Friday, 2 August 2013

Northeastern Huskies stars emerge as strong prospects for 2013 CWHL Draft

With CWHL roster stripped of star players due to commitments for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Northeastern Huskies stars Casey Pickett and Rachel Llanes may help fill that gap. Having each helped the Boston-based university club to consecutive Beanpot championships, their on-ice leadership and offensive skills place them among the top prospects in the 2013 CWHL Draft.

Playing together on a line with All-America selection Kendall Coyne, the trio accounted for 51 percent of the Huskies goals during the 2012-13 season. Perhaps more impressive was the fact that all three reached the 100-point plateau. Of note, Pickett and Llanes would each finish their senior seasons with career highs in points.

Casey Pickett, who describes herself as a playmaker, hard-working and committed, dons number 14 to signify her birthday (December 14). The 5’4” spitfire ranks among the Top15 scorers in Huskies history. Hailing from Wilmington, Massachusetts, her senior year was one to remember.

In addition to serving as one of the team captains, she was recognized as Hockey East Player of the Month for November 2012, along with earning Hockey East Second Team All-Star honors. She was also named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team as she finished her campaign with a sparkling 47 point effort (ranked second on the team), which included 21 goals.

The season would start off on a very strong note as she assisted on a goal scored by highly touted freshman Paige Savage on October 5 versus the Colgate Raiders. Of note, the contest marked Savage’s NCAA debut.

Less than a month later, her November 3 performance versus the Connecticut Huskies was the finest in her career. A six point effort was enhanced by a four goal showing (the first Husky since 2002 to accomplish the feat) to earn her Hockey East Co-Player of the Week honors.

Before the year was over, Pickett would reach another statistical milestone. On December 1, she would accumulate three assists versus the New Hampshire Wildcats. Her three helpers made her the twenty-first player in program history to reach the magical century mark for career points. She would be the first Huskies player since 2003, following Kim Greene, to reach the century mark.

While she would help the Huskies to their second consecutive Beanpot title, the road to the title represented another statistical milestone for Pickett. In the semifinal against the BU Terriers, she had a goal and three assists (tying her career high) for the 27 multi-point game of her career. Building on the momentum, she would go on to score a goal in the championship game against the nationally ranked BC Eagles.

Of note, she would establish herself as a sniper throughout her career. As a freshman in 2009-10, she would score a goal in her second career game (October 4 vs. Connecticut). She would also play in the first NCAA women’s game contested outdoors. In a historic match at Fenway Park (on January 8, 2010), she would score a goal versus New Hampshire.

During the 2011 Hockey East postseason, she led all scorers, while earning a nod to the postseason All-Tournament Team. In her junior season, she was a key factor in the Huskies winning the regular season Hockey East title. Her 41 points (18 goals, 23 assists) was complemented by the fact that she led the NCAA in shorthanded goals. For her efforts, she was named Best Defensive Forward in Hockey East, while earning New England Division I All-Star and Hockey East Second Team All-Star nods, respectively.

Among the Top 20 in career assists with the Huskies program, Rachel Llanes joined Pickett on the Hockey East All-Academic Team. She wore number 11 with the Huskies in recognition of Owen Nolan, a former member of the San Jose Sharks. Having grown up in San Jose, Nolan was her favorite player. She would play for the San Jose Junior Sharks and help the squad reach the 2007 National Quarterfinals. Describing herself as confident, determined and resilient, her strong personality adds grit to any CWHL lineup.  
Ranking third on the team in scoring during her senior season, Llanes was an invaluable member of the power play unit. Her six power play goals ranked sixth overall in Hockey East while her 11 power play points were fifth. In addition, she had a handful of multi-point games during the season including three-point efforts versus Robert Morris (Oct. 26), Connecticut (Nov. 3) and nationally ranked Boston College on November 16, respectively.
Her finest multi-point performance may have come in the Beanpot semi-final against nationally ranked Boston University. She would register two assists in the victory. On Senior Day (February 24), Llanes did not disappoint. She would score the game-winning goal against Providence (which she also accomplished against them on January 20) while achieving a remarkable statistical milestone. Said goal would make Llanes the twenty-third player in Huskies history to reach the magical century mark in career points.
Like Pickett, Llanes made an impression during her freshman season and continued to make significant contributions. In her freshman season (2009-10), she scored her first collegiate goal in her NCAA debut, an October 3 affair against the Union Dutchwomen. She would follow it up with two other memorable performances. A shootout goal against New Hampshire on January 4 resulted in the first victory over the program since the beginning of the Hockey East conference. In the Beanpot semifinal, she would score the shootout winner to help the Huskies reach their first final since 2004.
As a sophomore, Llanes would score the Huskies’ first goal of the 2010-11 season. The match came in an October 1 meeting against the Syracuse Orange. She would end her season as a Hockey East Honorable Mention All-Star. Other accolades would continue in her junior season, as she earned the Northeastern Seventh Player Award.
Since the Boston Blades Clarkson Cup victory last March, the black and gold have had to endure significant losses to their roster. Starting with the retirements of Caitlin Cahow, Molly Engstrom, and Karen Thatcher, the losses are compounded by several players being invited to the USA Hockey Centralization Camp, in anticipation of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
With the squad facing an uphill battle heading into the 2013-14 season, Pickett and Llanes would be ideal draft choices for the franchise. As the dynamic duo is well-known among NCAA women’s hockey fans in New England, the two would fit right in with the defending Cup champs.
Although the Blades have some strong leaders in the likes of Cherie Hendrickson and Jessica Koizumi, the franchise needs offensive help to compensate for the losses of Hilary Knight (the first US-born player to be named CWHL Most Valuable Player) and Kelli Stack to the US camp. Should Llanes and Pickett continue their high scoring ways in the CWHL with the Blades, it would help keep the franchise in contention.  
Images obtained from Northeastern Athletics

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