Minnesota selects Taylor Heise No. 1 in inaugural PWHL draft

TORONTO — Being the first pick in the first draft of a new league was a surreal experience for Taylor Heise, who’s now a part of history.

Minnesota selected the American forward Taylor Heise first in the inaugural Professional Women’s Hockey League draft Monday. Tennis legend Billie Jean King, a member of the league’s board of directors, made the announcement.

“It’s an unreal feeling,” Heise said. “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.”

Heise will one day be the answer to a trivia question as the first draft pick of the PHWL, which was formed over the summer and is set to begin play in January with six teams, three in the U.S. and three in Canada.

Toronto selected veteran Canadian defender Jocelyne Larocque second, and Boston took Swiss center Alina Muller third. Muller was the only player not from the U.S. or Canada picked in the first three rounds.

Larocque, a three-time Olympic medalist, said she’s ecstatic and happy to be playing with Renata Fast, a longtime teammate with Canada.

“We’re close friends, we obviously played together for five-plus years now,” Larocque said. “There’s a comfort there, and I’m excited that we’ll be on the same professional team together.”

New York took Canadian defender Ella Shelton fourth. Ottawa took American defender Savannah Harmon fifth, and Montreal continued the run on blue liners by taking Canadian national team member Erin Ambrose sixth.

“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.”

Minnesota with its second-round pick drafted American goaltender Nicole Hensley to add to its group led by Heise and free agent signings Kendall Coyne Schofield, Kelly Pannek and Lee Stecklein.

Heise, from Lake City, Minnesota, 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 with 30. She was second in points with 67, and tied for third in assists with 37, in 39 games for the Gophers.

The 23-year-old closed a decorated career that included winning the Patty Kazmaier Award in 2022 as the top player in NCAA Division I women’s hockey. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Heise has also starred for the U.S. national team.

Heise was named best forward and tournament MVP at the 2022 world championships, leading all players in goals with seven and points with 18.

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