BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Dec. 19, 2018 – Led by the top overall pick, a trio of current women's Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) seniors – all dynamic forwards – were chosen on Day One of the 2018 National Women's Hockey League (NWHL) Draft. University of Wisconsin co-captain Annie Pankowski was tabbed by the Metropolitan Riveters with the draft's first selection, University of Minnesota captain and Plymouth, Minn. native Kelly Pannek went to her home state Minnesota Whitecaps with the fourth overall pick, and UW's Sophia Shaver – the Badgers' other co-captain who hails from Wayzata, Minn. – was also chosen by the Whitecaps in the second round (ninth overall).
"We are thrilled for Annie, Kelly and Sophia to have an opportunity to continue their hockey careers beyond college" said WCHA Vice President and Women's League Commissioner Katie Million. "We have been fortunate to watch these three incredible talents in the WCHA over the last few years and know they will have an immensely positive postgraduate impact in the NWHL and beyond, both on and off the ice."
Pankowski, a redshirt-senior from Laguna Hills, Calif., leads the WCHA with 14 goals this season and enters the holiday break on a seven-game goal streak, the third-longest in UW history. A two-time Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Top-10 Finalist, a two-time All-American and three-time All-WCHA selection (along with the 2015 Rookie of the Year), Pankowski ranks in the top-10 in Badgers history in goals, assists, points, plus/minus and shots on goal, and is tied for the school record with eight career shorthanded goals. She becomes the third UW student-athlete to be picked first overall in the draft of their respective sport's professional league, joining former teammate Lauren Williams, who was the top pick in the 2018 Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL) Draft, and Rose Lavelle, who was picked first in the 2017 National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) Draft. Pankowski would join a Riveters team that currently features five former Badgers: Erika Lawler, Jenny Ryan, Courtney Burke, Madison Packer and Kelly Nash.
Pannek, a redshirt-senior who helped the U.S. Women's Olympic Ice Hockey Team capture gold at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, has 19 points this season for the Gophers (11 goals and eight assists). A Patty Kaz Award Top-10 Finalist, All-American and WCHA scoring champion as a junior in 2016-17, Pannek ranks in the top-10 in Minnesota history in assists, points and shorthanded goals. She was the first-ever draft pick of the Whitecaps, who are tied for first place during their inaugural NWHL season, thanks in part to the contributions of six former Gophers: Hannah Brandt, Winny Brodt Brown, Chelsey Brodt Rosenthal, Amanda Leveille, Kate Schipper and Lee Stecklein.
Shaver, who has a point in six of UW's last eight games, was selected by her home state Whitecaps as the team's second pick. An All-WCHA Second Team selection after a 24-point season as a junior in 2017-18, she is slated to become the first Badger to play for the Whitecaps.
The final three rounds of the 2018 NWHL Draft will take place on Thursday, Dec. 20 beginning at 10 a.m. CT.