We’re six days away from the USHL Entry Draft and we decided to take a look back at what happened with the Force last year.
The Entry Draft is a funny thing and the Force are proof. Some teams like Omaha used the Entry Draft to practically build this year’s team which finished second in the Western Conference during the regular season.
As for the Force, of the 15 players they drafted last year eight – or more than half – are no longer affiliated with the team. That means either their rights were traded or released by the Force.
Here’s a look at the familiar, not-so-familiar and now infamous names the Force selected last year.
-At No. 9 the Force take Jordan Nelson: Nelson came in with some hype given he was North Dakota’s Mr. Hockey as a senior while playing at Williston. He came to the Force from Alexandria (NAHL) this season and finished with 18 points in 53 games. Nelson really came into his own around the midway point of the season performing solidly in a third-and at times, fourth-line role. An injury about two-thirds into the season, hindered him for the rest of the campaign. It was a setback for Nelson, who will return to the team next season where he could be one of the team’s most relied upon players.
-At No. 24 the Force take Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth): It can be debated Iafallo might have been the best selection the Force made. Iafallo was a highly-coveted player the Force snapped up early in the second round. It turned out to be a move which paid off as he teamed up with Gabe Guertler (Minnesota) and Dave Gust, another Entry Draft pick, to become what was this team’s best line during the postseason. Iafallo had 32 points making him the Force’s fourth-leading scorer in the regular season. The trio – known as The High School Musical – will all return next season as it looks to be not only the Force’s primary line but possibly, one of the most formidable in the entire USHL.
-At No. 35 the Force take Zach Urban: Urban was a defenseman former Force coach Jason Herter was really high on. So was Penticton (BCHL) and that’s where Urban ended up. He was part of the Penticton team which has destroyed virtually every Canadian Tier I record and his rights are no longer owned by the Force.
-At No. 53 the Force take Max McHugh: He was with the Force for about five minutes during camp and it didn’t pan out for either side.
-At No. 65 the Force take Brady Riesgraf (Bemidji State): Another defenseman with a lot of promise given his highlight reel moves from his time at Holy Family. He played three games with the Force and became the odd man out on the defense. Riesgraf was traded to the NAHL and his rights are no longer owned by the Force.
-At No. 80 the Force take Brendan Harms (Bemidji State): Harms came to prominence in the MJHL and continued to do so this year with the Portage Terriers. He overcame a shoulder injury to score 57 points in 42 games and then lit up opponents in the playoffs by scoring 20 points in 15 games. Harms will play in Fargo next season before going to college.
-At No. 84 the Force take Zach Pochiro: Pochiro was at camp but his time with the Force didn’t last long. In fact, his most notable contribution to the team came when he was a punching bag for Brian Cooper during pre-season camp. He, like quite a few others on this post, are no longer on affiliated with the Force.
-At No. 99 the Force take Dave Gust: Gust was the mid-season call up who really changed things for the Force. He was paired up with Iafallo and Guertler to become a line which gave glimpses of what next season could bring for the Force. Gust, who played in just 43 games, scored 30 points making him the team’s fifth-leading scorer. His play has resulted in him being on the radar of a few colleges. Gust said during the playoffs he hopes to have a college chosen by the end of the summer.
-At No. 189 the Force take Blake Clarke: Clarke was 15 at the time and choosing him raised a lot of eyebrows given THIS year’s Futures Draft would have been the time to take him. Clarke made the team out of camp playing in 13 games only scoring one goal and later went back to his native St. Louis. He was later given his release by the Force. Clarke said he learned a lot during his time in Fargo and it showed as he represented Team USA at the World Youth Olympic Games and a few weeks ago was a first-round selection in the OHL Priority Draft by the Brampton Battalion at 15th overall. He was the highest chosen American in the draft and by all accounts, could very well be a first-or-second round pick in his draft eligible year.
-At No. 204 the Force take Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth): Toninato played this season at Duluth East where he helped them become Minnesota high school hockey’s dominant power in the regular season. Toninato and Duluth East had their title dreams dashed with a first-round loss. He later came to the Force playing in four games and in the process, impressing Force coach John Marks. Toninato will be with the team next season.
-At No. 211 the Force take Anders Franke: Franke came into last off-season as one of the possibilities to back up Zane Gothberg (North Dakota/Boston). Gothberg’s back up was ultimately Reed Peters. Franke played this high school season at Elk River (MN-HS) and his rights are no longer owned by the Force.
-At No. 234 the Force take Trevor Hamilton (Miami (Ohio)): Hamilton was drafted as one of the players who is in the NTDP but because of where he is in school, will have one more year before going off to college. The Force took him and are now a season away from having him on the roster.
-At No. 264 the Force take James McNulty (Army): He was with the Force in camp, long enough to commit to Army but later went back to the SJHL where he played the season before. The last we heard, he and Major Rawls were still going back and forth about him being on the boat in Season 2.
-At No. 279 the Force take Zach Doerring: Doerring spent this season at Blake (MN-HS) where he ranked as one of the state’s best passers finishing in the Top 10 in assists among both classes. At 6-3, 195 pounds, his size also has made him an intriguing prospect as he’s received offers from a few schools in Hockey East where his brother, Blake, plays for Vermont. He will be with the Force next season.
-Don’t forget the trades that happened either and some of them had a big impact on the Force. The Force traded defenseman Brandon Carlson to Lincoln. Carlson helped the Stars reach the playoffs where they advanced to the Western Conference finals. They beat the Force en route to meeting Waterloo.
-The Force also traded forward Joe Rehkamp, who went from being at Waterloo to being at St. Cloud State in one season. Force assistant Byron Pool said earlier in the season, Rehkamp wanted top-line minutes and there was no guarantee he’d get it thus the trade.
-Finally, there’s the much-discussed trade where the Force received the rights of A.J. Reid (Army) from Omaha in a trade for Jimmy Murray (St. Cloud State). Reid, though a popular player with coaches and teammates, never panned out for the Force and went to the NAHL. As for Murray, every time played the Force, he put on a show single-handedly winning two games by himself. He also finished in the Top 3 in assists throughout the entire USHL.