montreal area, in the 2020-21 PWHPA season.
image courtesy pwhpa.com
The first overall pick in the first-ever draft of the new league was Taylor Heise.
Minnesota selected the American forward with the top pick at the draft on Monday. Tennis legend Billie Jean King, an investor in the league, made the announcement.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” the 23-year-old Heise said. “I mean, to be here and see all the ladies here that I play against and play with every single day is awesome.
“I think it’s something that I’m going to look forward to and look back on my entire life. I’m just really grateful to be here.”
Toronto selected veteran Canadian defender Jocelyne Larocque of Ste-Anne, Man., with the second pick. Ottawa took American defenceman Savannah Harmon fifth overall and Montreal selected Canadian national team defender Erin Ambrose sixth.
Heise, from Lake City, Minn., is coming off her fifth and final year at the University of Minnesota, where she was a first-team all-American after leading the NCAA in goals (30).
She was second in points (67) and tied for third in assists (37) in 39 games for the Gophers. Heise won the Patty Kazmaier award in 2022 as the top player in NCAA Division I women’s hockey.
The five-foot-nine 160-pound Heise has also starred for the U.S. national team.
In her senior team debut, Heise was named best forward and tournament MVP at the 2022 world championship, leading all players in goals (seven), points (18) and tied for first in assists (11).
She followed that up at this year’s worlds, finishing first in assists (11) and fourth in points (12), while helping the Americans claim gold.
Minnesota already has U.S. national team star forward Kendall Coyne Schofield, forward Kelly Pannek and blueliner Lee Stecklein, who were all signed during the free-agency period.
Toronto signed Canadian forwards Sarah Nurse and Blayre Turnbull and defender Renata Fast in free agency.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Larocque, a three-time Olympic medallist with Canada (two gold, one silver). “So happy, and to be able to be picked by Toronto where I played for the Brampton Thunder, I played for the Markham Thunder. I’m just so excited to be playing here in Toronto.”
Larocque added she was also looking forward to joining Fast on the blue line.
“We’re close friends, we obviously played together for five-plus years now,” she said. “So there’s a comfort there and I’m excited that we’ll be on the same professional team together.”
Harmon — who has competed for the U.S. team in three world championships, an Olympics and in multiple Rivalry Series against Canada — became the first American on the Ottawa squad.
She joined three Canadian players – goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer and forwards Brianne Jenner and Emily Clark – who signed as free agents.
“I’m incredibly proud to be drafted by Ottawa,” Harmon said. “I’ve heard great things about the city, I’ve been fortunate enough to play a game in a U.S. jersey against Team Canada but the atmosphere was incredible, the rink was incredible, the fans were incredible.
“I can only imagine playing for Ottawa, it’s going to be just as incredible.”
Ambrose joins Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin, forward Laura Stacey and goalie Ann-Renée Desbiens in Montreal.
“I’m very excited to be headed back to the city of Montreal,” Ambrose said. “I spent some time there earlier in my career.”
“Going back there to play professional women’s hockey is a very full-circle moment for me,” she added.
The Keswick, Ont., native previously spent two years (2017-2019) with Les Canadiennes de Montreal of the now-defunct Canadian Women’s Hockey League.
Swiss forward Alina Muller was selected third overall by Boston, while Canadian national team defender Ella Shelton was taken fourth by New York.
banner image – Jessie Eldridge – colgateathletics.com