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Calgary Flames

Inferno should look to shore up defense, goaltending at CWHL Draft Sunday



Fifty-five players, including a record four from Japan, are hoping to make the cut on one of the five teams in the Canadian Women's Hockey League Sunday afternoon in Toronto.

The Inferno (who had two first overall picks in 2012 and 2013 as Team Alberta) will select fourth in each round, as they finished in second place in the CWHL standings last season. Brampton will choose first, Toronto second, Montreal third, and last year's Clarkson Cup champion Boston, fifth.

Calgary has a little bit of work to do after making strides toward becoming a serious perennial contender in the CWHL. With a strong rookie corps including Jessica Campbell and Brittany Esposito and an unstoppable force in top scorer Rebecca Johnston, there's no doubt the offense was there for much of the season. However, as the playoffs hit, perhaps it was fatigue or simply the stellar play of Stars goaltender Charline Labonte — either way, things fizzled out.

Offensively, though, they seem to have figured things out. As reported earlier this summer, Hayley Wickenheiser announced her intent to play for the Inferno after registering for the CWHL Draft. This will be her first time ever playing in the CWHL after an illustrious 22-year career with Team Canada.

Wickenheiser is the Canadian women's team's all-time leading scorer, with 146 goals and 172 assists in 216 games. She also has seven world championship gold medals and four Olympic gold medals, which add up to an incredible resume and a proven knowledge of how to win when it counts.

Joining her is Brianne Jenner, another member of Team Canada who announced her intent to play for Calgary. This forward led the East Coast Athletic Conference (NCAA) in scoring last year as a member of the Cornell Big Red, tallying 15 goals and 50 points in her senior season. She has a laser of a shot and good instincts, as highlighted here in a video for Cornell:

With these two and Rebecca Johnston at the helm, plus Campbell, Esposito, and role players like Sarah Davis and Jenna Cunningham, the Inferno look to have things on lock up front. But what about defense?

The top defensive prospect in the draft is Brigette Lacquette, a strong-skating blueliner from the University of Minnesota Duluth who excels at moving the puck up the ice. There's no telling for sure where Lacquette has declared (players who register for the draft have to choose up to three teams they would be prepared to play in), but if Calgary is on that list, she'd be right at home alongside fellow offensive-minded D Jessica Wong.

Sarah Edney of Harvard is also a good choice, as she can also put points on the board (she put up 22 in her senior campaign in 2014-15). As part of a Crimson team that relied heavily on defense and goaltending to get them all the way to the NCAA National Championship (where they ultimately lost to Minnesota), she likely has the skills and awareness needed to hold back an opposing offense.

Finally, goaltending is the biggest question mark for this Calgary team. Delayne Brian and Camille Trautman held down the fort admirably in the regular season and during much of the playoffs, but the Inferno certainly could use a netminder with a strong enough presence to buoy the rest of the roster.

Unfortunately, that seems to be the one position the draft list doesn't seem to offer very much choice on. There are only four registered, and only one (Amanda Cariddi of Syracuse) has any sort of relevant stats listed. Engi Lim is apparently listed as local to Calgary and judging by the Twitter account I found, she is at least affiliated with Hockey Canada in some way, so it's likely she has declared for the Inferno as well. But it's hard to really pinpoint who could be a good fit when there's barely any information out there. So this is a position that will sadly have to be left a question mark until the official roster is set in early October.

Selection begins at 1 p.m. MT (3 p.m. ET). To keep track of the draft throughout the day, check out the Live Tracker on the CWHL's website. For a full list of prospects, click here.

by Angelica Rodriguez