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WCHA players dominate 2016 NWHL Draft selections

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Eleven players from four WCHA schools, led by Wisconsin's five, were among the twenty players selected. Princeton's Kelsey Koelzer was the number one overall pick.

Minnesota's Dani Cameranesi (#21) was the third overall selection in Saturday's NWHL Draft.
Minnesota's Dani Cameranesi (#21) was the third overall selection in Saturday's NWHL Draft.
Nathan Wells/SBN College Hockey

For being a four-team league based entirely on the East Coast, the 2016 NWHL Draft had a very Midwestern flavor.

Eleven of the twenty players selected Saturday play for WCHA schools, which have won fifteen of the sixteen NCAA women's ice hockey championships contested. Wisconsin led all schools with five Badgers chosen. Two of the top three selections were from two-time defending national champion Minnesota.

Five players were chosen from the ECAC, including number one pick Kelsey Koelzer of Princeton. The remaining four came from Hockey East schools. Nationality-wise, the 20 NCAA players comprise 11 Americans, 8 Canadians and 1 from Switzerland.

The National Women's Hockey League finished its first year of play with franchises in New York City, Buffalo, Connecticut and Boston, which won the inaugural Isobel Cup as league champion. Differentiating itself from the Canadian Women's Hockey League and independent Minnesota Whitecaps by paying players between 10K and 26K per season, the first NWHL season was mostly comprised of players who played college or lived in the Northeast.

Players chosen during Saturday's five rounds are all entering their senior season.

Koelzer was the first overall selection by the New York Riveters. Koelzer led the nation in goals by a defender in 2015-16 with 17 in 33 games as the Tigers advanced to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years.

Minnesota seniors-to-be Lee Stecklein and Dani Cameranesi went 2-3, respectively. Stecklein, a 2014 Olympian and top all-around defender who plays heavy minutes for the Gophers, was selected by the Buffalo Beauts. Cameranesi, meanwhile, was the Connecticut Whale's top pick. The 5'5" forward led her class with 33 goals and the nation in power play goals with 13, playing on a different unit than Hannah Brandt, Amanda Kessel and Stecklein.

Wisconsin goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens rounded out the first round picks, being selected by the defending champion Boston Pride. Desbiens, a 2016 Patti Kazmaier finalist, set a record for both the most shutouts in a season (21) and consecutive shutouts (9).

Once Desbiens went the floodgates opened for the WCHA regular season and conference tournament champions. Four more Badgers - forward Sarah Nurse (8th), defenders Jenny Ryan (9th) and Melissa Channell (11th), and forward Sydney McKibbon (13th) - went in the next nine selections.

North Dakota had its first two players chosen after defender Halli Krzyzaniak and forward Amy Menke went with back-to-back picks to close the fourth and open the fifth round.

Minnesota Duluth forwards Ashleigh Brykaliuk (12th) and Lara Stalder (20th) were both selected by Boston.

Saturday's draft does come with the caveat that being drafted does not guarantee a player will sign with the team or league when their eligibility expires next season. Players do not put their names forward. It is all team-driven, closer to non-binding rights that a CHL team has in its draft than the NHL.

Between other leagues, trades and players choosing different squads only three of the twenty picks in last year's inaugural draft - none in the top ten - have so far signed with the team that drafted them.

Full results:

# Player Team Position College
1st Overall usaKelsey Koelzer NYR D Princeton
2nd Overall usaLee Stecklein BUF D Minnesota
3rd Overall usaDani Cameranesi CTW F Minnesota
4th Overall canAnn Renee Desbiens BOS G Wisconsin
5th Overall usaSydney Daniels NYR F Harvard
6th Overall canCayley Mercer BUF F Clarkson
7th Overall usaAndie Anastos CTW F Boston College
8th Overall canSarah Nurse BOS F Wisconsin
9th Overall usaJenny Ryan NYR D Wisconsin
10th Overall usaHayley Scamurra BUF F Northeastern
11th Overall canMellissa Channell CTW D Wisconsin
12th Overall canAshleigh Brykaliuk BOS F Minnesota-Duluth
13th Overall canSydney McKibbon NYR F Wisconsin
14th Overall canEmma Woods BUF F Quinnipiac
15th Overall usaPaige Savage CTW F Northeastern
16th Overall canHalli Krzyzaniak BOS D North Dakota
17th Overall usaAmy Menke NYR F North Dakota
18th Overall usaMaddie Elia BUF F Boston University
19th Overall usaSydney Rossman CTW G Quinnipiac
20th Overall suiLara Stalder BOS F Minnesota-Duluth

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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 --