Friday, July 19, 2024

Ottawa fills needs at PWHL draft

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PWHL Ottawa wound up with a player that answers its greatest needs when selecting Danielle Serdachny with the second overall pick at Monday night’s draft in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

As a 5-foot-9 centre, she not only gives Carla MacLeod’s team a big, physical presence up front, but also one that scores at a rate better than any of the other players available.

By taking Sarah Fillier first overall, New York is getting an abundantly skilled 24-year old from Georgetown, Ont. who, as a key piece on Team Canada, is known as a complete player.

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In her past two seasons at Princeton, Fillier had 80 points in 59 games (1.36 points per game).

But Serdachny, a 23-year-old Edmonton native who is also considered strong defensively, had 132 points in 80 games (1.65 points per game) over her last two seasons at Colgate.

In international play last season, Serdachny had a better plus-minus (plus-29 to plus-10) and more blocked shots (35-18) while putting up four points to Filler’s three in seven games.

Serdachny, of course, also scored the gold-medal winning goal for Canada at the world championship.

“We’re happy she got to us at two,” Ottawa GM Mike Hirshfeld said on his way to the airport and a flight back to Canada. “We like the size, we like what she is. She’s an on-puck player. She can carry it 200 feet. Sarah is a different player. She’s 5-foot-5, a great, great goal scorer. But she’s more of an off-puck player.

“We really like what Danielle brings. We like the upside. The ceiling is really exciting. At her age, we think her best days are still ahead of her. There’s a lot of growth there.”

After spending the past five years of her life in New York, Serdachny sounded thrilled to be coming home.

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“I think I had a lot of different emotions in that moment,” she said after the draft at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. “Obviously relieved, but also excited. Mostly excited. I’ve seen what Ottawa has done and the crowds they’ve brought in.

“Obviously, they have an incredible coaching staff and management on top of team. So to hear my name called to Ottawa was definitely really incredible.”

Asked what roll she sees herself playing, Serdachny replied: “Just kind of helping out wherever they need me. I’m willing to play any role, pretty much wherever they see me fitting in the line up, or whatever they need out of me, I’m definitely willing to do. 

“I like to think I’m more of a playmaker, but I’ll be trying to help the team out in any way I can. I’m really looking forward to it.”

After Serdachny, Ottawa focused on its own end by taking Finnish defender Ronja Savolainen in the second round (eighth overall), American goalie Gwyneth Philips in the third round (14th overall), and Edmonton defender Stephanie Markowski in the fourth round (20th overall).

Ottawa concluded its draft with the selections with Minnesota-born forward Mannon McMahon (26th overall), Austrian forward Anna Meixner (32nd overall) and defender Madeline Wethington, who is also from Minnesota, with the 38th overall pick.

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“We wanted to get tougher, we wanted to get a little bigger,” said Hirshfeld.  “We lost the battles in front of the net at the  end of the games. We just want to make sure that we really took care of our defensive zone a lot better moving forward.

“We brought in three big defenders, tough defenders, mean defenders, is how one coach described them to me, in particular Markowski. You’re not getting anything free in front of our net anymore with this group. That was really important for us to clear lanes for (goalie Emerance Maschmeyer) to see shots, and we think that’ll help her be even better next year.”

The 5-foot-10 Savolainen is 26 years old and has played big minutes at the Worlds.

“She’s physical and tough … she has reputation of being nasty and hard to play against,” said  Hirshfeld. “She’s going to be great. We feel like we can bring her in for the late minutes in that third period. We lost some leads late in games and we feel like she’s someone who can come in and play right away and help us there and be tough. And Markowski, again, another tall, big, physical player. She’s about 5-foot-8. And Madeline Wethington, who we took with our last pick. She’s 5-foot-10, some real physical toughness that just great for us.

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“It was really about just just getting tougher and harder to play against.”

Serdachny, whose father Steve was the skating and skills coach of the Edmonton Oilers for from 2005-2017, is looking forward to being reunited professionally with her Team Canada teammates.

“I’ve learned so much from them specifically, Brian Jenner, Emily Clark, and Ashton Bell,” she said. “They’re great people and I know they’re doing a great job of leading Ottawa. So I’m super happy to be a part of that.”

In Ottawa, she’ll also be once again playing for MacLeod, who coached her on Team Alberta when she was in grade 12.

“She’s such a great person and great coach,” Serdachny said. “I’m super happy to be a part of the organization.”

The primary focus of Hirshfeld now shifts to signing Ottawa players who can hit the free-agent market as of June 21, with first-line forwards Darryl Watts and Katerina Mrazova being top priority.

Hirshfeld exchanged texts with Watts agent most recently on Tuesday and spoke with Mrazova’s representative at the draft.

In both cases, the message was “let’s just get this across the finish line.”

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Said Hirshfeld: “I think we’re in good shape on both of them. You never know, but we feel confident we’ll be able to get both of them back.”

Over the past week, Hirshfeld signed defenders Aneta Tejralova (two years) and Zoe Boyd (one year) to extensions.

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Tejralova, a seventh-round pick last year, is viewed as an exceptional skater and shot blocker who emerged as a leader on the Ottawa blue line.

Boyd, a ninth-round pick, was developing into a solid blue liner before missing the final six games with fractured left wrist she suffered Mar. 20.

Her signing gives Ottawa 10 players who were on the 2023 team: Forwards Clark, Jenner, Gabbie Hughes, Hayley Scamurra, Tereza Vanišová and Natalie Snodgrass; defenders Bell, Savannah Harmon and Jincy Roese and goalie Maschmeyer.

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