PWHL Boston has a core of players that the franchise can strengthen with the draft and free agency after its inaugural season.

With five games remaining in the regular season, Boston was five points out of a playoff spot, and the group won four of its last five games to catapult to the No. 3 seed in the standings and secure its position in the postseason.

PWHL Boston came just short of capturing the league’s first title, but it was a successful season the club can build on. Head coach Courtney Kessel intends to lean on the group’s leaders — Hilary Knight, Megan Keller, Jamie Lee Rattray, and Aerin Frankel.

“Now that we’ve gone through a full season and know what the rigors are of the travel and the training every day and how physical our game is,” Kessel said during a video press conference on Tuesday. “I think we can prepare in a way that when we get to Game 5, next season, we don’t run out of gas. I think that’s a big thing.”

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Kessel continued: “From (Hilary, Megan and Aerin) specifically, just tremendous leadership. Culture was a huge focus of ours the entire season. Now that we’ve established that, it’s exciting to be able to go into a group where they know what the expectations are; they know the day in and the day out of what’s expected of them. I think continuing to grow and how they grow as hockey players and not get complacent and definitely continue to lead our group onto another championship run.”

Along with the leadership on the ice, Kessel and assistant coaches Pernilla Winberg and Stefanie McKeough will also look to grow as a group heading into the PWHL sophomore season.

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“We really enjoyed our experience in our first year together on the bench,” Kessel said. “A young staff that’s willing to grow and develop. We enjoyed every step of it, and we definitely got better from day one. I think that’s the expectation for everyone is … you come in in September, and by the time you hit Christmas, and then the end of the year comes … you need to get better, and you need to learn and listen and grow.”

McKeough joined PWHL Boston from Ottawa University and coached at the Under 18 Team Canada level with Kessel, while Winberg came to the franchise from Sweden.

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“I thought it was a really neat add for us just to bring in a little bit of that European side of the game,” Kessel said. “(Pernilla) played in her first Olympics when she was 16. So, so much experience from her as well. We’re moving forward together, and I thought we did a good job and looking forward to next year.”

Kessel will attend the 2024 PWHL Draft on June 10 in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with general manager Danielle Marmer, assistant GM Meghan Turner, and senior advisor Paul Nemetz-Carlson.

“So excited to have a kind of collective group in terms of everyone’s experience,” Marmer said during a video press conference on Tuesday. “(Courtney) knows so many players from the Hockey Canada side of things and players that she was recruiting when she was at BU and Princeton. I think the four of us together have quite the wealth of knowledge when it comes to this draft class.”

The draft will feature 167 eligible players from all levels of hockey, including the NCAA, national teams, and other professional leagues worldwide. PWHL Boston has the fourth selection in each of the seven rounds of the draft.

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Featured image via PWHL