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Gopher Hockey Notebook: Four players chosen in NWHL Draft, Collins to NJEC + MORE

All the recent news and notes during a draft-filled summer.

Defenseman Ryan Collins is one of 39 players invited to August's NJEC in Lake Placid, NY.
Defenseman Ryan Collins is one of 39 players invited to August's NJEC in Lake Placid, NY.
Matt Christians/SB Nation College Hockey

Four Minnesota seniors-to-be, led by co-captain Hannah Brandt, were among the first 14 picks of Saturday's NWHL Draft.

The four Gophers matched Boston College for the most players at one school selected in the league's inaugural Draft, which had five rounds and 20 total picks.

Brandt (Vandais Heights, MN) did not have to wait long to hear her name The 21 year-old, who led the national champion Gophers with 74 points and her second consecutive season being Patty Kazmaier top-3 finalist, went second overall to the Connecticut Whale.

Defenseman Milica McMillen (St. Paul) and longtime first line forward Maryanne Menefee (Lansing, MI) also were selected by the Whale as the 10th and 14th overall picks, respectively. It's interesting to see how much Connecticut enjoys Gophers for being the location where Minnesota lost to Clarkson in the 2014 NCAA championship.

Goalie Amanda Leveille (Kingston, Ontario) went 10th overall to the Buffalo Beauts.

Saturday's Draft does not change the status of any of the players. There are no early departures. As Zoe Claire of Stanley Cup of Chowder wrote, the purpose of teams choosing incoming seniors - and only incoming seniors -has more to do with giving them a leg up on their next location.

After the draft, Rylan emphasized that this draft system is about future planning while allowing each player to finish their collegiate eligibility and degree programs.  "We're strategically drafting players going into their senior year of college, class of 2016, so they have a chance to establish themselves in their new city," she said.  "It was very heavily shaped by the [NCAA] compliance rules. We put a heavy emphasis on the players finishing their college careers. . . It is our feeder program. We want to make sure that the players get their four years of eligibility before they come to play for the NWHL."

The NWHL (National Women's Hockey League) is a four-team start-up league based in the Northeast United States that will begin play this fall. Neither the NWHL nor its more established competitor, the five-team CWHL, have a team in Minnesota or the Upper Midwest despite the large percentage of US players the state produces and collegiate success. (A previous iteration of the NWHL did have a Minnesota team.) Because of that, both leagues have targeted the state for future expansion. Time will tell if it is placating/a negotiation tactic or if local players will have a closer team after their college careers end.

Boston College forward and 2015 Patty Kazmaier winner Alex Carpenter was the first overall pick, going to the New York Riveters.

Caitlin Reilly eligible to play in 2015-16

According to the University, sophomore transfer Caitlin Reilly will be eligible to play right away instead of having to sit out a year.

Joining the Gophers from Penn State, which plays women's hockey in the CHA, Reilly had 16 points (6G-10A) in 37 games for the Nittany Lions as a freshman.

Coincidentally the Gophers open up the 2015-16 season in State College against Penn State.

Reilly is one of two transfers to come to Minnesota for 2015-16 after their freshman season. The other, Nicole Schammeldoes have to sit out a year after transferring in-conference from Minnesota State. Schammel left the Mavericks program after a coaching change. She will have three of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016-17.

Collins named to NJEC camp in August (3 other Minnesotans and 2 draft picks)

Sophomore defenseman Ryan Collins was the only University of Minnesota player invited last week to the United States National Junior Evaluation Camp for the 2016 U-20 World Junior Championships. He is one of 39 players participating in the August 1-8 camp in Lake Placid, New York under 2016 head coach Ron Wilson.

Collins played on the 2015 squad that finished fifth (along with Minnesota teammate Hudson Fasching - both he and Leon Bristedt have aged out of the U-20 tournament). He is joined by three other Minnesotans - defenseman Jack Dougherty (Cottage Grove/University of Wisconsin) and forwards Paul Bittner (Crookston/Portland - WHL) and Brock Boeser (Burnsville/incoming freshman at University of North Dakota).

Two players selected by the Minnesota Wild, 2014 first round pick Alex Tuch (Boston College) and third round pick Louis Belpedio (Miami), are also attending, as are 18 players attending eligible for this week's NHL Entry Draft.

The 2016 World Juniors tournament runs from December 26, 2015 to January 5, 2016 in Helsinki, Finland. Minnesota has had at least one player participate in the WJC every year since 1993.

Commit Corner:

-Sioux Falls (USHL) named defenseman Ryan Zuhlsdorf captain for the 2015-16 season. The Edina, MN native was one of two Minnesota commits (Tommy Novak being the other) named to the USHL All-Rookie Team.

-2000-born forward Jaxon Nelson (Luverne, MN) is one of 22 players named to the Selects 15 national camp in Lake Placid, NY next month.

-Will likely touch on this during the week, but several incoming and committed players are eligible for this week's NHL Draft.

Quick notes:

-Minnesota should be releasing the full 2015-16 men's hockey schedule as soon as later today.

-Congrats to former Gopher defenseman Nate Schmidt on signing a two year, $1.625 million one-way contract with the Washington Capitals last week. Schmidt has come a long way from being an undrafted player who went in and out of the lineup as a freshman.

-Mike Reilly will also be signing an NHL contract with a team that isn't Columbus in the near future. Until he does, the speculation where will continue.


Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation mostly covering both the University of Minnesota and Big Ten. You can also follow him on Twitter --