New York filled a necessary need on offence by selecting Princeton and Canadian national team forward Sarah Fillier with the first pick in the Professional Women’s Hockey League draft on Monday night.

Regarded by PWHL scouts as a “generational player,” Fillier is a three-time Patty Kazmaier college player of the year finalist. She graduated with a degree in psychiatry and completed her four-year career at Princeton ranking sixth on the school list with 93 goals and fourth with 193 points in 120 games.

Montreal, who picked fifth, selected defender Cayla Barnes from California, who helped Ohio State win a national championship in March.

Several analysts had predicted General Manager Danièle Sauvageau would use her first pick to select Claire Thompson to bring her together with Canadian national teammate Erin Ambrose. But Thompson picked third overall by Minnesota.

“After spending so much time analyzing available players, we knew we were going to get a quality player in the first round, but we were pleasantly surprised to see that Cayla was available when it came time to make our selection,” Sauvageau said in a statement.

“She will be able to come and lend a hand to our team next season and help our defence.”

Earlier Monday, the Montreal team announced that it had signed a three-year agreement with Swedish forward Lina Ljungblom.

Ljungblom has played for MoDo Hockey of the Swedish Women’s Hockey League (SDHL) for the past four seasons, scoring 23 goals, in addition to amassing 23 assists in 32 games in 2023-24, good for third in scoring in the league. She was also named the league MVP.

Montreal selected the 22-year-old centre with the very last pick of the 2023 PWHL draft, 90th overall.

“She is a dynamic and explosive player, who will give us depth in attack. She was named MVP in Sweden last season and her coming to Montreal will be an asset for our team,” Sauvageau said.

‘Bit of a homecoming’ for Fillier

From outside of Toronto, Fillier won gold at the 2022 Beijing Games, where she finished second in the tournament with eight goals, and was also a member of three Canadian world championship teams.

Fillier, who turned 24 on Sunday, was projected to be the No. 1 pick and joins a New York franchise in flux, with Colgate’s Greg Fargo taking over as coach after the team went 9-12-3 to finish last in the standings. Fargo replaces Howie Draper, who reached a mutual agreement to stay on as a special adviser while returning to coach at the University of Alberta.

“It’s an amazing sports city and the fans have been amazing this whole season,” Fillier said. “I went to school just down the road, so it feels like a bit of a homecoming to me and so many friends and teammates in the New York area. So it’ll be really exciting to play in front of them.”

The six-team, seven-round draft is being held in St. Paul, Minnesota, with league co-founder and tennis icon Billie Jean King announcing and greeting the selections on stage.

“It’s hard to find words,” Fillier said of meeting King. “When you think of someone like that and being up on stage and getting to shake her hand and give her a hug was a surreal moment and something I’ll remember forever.”

Ottawa followed New York by selecting Colgate and Canadian national team forward Danielle Serdachny. The 23-year-old is reunited with Ottawa coach Carla MacLeod who is also from Alberta and coached the the Edmonton-born Serdachny as a youngster.

Defending champion Minnesota selected defender Claire Thompson with the third pick. Thompson is a Canadian national team player who took last season off to focus on her second year attending medical school at NYU.

The pick was made by coach Ken Klee, who is overseeing the draft after the PWHL stripped general manager Natalie Darwitz of her title on Saturday.

The first Americans to be selected were forward Hannah Bilka, who went fourth to Boston, followed by Barnes. Bilka, who is from Texas, and Barnes were teammates at Ohio State.

Toronto capped the first round with Canadian national team forward Julia Gosling being reunited with Team Canada GM Gina Kingsbury and coach Troy Ryan.

New York opened the second round by trading its pick to Boston, which used the No. 7 selection to choose the first European — Czech Republic defender Daniela Pejsova.

“It’s an honour to be even here and experience this in real life. Yeah, having a good time,” said the 21-year-old Pejsova, who has been playing professionally in Sweden. “It feels amazing. I can’t believe that it’s true.”

A PWHL Hockey Operations scouting report praised Fillier for her speed and play-making ability, while noting: “Her game sense makes her a threat to create scoring in a variety of ways, and will upgrade a team’s power play immediately.”

New York lacked an offensive presence beyond U.S. national team member Alex Carpenter, who finished tied for second in the league with 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists). Defender Ella Shelton was New York’s only other player to top 15 points in finishing with 21, including seven goals.

New York was also over-reliant on goaltender of the year finalist Corinne Schroeder, who finished 7-7 while facing 511 shots — the third-most in the league.

The franchise also had difficulty making a dent in the New York market, in part because of splitting its home games between three sites — Bridgeport, Connecticut; Long Island; and Newark, New Jersey.

“If you look at the talent New York has, I think they’ve built a really solid foundation,” Fillier said. “I’m excited to help build that solid foundation. And Greg Fargo’s been a tremendous coach. I’ve played against him for four years in the ECAC, and he’s always a tough coach to play against.”

Fillier is coming off a career-best 30-goal season in which she adapted her style to be more of a shooting threat to lead a young Tigers team in transition.