This past week, the National Women’s Hockey League’s Connecticut Whale announced the signing of 2020 second overall draft pick Kayla Friesen. Although waiting nearly two months to officially announce the deal following this past year’s NWHL draft, the two sides have put the finishing touches on a deal that will see the 22-year-old Winnipeg product dressed in Connecticut’s blue, white and green for the foreseeable future.
Despite the annual draft having been held on Tuesday, April 28, Friesen clearly recalls her level of shock and surprise at hearing her named called in the first round.
“I truthfully didn’t expect to go that high, so that was super exciting for sure,” Friesen told Game On. “As soon as the pick in the draft got released, my phone was blowing up from teammates, coaches, friends and family, which is always a good feeling having that support. It’s a very exciting opportunity for myself, and I’m excited to take it and make the best of it for sure.”
Friesen has had nothing short of an eventful past year, to say the absolute least. Beginning with a transfer from St. Cloud State University – where she served as team captain for the Huskies – to Clarkson University for the fall of 2019, the 5-foot-5 forward quickly settled into an offensive role with the Golden Knights last season.
In the fewest games played of any of her four years within the NCAA, Friesen produced at the highest level during 2019-20, prior to the league-wide COVID-19 shutdown. After three seasons in St. Cloud of seven, four and five goals, respectively, she notched 10 goals and 30 points in 28 contests for Clarkson, operating at over a point-per-game rate. This success came after a strong career with her hometown St. Mary’s Academy Prep, where Friesen put up 26 goals and 78 points in 45 games during her Grade 12 season, leading the team. Her hope is to continue producing offence with the Whale.
“Connecticut is a program that is definitely on the right track,” she said. “Who they’ve signed this year shows that for sure, from Tori to Melissa to Abbie, and the others. I think we are going to be a very underestimated team this year that is going to make waves within the league… I also want to give a big thanks to Clarkson University, which gave me everything I needed mentally and physically in order to have the opportunities to continue a career after college.”
With the Friesen signing, Connecticut currently has 15 players under contract for the 2019-20 NWHL season. At the moment, she will be suiting up alongside fellow forwards Kaycie Anderson, Amanda Conway, Nicole Guagliardo, Melissa Smoskevich and Katelynn Russ and Emma Vlasic, defencemen Hanna Beattie, Shannon Doyle, Tori Howran, Maggie LaGue, Taylor Marchin and Elena Orlando, and goaltenders Abbie Ives and Brooke Wolejko with the Whale this year.
“I’m just hoping everything goes as planned and Covid doesn’t set us back at all,” Friesen said. “But I’ve been spending the summer working out five days a week in the mornings before work, and then I’ll start skating three times a week these next two months. I’m hoping to come in and make a positive impact in any way possible. I know Connecticut has high expectations for me, so I’ll be doing everything I can to meet those and go beyond.”