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NHL Notebook: University of Alberta’s Howie Draper amongst those named as one of the first PWHL head coaches and Colorado Avalanche exploring goaltending options for upcoming 2023-24 season

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Photo credit:University of Alberta Athletics/Connor Hood
Aleena Aksenchuk
7 months ago
The Professional Women’s Hockey League has unveiled the lineup of the inaugural head coaches for all six franchises as the dawn of their debut season approaches.
Amongst the visionary leaders who will guide the new women’s league is Edmonton’s very own Howie Draper. Although being named the New York teams’ head coach may be his first professional gig, Draper comes from his own legacy, as he coached the University of Alberta’s Women’s Ice Hockey team since their inaugural season in 1997. He brings forth an awe-inspiring 25 years of experience as well as a remarkable list of accomplishments, including 14 Canada West championships, eight U SPORTS titles, four U SPORTS coach of the year awards, and most recently, a gold medal with Women’s Team Canada at the 2022 U18 Championship. 
“What really made me decide to sign on the dotted line with Pascal (Daoust, New York’s general manager) is those values that he mentioned,” Draper revealed in a press conference on Friday.
“The family, the caring, the respect those are all very very important to me and I just get this sense that everyone body here, not just in this program we’re moving into, but everywhere in the league, there’s this feeling of unity and its a common goal and a common purpose to create something bigger than ourselves.”
The appointments include three formidable women: Courtney Kessel, who will ignite the spark in Boston, Kori Cheverie in Montreal, and Carla McLeod in Ottawa. All three women akin to Draper have University coaching experience: McLeod has served as the University of Calgary’s women’s hockey head coach since 2021, Cheverie spent four years as an assistant coach for Ryerson University men’s hockey team, and Kessel spent four seasons as an assistant coach for the Princeton University women’s hockey team.
In addition to their coaching prowess, their influence has been felt in every corner of the hockey world, including their dazzling playing careers. Kessel played for 13 seasons from 2005 to 2018 in the CWHL, NCAA, Provincial WHL, and three women’s world championship tournaments. Cheverie’s career spanned 11 seasons from 2005 to 2016, which included five seasons with Saint Mary’s University and six seasons in the CWHL. McLeod has an 11-year playing history from 1999 to 2010, playing in the NCAA, WWHL, four Canadian women’s world championships, and two Canadian women’s Olympic teams. 
“As a league, we are fortunate to embark on our inaugural season with a distinguished group of head coaches who have demonstrated leadership and a commitment to player development at all levels of women’s hockey,” said PWHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Jayna Hefford in a statement announcing the hirings.
In addition to Draper and the three female leads, they will be accompanied by Charlie Burggraf in Minnesota and Troy Ryan in Toronto.
Burggraf’s coaching odyssey spans an impressive 14 seasons at Bethel University. After four seasons with the women’s team, he seamlessly transitioned into an eight-year command of the men’s team. 
Ryan’s been coaching since the turn of the millennium, steering the ship for Dalhousie University women’s team from 2020-22 and masterfully leading the Canadian women’s world championship team from 2020 to 2023.

Avalanche exploring goaltending options ahead of 2023-24

With Colorado Avalanche’s backup goaltender Pavel Francouz still not fully recovered from an offseason adductor surgery, the Avalanche have turned to searching for a new No. 2. 
As reported by Daily Faceoff‘s Frank Seravalli, the Avalanche are searching for someone to play the role behind star netminder Alexander Georgiev, who demonstrated his ability to shoulder a significant workload in his debut 2022-23 season with the team. He boasted an impressive record through 62 games of 40-16-6 with five shutouts and a .919 save percentage but needs support in the absence of Francouz. 
One candidate who could be on the organization’s radar is Casey DeSmith, who currently earns $1.8 million for the season and is set to become a UFA this coming summer. Acquired by the Montreal Canadiens as a part of the Erik Karlsson deal earlier this summer, he has become part of a three-headed goaltending monster with the Canadiens. 
The Avalanche are in a tough place regarding their cap space, as the 2023-24 season is just under a month away. CapFriendly projects them to commence the season with a mere $525,000 in LTIR space. However, this may increase if Francouz, who currently carries a continuing contract through 2023-24 with a cap hit of $2 million, is placed on the shelf.
The past three years have been quite the rollercoaster for Francouz, the 33-year-old netminder. He missed the entirety of the 2020-21 season due to injury but returned to the crease, sharing duties with Darcy Kuemper in 2021-22. The tandem performance became instrumental in the Avalanche during their third Stanley Cup Championship. This past season, Francouz made only 16 appearances for Colorado, earning a record of 8-7-1 with a .915 save percentage.
Despite a first-round playoff exit by the Seattle Kraken in 2022-23, the Avalanche remain in a solid position to contend for the upcoming campaign. They clinched the Central Division title last season and are determined to bounce back in the forthcoming year. 

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