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By the Numbers: Minnesota Leads the Nation in PWHL Players

By Steve Mann, 04/23/24, 8:00AM CDT


Minnesota’s already strong reputation for producing great girls’ and women’s hockey talent has grown by leaps and bounds during the inaugural season for the Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL).

While home to one of the PWHL’s six teams, the State of Hockey is also considered home for 20 of the league’s players (12% of all players), with skaters from Minnesota represented on five of the six PWHL rosters.

For players such as Minnesota forward Claire Butorac, being a part of this first season and playing in front of family and friends has been monumental.

“It took a while to really sink in,” said Butorac, a product of Andover hockey and a Minnesota State alumnus. “Having a PWHL team in Minnesota is instrumental to the growth of the women’s game, as having the highest level of hockey available for young girls to see in person or on TV gives these girls role models they can look up to and also interact with. Getting to have a role in this is something I’ll carry with me the rest of my career.”

Minnesotans Making Their Mark

The heavy Minnesota influence was evident from the very first pick of the PWHL Draft, held on Sept. 18, 2023, in Toronto. Lake City’s Taylor Heise, who played six seasons of varsity girls’ hockey for Red Wing before embarking on an award-winning career at the University of Minnesota, was the No. 1 overall selection by Minnesota (one of seven Minnesotans taken by the PWHL Minnesota club).

Heise, the 2022 Patty Kazmaier Award recipient, was one of 12 total Minnesotans drafted. Those dozen State of Hockey stars made up 13% of all players drafted and 41% of all Americans drafted.

Draft day proved to be just the beginning of the large Minnesota presence on 2024 PWHL rosters. As of April 22, 2024, there were 20 Minnesota natives in the league, including 12 on Minnesota’s roster, 4 with Boston, 2 with Ottawa, and one each with Montreal and New York. Minnesotans make up nearly 40% of all American players in the league (20 out of 54). Massachusetts, Michigan and New York ranked next with 11% each.

“I think it’s awesome to see so many different Minnesota communities represented,” said Butorac. “For the Minnesota-born players on our team, it’s extra special to get to experience this inaugural season in our home state and showcase how special the State of Hockey is. Even beyond our team, there are many Minnesota-born players across the league, which is a true testament to the amount of talent in Minnesota as a whole.”

Community-Based Model Produces Talent

The successful community-based development model emphasized in Minnesota has been on full display for PWHL fans since the new season kicked off on January 1, 2024. This “Minnesota Model” has proven to be key to player development and future success.

According to Butorac, experiencing this approach to development at a young age helped prepare her for her long-term hockey journey.

“I was lucky to have coaches in Andover that cared about my development and went above and beyond to make sure I was given the resources I needed to reach the next level,” she said. “I believe Minnesota players are so sought-after due to the level of play and skill the players are exposed to early on in their playing careers.”

If this inaugural PWHL season has proven anything, it’s that the influence Minnesota has on the women’s and girls’ hockey universe remains strong and will continue to grow. Case in point: in 2023-24, Minnesota led the U.S. with 13,452 registered girls’ hockey players from 19U and under, including 5,244 8U skaters (22% of all 8U skaters). The PWHL currently has players hailing from Andover (2), Blaine, Bloomington, Eagan (2), Elk River, Excelsior, Lake City, Lakeville, Lino Lakes, Minnetonka, Mound, North Oaks, Plymouth, Rogers, Roseville, Vadnais Heights, Warroad and Wayzata. 

“Many of our Minnesota players are involved in their hometown organizations, which creates a sense of community reaching from the youth all the way to the pros. This builds a strong foundation,” Butorac said. “I have had the opportunity to coach youth hockey, and I have seen the increase of young girls picking up the game. The impact for me hits home the most when I am back to coach in Andover. Hearing and seeing the impact this league has had just in my community alone is special, and I can only imagine the reaction is the same around the state as well.”