Former Gophers defenseman Milica McMillen became the third member of the 2016 Minnesota senior class to further their hockey careers on the professional stage last week.
McMillen signed a one-year, $17,000 contract with the New York Riveters of the National Women’s Hockey League on June 16. The 2016-17 season marks the second year of competition for the league.
“It’s kind of a relief in knowing what I’m going to be doing next year, and to be a part of the league right now when it’s just starting is quite the opportunity,” McMillen said. “I think the Riveters is going to be a really good place for me.”
McMillen was a part of the NWHL’s inaugural draft last summer and was selected tenth overall by the Connecticut Whale.
McMillen reached a deal with New York instead and will be joined by at least one familiar face with the Riveters. Forward Amanda Kessel, who also graduated this year, signed with the Riveters in May. Kessel is the NWHL’s highest-paid player to date and signed a one-year, $26,000 contract to play in New York.
The two combined for 45 points this season when the Gophers earned a second consecutive national championship.
“It will be nice knowing at least one person when I go out there with Amanda Kessel,” McMillen said. “She’s such an amazing forward and it’s great having good forwards like her on the team.”
Minnesota’s top scorer in program history, Hannah Brandt, could also end up in New York. The forward was drafted second overall last year — also to the Connecticut Whale — but her rights were traded to the Riveters in April. Brandt has yet to sign a pro contract.
The Riveters are looking to rebuild their roster after a disappointing inaugural season. New York came in last place in the league with a 4-12 record.
McMillen scored 120 points in her collegiate career, ranking fourth all time for defensemen. She also helped the Gophers win three national championships in her four years spent with the team. McMillen’s 44 goals rank second among all Minnesota defensemen.
“She’s incredibly gifted with the puck; [she has] a tremendous shot. Really one of the most skilled players that we’ve ever had within our program,” said Minnesota head coach Brad Frost. “I think those are some winning skills and traits that will be able to carry her on at the next level.”
McMillen, Kessel and goalie Amanda Leveille all signed with NWHL teams after finishing their senior seasons. Minnesota has five alumni represented in the league with the new signees.
“It speaks volumes to our program that we have so many great players and players who want to continue their hockey after their college years,” Frost said. “I know they’re very grateful there’s a league where they can continue to play and get paid a little bit of money as well.”