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Boston Breakers 2017 NWSL draft preview

It’s time for Matt Beard to build the team his way.

The 2017 NWSL college draft is almost upon us, with 148 players declaring for the draft. The Boston Breakers have already been busy in the offseason, beginning to retool their 2016 roster almost immediately. November was a big month of player moves, with trades galore that barely put a dent in the stockpile of 2017 draft picks that the team has amassed. With the draft scheduled to take place on January 12 at the NSCAA convention, it’s time to take a look at what we think the Breakers will do.

What Boston already has

What doesn’t Boston have, at least in terms of draft picks. Here’s the current draft order. You can see Boston not only has the #1 pick in the draft, they also have three first-round picks. After that they have picks #11, 12, 16, 21, and 31 for eight picks total.

Here are the 16 players currently on the roster after Boston exercised contract options, then went through waivers and trades:

Goalkeepers: Abby Smith, Libby Stout

Defenders: Allysha Chapman, Brooke Elby, Julie King, Megan Oyster, Kylie Strom, Christen Westphal

Midfielders: Amanda DaCosta, Angela Salem, Stephanie Verdoia, Rosie White

Forwards: Natasha Dowie, Emilie Haavi, Brittany Ratcliffe, Kyah Simon

The team website lists Whitney Engen on the roster, but Engen is still not assured to return, as per head coach Matt Beard this past November.

What Boston needs

Assuming no more players get released and all of these players enter preseason, and also assuming Whitney Engen returns, the defense looks fairly stocked up. What Boston might look for first is someone to fill that Mewis/Schillgard-shaped hole in the midfield.

Savannah Levin from USC can play outside mid on either side, but let’s not forget that Rose Lavelle from Wisconsin is also on the table and likely to go very high in the draft, so she might get priority here. There’s also the question of Morgan Andrews, who is not only local to New England, but is fresh off an NCAA championship with USC. She could be an attacking mid for Boston, or an out-and-out forward.

The draft list might be deepest in terms of forwards, but with Dowie and Simon returning and Haavi on board, we’ll see if Beard wants to use a high pick on that position. Ashley Hatch is available and will probably go fairly high, but Boston also likes to look to local talent, and Boston College’s Hayley Dowd and McKenzie Meehan have also declared for the draft. Meehan is an attractive local prospect who leaves BC as its all-time leading scorer with 58 goals. Internationally, Canadians Summer Clarke (LSU) and Nichelle Prince (OSU) are on the draft list and are part of a pipeline of young CanWNT talent being nurtured to take over that program in the next four years. Tennessee’s Hannah Wilkinson also has an established profile as an international striker for New Zealand, for whom she already has 78 caps.

Beard may also consider picking up one more center back to really shore things up, or in case Engen decides to call time on her career. Maddie Bauer from Stanford looks like the top option here.

Goalkeeper probably falls lower on the priority list here, assuming Abby Smith is ready to go by April after sustaining a knee injury in May. But a third may not go amiss, and Stanford’s Jane Campbell is available. The problem with taking Campbell is that she’s not anyone’s third keeper by a long shot, which would mean either Smith or Stout would have to make way for her. There are some other options if Boston wants to use a later pick on a GK, such as Kailen Sheridan (Clemson) or Sammy Jo Prudhomme (USC).

What Boston will actually get

Boston has eight picks but theoretically only four (maybe three) slots to fill. Some of those picks are probably going to go to trades on draft day. It could be worth it to Boston to take the #1 pick and then deal some combination of the rest based on their needs and who on their list has fallen to what round; if the player they want is going second round, then why not leverage that #3 pick for a trade or international slot or some kind of future consideration. They’ll probably also be much more circumspect about their picks; let’s not forget about the year they were widely assumed to be drafting Stephanie McCaffrey, only for the Chicago Red Stars to draft her first and essentially hold her hostage for Boston’s #9 and #11 picks.

Overall it looks like Beard has filled out the core of his starting XI through trades and will be filling in the gaps here and there with draft picks. Boston historically hasn’t had a great record with their draft picks going the distance, so here’s to a better 2017 Breakers rookie class.