New York Riveters general manager Chad Wiseman has been busy this offseason. There are nine new faces in the lineup and seven of them will be playing their first professional hockey next season.
Adding youth to a NWHL roster is hardly surprising considering that the league had an abundance of first-year college graduates in its ranks last year. Building teams primarily with college graduates and national team stars made perfect sense last summer. It saved the teams money and offered a wave of young, talented players for fans to grow familiar with.
What is surprising is just how few returning Riveters there will be. Including captain Ashley Johnston there will be just six players returning from last year’s roster. Many of the players from last year’s team will be replaced with a new crop of rookies.
The revamped Riveters roster features seven skaters that are rookies. Those players will vary in age from 22 to 25 years old next season.
(notes: Players’ ages are presented as what they will be in October. McMillen is mistakenly listed as a forward in the chart above, she is a defender.)
Kessel, Gruschow, Russo were all undrafted free agents signed by Wiseman in his first year behind the GM’s desk.
D’Oench, McMillen, Burke, and Picard were all draft picks of the other NWHL teams. Their rights were either acquired in trades or the Riveters signed them and incurred draft tax penalties to their salary cap. The Riveters have $7,000 in draft taxes as things currently stand with two roster spots remaining on the 17 woman roster.
It is worth noting that none of the Riveters draft picks from the 2015 Draft were signed by the team. This fact paired with the roster overhaul makes the difference in former GM Dani Rylan and Wiseman’s approach to building a team clear.
Wiseman went into the 2016 offseason with a plan. That plan involved replacing most of last year’s roster with new blood. He aggressively pursued it.
In an interview with Today’s SlapShot Wiseman made a point to emphasize the value of players that come from winning traditions. Many of Wiseman’s moves this offseason reflect that. This philosophy might also have something to do with so few of the players from the 2015-16 Riveters returning next season.
The expectations for next season’s Riveters team are understandably high. Most of the (contracted) roster is finished and on paper the team looks well-built and talented. The additions of Kessel, Fratkin, and Leonoff have fans expecting a winning hockey team.
Will Wiseman’s infusion of new blood that features fast forwards and puck moving defenders work? We will have to wait and see how he coaches the team that he has put together and what he does with the two remaining contracts he has left to sign.