Following Riveters free agent camp Sunday, General Manager Anya Packer revealed a few things about the pre-collegiate draft process. The draft itself is set to occur June 29th.
What complicated this year was the COVID related extensions that NCAA athletes were granted that meant every player who otherwise would have graduated was granted an extra year of eligibility if they wanted it. Thus the NWHL teams couldn’t just assume a player would be available to draft in the coming year.
There is traditionally a back and forth that occurs between team staff and NCAA Coaches in normal years to find out if a player may be interested in the league, in order to not run afoul of any compliance issues. But this year things there was a difference according to Packer: “Lisa Haley, whose been brought on by the league head office has been instrumental in having those conversations. She’s sussed through conversations with NCAA coaches, what that recruitable pool essentially looks like. It’s then on myself and then on the coach and on everybody to go a little bit further, but she’s done a great job giving you a starting. And that’s beyond NCAA, that’s NCAA, that’s CIS [U Sports] hockey, that’s some international conversations. I would say that the lion’s share is actually done by her and her office…It’s been a really great resource for us to have her do that for us.”
This centralized work provided guidance that could then be built upon by the teams. Asked a followup by me, Packer explained that the work to produce a list of players centrally has “been done…and then what we’ll do with it is there’s still some more fact finding because what a coach might say might be different than the athlete. If the athlete wants to opt out and come work, or the athlete has a different plan, or the athlete is opting out but doesn’t want to play, like then you continue to vet, but that was shared last week and so we’ll have another month of time to fight.”
So it sounded like the league had made a lot of progress and had a reasonable amount of certainty over who was available, but there were still t’s to cross and i’s to dot. Erica Ayala of Sports Talk with ELA and The IX Newsletter asked if the conversations were thus with players that had exhausted their eligibility or will not be continuing, which Packer confirmed. As a followup to Erica’s question, Packer elaborated:
“Because it’s so different this year, the league provided a little more support, which I so much appreciate. Like I said. They had probably hundreds of hours of conversations to get us to that point. We all have our natural draft areas. I’ll naturally draft from these five schools, or Boston naturally has x amount of schools around them. Minnesota clearly has a midwest tie. But to know that somebody did a centralized amount of work at least to get us to point A is amazing. But it’s not a usual resource we have on the league level.” Though she admitted she didn’t know if it might continue in the future.
With the draft only a few weeks away one would hope the pieces are falling into place though on the other hand, it’s hard to know what timetables collegiate athletes would be working under in this offseason with so many moving parts. Still based on what Anya Packer said, it did seem like there was a reasonable pool for the teams to fight over come draft time and that they had some idea who was in it.