TORONTO, ON — Lake City native Taylor Heise took the next natural step in her hockey career following a record-setting career at the University of Minnesota, becoming the first-ever draft pick of the new Professional Women's Hockey League (PWHL).
Heise, a high-scoring center at both the collegiate and international level, was drafted first overall by the Minnesota franchise and general manager Natalie Darwitz. She joins top-flight free agents Kelly Pannek, Kendall Coyne Schofield and Lee Steckein as the building blocks of the team.
Before this year's World Tournament, Darwitz did an interview with NBC sports emphasizing the 5 feet 10 inch Heise's dominating presence and her ability to take over a game by herself and take the puck from end to end. Darwitz likened Heise to her former Olympic teammate Krissy Wendall, captain of the 2006 U.S. women's team and three-time leading U.S. points scorer at world tournaments.
"[Heise] wants the puck on her stick in big-time moments,” Darwitz said. “In two years, I’ve never seen her have an off day or an off practice or off game.”
During and before her international exploits Heise starred at the U of M, winning the 2022 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Winner as the top player in women's college hockey. She made several All-America teams, and finished her time with the Gophers having played in 173 games and notched 227 points (97 goals, 130 assists).
In the second round Minnesota selected American-born goaltender and two-time Olympian Nicole Hensley, and then added Heise's longtime teammate and fellow Gopher Grace Zumwinkle in the third round of the draft. The team's fourth-round selection was defender Maggie Flaherty, a Lakeville native who played at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and for a number of U.S. National clubs.
Susanna Tapani, who played with the University of North Dakota and with the Finnish National Team, was selected in the fifth round, while Clair DeGeorge, who spent time with Bemidji State and Ohio State, was picked in the sixth. Former Wisconsin Badger Natalie Buchbinder and Minnesota Whitecaps forward Denisa Křížová were picked in the seventh and eighth rounds, respectively, while Sidney Morin, a Minnetonka native who also spent time with the Whitecaps, was selected in the ninth. Sophia Kunin rounded out the team's first 10 selections.
Goalie Amanda Leveille was one of three former Whitecaps selected by Minnesota in the final five rounds, including Liz Schepers (13th round) and Sydney Brodt (15th round). Former Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog Michela Cava was picked in the 12th round and Minttu Tuominen, a three-time Olympian with Team Finland, was selected in the 14th.
While Minnesota is one of the PWHL's original six franchises, it has not yet been announced what the team's name is or where it will play.
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