Fargo Force chief scout Jesse Davis told the team’s website on Sunday defensemen Dominic Racobaldo and Taylor Richart will be back next year.
The Force had a story on their blog looking at the college options of players such as forward Dave Gust, Racobaldo and Richart. Gust, who will be back next season, told Slightly Chilled during the playoffs he’d hope to have a decision made by the summer.
Having Racobaldo and Richart return adds to what could be an experienced defense which could have a hard time allowing any new faces to break into the frame.
Racobaldo was part of an early season trade with Omaha and his addition gave the Force a physical edge which it showed against Lincoln in the second round of the USHL Playoffs.
Richart, who played at Blaine (MN-HS) with Force forward Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), gave the Force a consistent top-4 defenseman with offensive upside. His 16 points were third among the team’s defensemen.
The Force, barring any changes, will lose two defenseman in captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) and Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth).
It appears next year’s defense could feature Richart, Racobaldo, Justin Wade (Notre Dame), Neal Goff, David Mead and Taylor Fleming among its returning players practically giving the Force six defensemen to roll with.
Those six defensemen, assuming that’s what the Force have by the time training camp starts, would give the team one of the most experienced and potentially promising blue lines in the USHL next season.
Wade developed into the stay-at-home, shutdown defenseman many had expected this season and still can continue his development. Fleming and Goff, both first-year players, developed throughout the year with Goff being extremely vital in the playoffs in a forward-defenseman hybrid role. Racobaldo and Mead added a physicality the team was lacking earlier in the year while Richart could be a culmination of all those assets.
The Force will also be adding 16-year-old defenseman Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) to next year’s roster. Ghafari was the team’s first and only tender signing this season. Tender signings, per league rules, prompt teams to dress a player in a specified amount of games meaning Ghafari would feature frequently for the Force.
Ghafari, who is already 5-11 and 185 pounds, will feature in at least half of the team’s games next season.
Having Ghafari would give the team seven defensemen already and that’s not even including the much-talked about Charlie Pelnik (North Dakota).
Pelnik was the Force’ tenth overall in last season’s Futures Draft and was expected to play for the team this season until it was determined he needed more development before coming to the Force.
Pelnik, who is 6-4 and 185 pounds, spent this season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (MN-HS) where he played in 44 games and put up 11 points.
Ghafari and Pelnik are two of three defensemen the Force had on its affiliates list this year who could come in and play next season. The other, Dante Suffredini, played 26 games for Detroit Honeybaked this season.
Of course all that could change as the USHL Entry Draft is on May 22.
The Entry Draft allows teams will holes to fill for the upcoming season or the foreseeable future. It appears the Force should have quite a bit to work with at defense for next season but it’s possible the team could still draft more defensemen.