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PWHL Minnesota select Claire Thompson, Britta Curl in 2024 draft

PWHL Minnesota take Claire Thompson in 1st round of 2024 draft
PWHL Minnesota take Claire Thompson in 1st round of 2024 draft 02:02

The Professional Women's Hockey League held its second-ever draft on Monday night in the Twin Cities.

Some of the stars of PWHL Minnesota were on hand, coming off a championship just a couple of weeks ago

Minnesota had the third pick in the first round, selecting defenseman Claire Thompson. The 26-year-old is a Canadian national team player who won gold in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. The Princeton grad took last season off to focus on her second year attending medical school at NYU.

The pick was made by coach Ken Klee, who is overseeing the draft after the PWHL stripped general manager Natalie Darwitz of her title on Saturday.

Klee was questioned over the team's decision to select Wisconsin forward Britta Curl with the ninth pick. Curl has drawn criticism from the women's hockey and LGBTQ+ communities for supporting transphobic messaging on social media.

The criticism was evident on X, with dozens of posts criticizing the selection in response to the PWHL's post announcing Minnesota picking Curl.

Klee defended Curl's selection by saying he spoke to numerous coaches and players who knew Curl.

"I was told she's a great teammate, a great person. She's obviously a great player," Klee said. "So, you know, for me, we have people in that community, and that obviously Mira making the selection for us, I think that speaks volumes for us."

He was referring to assistant coach Mira Jalosuo, who is a lesbian.

In an unusual twist, forward Abby Boreen was selected 17th overall by Montreal after she spent last season winning a title with Minnesota. Boreen was in this situation because she signed a reserve contract with Minnesota after not declaring for the draft last year.  

New York filled a necessary need on offense by selecting Princeton and Canadian national team forward Sarah Fillier with the first pick in the draft. Regarded by PWHL scouts as a "generational player," 24-year-old Fillier is a three-time Patty Kazmaier college player of the year finalist.  

Beijing Olympics Ice Hockey
Claire Thompson in the 2022 Beijing Olympics Petr David Josek / AP

She graduated with a degree in psychiatry and completed her four-year career at Princeton ranking sixth on the school list with 93 goals and fourth with 193 points in 120 games.

From outside of Toronto, Fillier won gold at the 2022 Beijing Games, where she finished second in the tournament with eight goals, and was also a member of three Canadian world championship teams.

She is coming off a career-best 30-goal season in which she adapted her style to be more of a shooting threat to lead a young Tigers team in transition.

The first Americans to be selected were forward Hannah Bilka, who went fourth to Boston, followed by defenseman Cayla Barnes, picked by Montreal. Bilka, who is from Texas, and Barnes, from California, were teammates in helping Ohio State win a national championship in March.

Toronto capped the first round with Canadian national team forward Julia Gosling being reunited with Team Canada GM Gina Kingsbury and coach Troy Ryan.

New York opened the second round by trading its pick to Boston, which used the No. 7 selection to choose the first European — Czech Republic defenseman Daniela Pejsova.

"It's an honor to be even here and experience this in real life. Yeah, having a good time," said the 21-year-old Pejsova, who has been playing professionally in Sweden. "It feels amazing. I can't believe that it's true."

Overall, the U.S. led the way with 20 Americans selected versus 12 Canadians, plus Dara Greig, who is a dual citizen. Nine European players were selected, including the first from Russia, Ilona Markova, a 22-year-old, who plays in the Russian women's pro league and was selected 37th by Boston.

U.S. national team veteran forward Amanda Kessel wasn't selected until going 41st to Montreal. Kessel is a three-time Olympian, who took last year off to focus on her job as a special assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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