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Team Canada star Sarah Fillier taken 1st overall by New York in 2024 PWHL draft | CBC Sports

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Sarah Fillier is an Olympic gold medallist, a three-time world champion and now, a PWHL first-overall pick.

New York GM Pascal Daoust selected the 24-year-old forward with the first pick at the draft in St. Paul, Minn. on Monday night, adding a player who has found a way to score at every level she’s played. The league’s seven-round draft is streaming live on the PWHL’s YouTube channel.

Ottawa holds the second overall pick, followed by Minnesota, Boston, Montreal and Toronto. That order will repeat through all seven rounds.

The pick keeps Fillier close to where she went to school at Princeton University in New Jersey. PWHL New York played its games in arenas in three states last year, including New Jersey’s Prudential Center.

Fillier finished her career at Princeton with 194 points, including 93 goals, in 120 games. Along the way, she was a three-time top-10 Patty Kazmaier finalist for the best female player in college hockey. In her final season, she led the NCAA in goals per game (1.03).

The PWHL’s scouts describe her as “a generational player with change of pace skating that makes her difficult to defend. Her game sense makes her a threat to create scoring in a variety of ways and will upgrade a team’s power play immediately.” 

Fillier led the NCAA in points per game this past season. She’s a natural centre who can also play on the wing. (Shelley M. Szwast/Princeton Athletics)

On the international stage, Fillier made her Canadian senior national team debut in 2018 and has become one of the faces of the team. She was named MVP of the 2023 world championship after registering 11 points in seven games.

Team Canada GM Gina Kingsbury, who is also PWHL Toronto’s GM, described Fillier as a “dynamic” offensive player and a “true competitor” who plays a 200-foot game.

“She’s a winner,” Kingsbury said. “She wants to score. She wants the pressure. She wants to be the best athlete in the world, and she approaches everything she does off ice, on ice with that kind of killer instinct and that mindset. I think she’s the full package.”

‘The best young player in the world’

Fillier is a natural centre, but has spent the past season learning how to play on the wing at Princeton and on Team Canada.

“Playing wing, it kind of opens up me a bit in the offensive zone and I can kind of fly the zone a bit more and get a bit more threatening offensive chances off the rush,” Fillier told reporters last week.

“I think it’s made me better at both positions, especially breaking out and understanding where people are going to be and where the best place to put the puck for people is.”

In New York, she could slot in as the team’s second-line centre behind star forward Alex Carpenter, forcing teams to try to match up with both of them.

WATCH | Who will PWHL Montreal select in the 2024 PWHL Draft?

Who will PWHL Montreal pick in the draft?

The PWHL is readying for its 2024 draft and several Quebecers are eligible this year. Check out a preview of the draft — with the first name expected to be called around 7 p.m. ET.

Or she could play on the top line and use her hockey IQ to create magic with Carpenter, one of the best shooters in the game.

Off the ice, Daoust said he was looking for a player with a strong work ethic, who will put in a consistent effort for 60 minutes every game. Consistency is a word Daoust has used a lot to describe what he wants to build for next season, and it’s a quality he felt his team lacked at times last season.

Fillier has learned those qualities from the best, having spent time training and soaking up habits from players like Brianne Jenner and Marie-Philip Poulin, and admiring how they’re always working to be better, no matter how long they’ve been in the game.

“Not only are they getting the best young player in the world, but they’re getting someone who cares deeply about her family and her friends and her teammates,” Fillier’s coach at Princeton, Cara Morey, told CBC Sports in March.

Minnesota selected forward Taylor Heise with the first-overall pick at last year’s inaugural draft. Heise won the Ilana Kloss Playoff MVP Award after scoring eight points, including five goals, over 10 playoff games.

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