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

Sarah Fillier, left, shakes hands with tennis great Billie Jean King after being taken first overall by New York in the 2024 PWHL draft on Monday in St. Paul, Minn. (Renée Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via The Associated Press - image credit)
Sarah Fillier, left, shakes hands with tennis great Billie Jean King after being taken first overall by New York in the 2024 PWHL draft on Monday in St. Paul, Minn. (Renée Jones Schneider/Star Tribune via The Associated Press - image credit)

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

Billie Jean King announced the pick on stage at the draft in St. Paul, Minn. on Monday night on behalf of New York, which gets a tremendously skilled player who is poised to become one of the faces of the league.

For Fillier, it was a dream come true, and something she said would need to soak in over the next couple of days.

"Being up on that stage and getting to shake [King's] hand and give her a hug was a surreal moment and something I'll remember forever," Fillier told reporters after the pick was made.

WATCH | Sarah Fillier selected first by New York at 2024 PWHL Draft:

The 24-year-old forward has found a way to score at every level. She plans to continue that in New York, the team that scored the second-fewest goals last season.

"Just a ton of skill and creativity," Fillier said on the broadcast when asked what she will bring. "I want to contribute offensively."

Edmonton's Serdachny heads to Ottawa

After Fillier, Ottawa used the second-overall pick to select Edmonton's Danielle Serdachny, a play-making power forward whose size and skating should allow her to contribute immediately.

Serdachny finished her college career at Colgate University as the school's all-time scoring leader, with 239 points over 180 games. She was a top-three finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award for the best player in female college hockey in 2023, and a top-10 finalist this past season.

Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press
Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press

On the international stage, 23-year-old Serdachny made her senior national team debut at the Rivalry Series in December 2022, scoring an overtime game-winner against the United States in Los Angeles.

At her second world championship this past spring, Serdachny played on a stellar fourth line with Julia Gosling and Kristin O'Neill. She scored the golden overtime goal in a 6-5 win over the United States.

Ottawa will reunite Serdachny with a number of Team Canada teammates and another Albertan in head coach Carla MacLeod, who coached Serdachny's to a gold medal with Team Alberta at the Canada Winter Games in 2019.

"To be here and be a part of this moment is just super incredible and speaks to the growth of the women's game," Serdachny told reporters after she was selected. "I'm super happy to be here and also very honoured, too."

A couple rounds later, Ottawa added Serdachny's best friend, forward Stephanie Markowski. The two grew up playing together in Edmonton, and Markowski was also on MacLeod's 2019 Team Alberta team.

Toronto adds a power forward from Ontario

Montreal added defender Cayla Barnes with the fifth pick, filling a need the team had for another top-two defender who can log time on the power play. Barnes has been a mainstay on the American national team, and won an Olympic gold medal at only 19. She won a national championship with Ohio State University this past season.

Barnes, who is from Eastvale, Calif., said she plans to "bring a bit of flair to the back end" in Montreal.

"I'm defensive but with a bit of spice offensively," she said. "Look to see me jump up into the play and get involved offensively."

One pick later, Toronto selected London, Ont.'s Gosling, a 23-year-old forward who could replace some of the elements the team may miss should leading scorer Natalie Spooner not be ready in time to start to the season. Spooner had surgery after sustaining a knee injury in the playoffs.

Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press
Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press

Gosling is a player both Toronto GM Gina Kingsbury and head coach Troy Ryan are familiar with from Team Canada. Gosling was centralized with the team ahead of the Olympics in 2022, and made her world championship debut this past spring.

She looked up to Spooner as a role model growing up, and has been trying to watch and learn from her for years.

"Us two on the same team could be a powerhouse," she said.

Minnesota selected Canadian Olympic gold medallist Claire Thompson with the third pick, taking the best offensive defender in the draft off the board early. Thompson, who didn't play last season while in medical school, will give the team another weapon on the power play.

At fourth, Boston chose American defender Hannah Bilka, a scoring threat who also won an NCAA title with Ohio State last season.

'The best young player in the world'

In New York, Fillier 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. Fillier is a natural centre and has played there most of her career.

Or she could play on the wing on the top line and use her hockey IQ to create magic with Carpenter, one of the best shooters in the game. That's a position Fillier has learned this year to make herself more of a Swiss Army knife on the ice.

Off the ice, New York GM Pascal 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.

Shelley M. Szwast/Princeton Athletics
Shelley M. Szwast/Princeton Athletics

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.

Fillier gets to stay 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.

She 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).

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

Forty-two players from seven countries were selected over seven rounds. Concordia University captain Emmy Fecteau the only player selected from a Canadian university.