CWHL Draft Has Local Flavor for Les Canadiennes

Montreal Pick Boston University’s Sarah Lefort Fifth Overall

  • Montreal Canadiennes Meg Hewings alongside Sarah Lefort, Montreal’s first round pick at the fifth overall selection. Photo Chris Tanouye

Sunday afternoon’s Canadian Women’s Hockey League draft in Toronto was a homecoming of sorts for many of the players selected by the Montreal Canadiennes.

Six of the nine players drafted by the Canadiennes were either born in Quebec or played at the collegiate or university level with a Montreal-area team.

“There definitely is a Montreal style in the way that we do things and we are all very connected to the community,” said Canadiennes general manager Meg Hewings. “There is also often a close tie with Quebecers and their families.”

“My career kind of started in Montreal,” said Sarah Lefort, Montreal’s first round pick and fifth overall, in a telephone conversation shortly after being drafted. “It’s time to come home and time to come back and play where I grew up.”

“I think that was the main reason why I wanted to play for Montreal.”

The 22-year-old Ormstown native was a stalwart at left wing for the Boston University Terriers the past four seasons, posting 91 goals and 92 assists for 183 total points in only 146 games.

A handful of those contests were spent alongside Canadiennes all-star and CWHL MVP Marie-Philip Poulin. Lefort believes she can be a lethal presence atop Montreal’s potent offense as well.

“Scoring goals has been part of my game for the last few seasons,” said Lefort. “I want to bring that style of game back to Montreal. It’s a new beginning and a new start with the CWHL and I am going to do my best to bring my A-game.”

Montreal later selected defender Cassandra Poudrier out of Cornell University in the second round, another player who has close-knit ties to the city of Montreal.

“It was really amazing,” said Poudrier. “I’m really excited to get to play in Montreal this year. It’s kind of like coming back home because I just spent the last four years away so now I get to play in front of family and friends.”

The Mont-Laurier native last played in the metropolitan area while in CEGEP four years ago, for the Dawson College Blues. After a stellar four-year career patrolling the blue line at Cornell , Poudrier finds herself back home better equipped to compete at the highest level.

“I have grown into an all-around player,” said Poudrier. “I was given a lot of different roles over my four years at Cornell and I think that I’m able to play in any kind of situation. I‘m hoping that will definitely help with the team this year.”

Montreal also selected forwards Ariane Barker and France’s Marion Allemoz, both from the Université de Montreal Carabins, as well as defenders Brittney Fouracres from McGill, Melanie Desrochers, and Nachi Fujimoto, who is from Sapporo International University in Japan.

Goaltenders Taylor Hough, also from McGill, and Amanda Makela, from Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania, rounded out this year’s draft class.

Canadiennes forward Katia Clement-Heydra played with both Fouracres and Hough during her stint at McGill. She had only high praise for both players following the draft.

“Brittany is a solid [defender],” said Clement-Heydra. “I loved playing with her at McGill and I’m really happy we get to have her now with Les Canadiennes. As for [Hough], I think it’s harder in net because we already have Charline Labonte, one of the best goalies in the world, but I’m sure she can come in and fight for a spot.”

Hewings is a strong proponent of giving young players a chance to play right away in the CWHL. Last year, she quickly integrated Clement-Heydra, defender Karell Emard, as well as forwards Leslie Oles and Alyssa Sherrard into her roster following their selection at last year’s entry draft. A similar approach is expected this season.

“We have a very strong veteran roster who have been with us for a long time,” said Hewings. “Slowly, over the past couple of years, however, we have looked at ways to rejuvenate the team and continue to help our young players progress. Through the draft, we have been able to get some talent that can help the organization pretty soon.”

All questions as to the final roster could be answered in the coming weeks. The club is expected to announce which of last year’s squad won’t be returning this season over the next few days.

All remaining players, as well as the rookies selected on Sunday, will then report to the team’s official training camp on September 3 to 4 at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. The 25-player roster will be finalized before the start of the regular season on Oct. 15 in Brampton against the local Thunder.

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