Be Alright…

Despite having the chance to stay in his native Russia, forward Pavel Zykov will return to the Fargo Force next season.

Force director of player personnel Jesse Davis said Zykov, who was taken in the second round of the KHL Amateur Draft earlier this month by Metallurg Magnitogorsk, the program which cultivated NHL star Evgeni Malkin.

“All we’ve heard is that he is still coming back,” Davis said of Zykov. “We haven’t heard anything different.”

The 6-1, 175-pound Zykov was a free agent signee by the Force about midway through the season after being spotted by Davis at a tournament in Chicago. He played 20 games with the Force scoring two points while adjusting to living in the United States for the first time.

Davis said it became apparent Zykov,17, was going to return to the Force given that he left all of his personal belongings in Fargo.

“I think he misses the food here too,” Davis joked. “He liked the American-style food like the fast food and he might be back even quicker and you see him at Hardee’s.”

Getting Zykov’s commitment for a return means the Force will have seven forwards from last season’s playoff team which suffered a consecutive second round exit from the Western Conference playoffs.

Davis said fellow Russian forward Stanislav Dzahkov would return while forward Nick Stoskopf would not be returning. Davis said Stoskopf has accepted a scholarship to play at Division III Wisconsin-Superior for next season.

Stoskopf, who was a high school free agent signee under former coach Jason Herter, played 65 games with the Force scoring 14 points and was a minus-19 including a team low minus-17 this season.

Davis added defenseman David Mead appears as if he is on his way out of the door as he’s trying out with other teams in the league along with being a first-round pick of the Wenatchee Wild in the NAHL.

“If I was a betting man, that’s a spot he’d end up,” Davis said about Mead going to the NAHL. “Bliss Littler is the head coach there and he has a good relationship with him because of their time in Omaha together. Looking up and down their roster, they need a guy like him.”

If Mead leaves, it gives the Force four returning defenseman for next season plus a number of options as the team could draw from its affiliates list, draft picks and potential free agents.

Work Hard Play Hard…

It’s becoming clear the Force’s roster plans are getting murky.

The last week has seen the Force’s roster, which was set to return up to 16 players, undergo potential changes which could give the team a bit of a different and younger look for next season.

It appears the Force could lose up to five players from the 2011-12 team heading into next year.

Forward Pavel Zykov was drafted in the second round of the KHL Amateur Draft less than a week ago by Metallurg, the program which produced Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin. Zykov was also one of four Force players drafted in last week’s NAHL Draft.

Defenseman David Mead along with forwards Nick Stoskopf and Stanislav Dzakhov were also taken in the NAHL Draft.

The Force already lost forward Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State) to college after he’d been teetering back and forth between school and staying another year with the team.

“We’re in a situation where we can only have four (1992-born) players on our roster for next season,” said Force director of player personnel Jesse Davis. “We have some guys who are on the fence for next year.”

Davis said its a situation which is up in the air right now and final plans will not be determined until later.

Whether or not those players will return becomes even more of a question considering none of them were at the Force’s tryout camp, which was held in the Minneapolis area over the weekend.

Davis said last week in a text message Zykov was back in Russia making it unlikely he would fly back for the team’s camp regardless.

As for Dzakhov, Mead and Stoskopf, not being at camp isn’t exactly damning. Last season, defenseman Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), was not at the team’s camp as he was back home in Alaska.

Twelve players expected to return for next season’s team were present at the camp.

The only notable absentee from Sunday’s all-star game was forward Nate Arentz, who was a senior this year at Fargo South which held its graduation ceremonies on Sunday.

If the departures were to occur, it means there are five potential openings the Force have and plenty of options to choose from.

Affiliates list forwards Brendan Harms (Bemidji State), Zach Doerring and Dominic Toninato (Minnesota-Duluth) are just a few of the forwards the team could rely upon to fill the gap next year. Davis also said following the USHL Draft, incoming forwards Matt Pohlkamp (Bowling Green) and Futures picks Mason Morelli and Michael Booth are expected to make the team next season.

That’s not including if the Force find favor in a forward who they didn’t draft similar to the way they did with Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota), who came out of nowhere to become one of the team’s best players.

Defensively, the Force would return five defensemen and will already have Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan) coming into the fold. Similar to their forwards, the Force have a number of options off the affiliates list such as Charlie Pelnik (North Dakota), Dante Suffredini or any one of the players they took in the Entry Draft.

Davis said he was pleased with how the camp went as they saw some promising performances from their Futures Draft players.

It also appeared to be a good camp for defenseman Taylor Richart, who spoke with Miami (Ohio), Davis said. Davis acknowledged the rumors of Richart accepting a scholarship with the school, but said that isn’t true.

Richart, who played at Blaine (MN-HS) with Brodzinski, only played one season with the Force after coming over from Aberdeen (NAHL). He put up 16 points for the Force and was one of two players to play in all 60 games during the regular season.

Miami recently lost NTDP defenseman Patrick Sieloff, who opted to play next season with the Windsor Spitfires in the Ontario Hockey League.

“He hasn’t accepted anything from them,” Davis said. “I think what it was, was people saw him talking with Miami in the lobby.”

The Other Shoe…

Like every Fargo Force ad attempting to retain season ticket holders, goaltender Zane Gothberg (North Dakota) poses as if he’s at a romantic dinner and is breaking the news to fans he’s leaving.

He reminds them of the good times they’ve had. But he assures them things will be OK by introducing his buddy and the team’s back-up goaltender, Reed Peters. Peters, the lanky Manitoban, comes into the shot and says, “Hey gorgeous!” to end the commercial.

“I’ve had people come up to me and say “Hey gorgeous!” a few times,” Peters said after Wednesday’s practice. “The first time someone said it, I looked at them kind of freaked out and then I realized what they were doing.”

Though it was a commercial, it sounds like that’s what Gothberg and Peters do when they hang out together. Or so they say.

Peters, who is in his first year with the team, has played second fiddle to Gothberg who has practically set every franchise record under the sun this season. It is one of the first times Peters has been in the position where he’s not consistently in net.

If anyone could relate it’d be Gothberg. Gothberg, a Boston Bruins draft pick, was last season’s back-up to Ryan Massa, now at Nebraska-Omaha, before becoming the team’s No. 1 option this season.

That’s why Gothberg has made it a priority to befriend Peters to let him know his time will come. It has also let to the two becoming close friends.

“I have confidence in Reed and that he’ll do well here,” Gothberg said. “Whether its next year or in a playoff game this year.”

Gothberg, to no surprise, won the starting job out of camp resulting in Peters making a few starts here and there. To Peters’ credit, he’s been on the bench during stretches where the team won nine straight games among other portions of the year.

Peters went 5-7 this season with a 3.20 goals against average. These are numbers he plans to improve upon heading into the off-season.

But what may be his most undervalued contribution is what he’s meant to Gothberg this season.

“He’s someone that I can bounce ideas off of,” Gothberg said of Peters. “We’re there for each other. We say things to each other before games to get each other going.”

They’ll also say things to help each other out when it comes to the ladies.

Maverick and Goose, they are certainly not. But they do not mind being wingmen for each other. It doesn’t work like the commercial where Gothberg sits down at a nice candlelight dinner and Peters casually coasts into the picture.

It sounds a lot simpler than that.

“He helps me out,” Gothberg said. “Because having a friend who isn’t so nice looking makes me look a little bit better.’

All Peters can do when he hears this statement is laugh.

Peters said their friendship has grown because both of them refuse to let ego get in the way of it. Peters understands the relationship could be icy and both guys could just not talk to each other.

But what’s the point? Peters and Gothberg, both two of the more genuine players on this team, just see it as a chance to learn from each other but at the same time, get close and create a friendship they expect to last for a long time.

“Reed, Brodz (Jonny Brodzinski) and I plus (Nick) Stoskopf all went golfing together today,” Gothberg said. “A little slapping the bass.”

‘Slapping The Bass’ is a reference to the Paul Rudd film ‘I Love You Man’ where Rudd is befriended by a character played by Jason Segal of ‘How I Met Your Mother Fame.’

In the movie, Segal’s character in a series of moves does what he can to boosts his friends confidence going as far as buying a billboard to help Rudd’s career skyrocket around Los Angeles.

Gothberg doesn’t have any plans to put Peters on a billboard, but he has no problem introducing fans to Peters.

“I feel like I’ve really learned a lot this season,” Peters said. “I am looking forward to next season but I want to have a long playoff run like everyone else this season.”


El Burrito de BelĂ©n…

When Force forward Bryn Chyzyk said he was going to accept food, he wasn’t joking.

Chyzyk (North Dakota) drafted teammate Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) on Tuesday for the team’s upcoming skills competition on Sunday. The draft was held after practice and the teams where chosen by Chyzyk and Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth).

Chyzyk chose Hargrove with his second pick and then shipped him to Farley’s team in exchange for Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) and a Qdoba burrito. Yep. You read that right. Hargrove was traded for a burrito.

“You know, me and Farley have some creative minds,” Chyzyk said about the trade. “We tossed it around in our heads and I decided to pull the trigger.”

Don’t worry. Chyzyk will not have to worry about trading a side order of nachos at a later date or anything like that.

He and Farley, who are close friends, actually know what one another order from Qdoba so Chyzyk knows what to expect.

Chyzyk, who was tongue-in-cheek during most of the interview, did joke about explaining to Hargrove why he did trade him.

“We shook his hand and told him we hope for the best,” Chyzyk said. “We told him there were no hard feelings. Now let’s see if he gives me the puck on Friday.”

Trading Hargrove, who is from Texas, for a burrito was only part of the story of the draft. Force spokeswoman Whitney Baumgartner said Corrin showed up to the draft wearing sweat paints but had a suit jacket on treating it as if this was an actual draft.

Baumgartner and Chyzyk both said Corrin showed up stating how he was going to be the No. 1 pick, or at least a first-rounder. Corrin was taken second by Farley before being traded for Hargrove and the burrito.

“Oh, he thought he was going first and that’s because he’s the oldest guy on the team,” Chyzyk said. “He’s starting to lose his hair and he needs a wheelchair. The old guy did look good today.”

He then joked about how he didn’t know if Corrin was worth a burrito but he’ll find out on Sunday.

The first overall pick of the draft belonged to Farley and he selected first-year forward Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth), who has scored 22 points this season and is fourth on the team in points while defenseman Taylor Richart was the draft’s second overall pick.

Chyzyk said he was pleased with how the draft went and said Nate Arentz, who he drafted, could be the skills challenge sleeper to watch.

“He’s an underrated guy on the team,” said Chyzyk, who actually took Arentz with his third pick. “I feel like he’s going to wipe up in the fastest skater competition just from looking at the things he’s done in practice.”

Though there is one thing to note about the draft.

Defensemen Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) and Justin Wade (Notre Dame) were the last two players taken in the draft.

Isn’t it kind of weird that the two guys who could get taken in this summer’s NHL Draft were chosen last?

“It is a little bit of a coincidence I would say,” Chyzyk said. “They are a couple of defensive-minded guys in an offensive game but I am glad we got Cooper in the last round. I think he could win the hardest shot competition.”

Below are a list of the teams:

Team Chyzyk: Chyzyk, Richart, Arentz, Reed Peters, Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), Taylor Fleming, Nick Stoskopf, David Mead, Pavel Zykov, Cooper.

Team Farley: Farley, Hargrove, Gabe Guertler (Minnesota), Zane Gothberg (North Dakota), Dave Gust, Neal Goff, Jordan Nelson, Dominic Racobaldo, Stanislav Dzakhov, Wade.

Push It…

Think Gabe Guertler is the fastest skater on the Fargo Force or do you believe Brian Cooper has the hardest shot?

We’re about to find out.

The Force announced this morning they will be hosting a skills competition on Sunday, March 4 at 4 p.m. The event is free to the public and will pit Force players against each other to see who is the fastest skater, most accurate shooter, most skilled player among other tests.

Players will be split into two teams, a blue team and a white team, and the team is asking fans to choose captains for both squads via Twitter, Facebook and the Force’s official website. Once captains are selected there will be a mock draft to choose players for each side.

It is the first time the Force in their four-year history will be hosting a skills competition.

Here’s a list of the categories and the players who’ll be participating:

Fastest Skater: Nate Arentz, Alex Iafallo, Taylor Fleming, Neal Goff & Gabe Guertler (Minnesota)

Accuracy: Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), Jordan Nelson, Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota), Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) & Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth)

Skills Course: Dave Gust, Stanislav Dzakhov, Pavel Zykov, Taylor Richart & Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth)

Goalie Competition (select shooters to be named later): Zane Gothberg (North Dakota) & Reed Peters

Hardest Shot: Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), Dominic Racobaldo, David Mead, Nick Stoskopf & Justin Wade (Notre Dame)

Breakaway Challenge: Farley, Guertler, Hargrove, Cooper & Chyzyk

This Bright Flash…

Anytime guys on the Fargo Force get a chance to compete against one another, they’re always up for the challenge.

It just so happened, this time the bragging rights went to who did the most for charity. The Force raised more than $25,000 on Saturday night for the Purple-N-Pucks campaign, which raised money for Embrace. Embrace is a program designed to help cancer survivors and its color is purple, the universal color for cancer.

Part of the fundraiser included a post-game jersey auction. The team auctioned off the purple jerseys they wore following a 4-3 loss to the Tri-City Storm.

“I think the players are always excited for it every year,” said Force spokeswoman Whitney Baumgartner. “They are excited to see the jerseys and have a competition.”

Competition led to 12 jerseys being sold for at least $1,000 starting with team captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha).

Baumgartner, who has worked with the Force for four seasons, said Cooper’s jersey sold for $1,000.

It set the tone for what was certainly an interesting auction highlighted by players “stripping” to drive up the price. Forward Gabe Guertler (Minnesota) was one of them.

“I took my jersey off and twisted it over my head,” Guertler said. “Then I took my t-shirt off. I figured that’d drive up the price.”

Though the team did not release details about how much every jersey went for, Guertler believed his jersey did go for a decent amount. Baumgartner addeed Cooper, who dyed his hair purple before the game, told the crowd he didn’t dye his hair for nothing in the hopes of driving up the price.

She also added how the dance stylings of Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth) also made its way to the auction stage yet he didn’t showcase his remarkable ability to do the moonwalk. Type in “Willie Corrin” on YouTube and you’ll get the idea.

Yet the unquestioned winner of the jersey auction was first-year Russian forward Stanislav Dzhakov. His jersey went from $1,900 to an even $2,000, according to players.

The price didn’t surprise anyone. After all, former Force goaltender Ryan Massa, now at Nebraska-Omaha, had his jersey go for $2,000 last year at an auction.

But if people would have gone around and taken pre-auction bets on who’s jersey could have brought in the most dough, Dzahkov’s name wouldn’t have been up there, according to a few teammates.

In fairness, Dzahkov is becoming a bit of a popular guy in Fargo these days. Since filling in for injured forward and leading scorer Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth), he’s practically scored in every game including a game-winner with three seconds left in a 3-2 win at Sioux Falls a few weeks ago.

“It was funny because you got Guertler going up there and stripping,” said Force forward Nick Stoskopf. “But then you have Stan, standing up there all awkward and Russian and his jersey goes for the most.”

Purple Haze…

Fargo Force coach John Marks knew his team was prepared Saturday. Who they prepared for, well, that’s the issue at hand.

Marks said following the 4-3 loss to Tri-City on Saturday quite a few of his players focused more on items such as having purple sticks, purple eye-black and purple hair instead of the game. The Force were taking part in Purple-N-Pucks, a fundraiser used to raise money for cancer awareness with purple being the universal color for cancer.

“You have to learn to prepare and I think tonight guys spent more time preparing for purple than they did the game,” Marks said. “Purple under the eye. Purple hair. Purple sticks and they spent more time on that then they did for the game. If we have this next year, there will be no purple regarding that part. Purple jerseys are enough. Just goes to show the immaturity that you are easily distracted enough to not handle the job at hand.”

Marks’ point goes back to some of the things players did in anticipation of the game.

Forward Nick Stoskopf painted the shaft of his sticks purple and defenseman Dominic Racobaldo tweeted how he had loaned a stick from Stoskopf prior to the game.

Team captain Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) after taking his ACT earlier in the day went to a local salon and died his hair purple in addition to having it cut in a way where he had a mohawk up front, a mullet in the back and the sides shaved with three lines near his temple on both sides of his head.

“That’s one of those things when you win its OK and when you lose its a big deal,” Cooper said after the game. “No one went to far with it. Stov did his sticks. I did my hair and (Alex) Iafallo brought the purple eye stuff and it was a distraction before the game but we do have to focus at the end of the game.”

The Force went down 2-0 before launching a comeback late in the second period when they tied the game at 2-2 to end the frame. The Storm rallied to score two goals – one early in the third – before staving off a last-minute attempt by the Force.

Forward and assistant captain Bryn Chyzyk said guys getting into the purple theme might have been a reason for why the team was distracted earlier in the game and why the team got off to a slow start.

But in terms of how the game ended, Chyzyk said, it was all on the Force as to why they didn’t win.

“Guys were excited about it and it is a fun night for the organization,” Chyzyk said. “But what I feel is it attributed to the slow start but we were in a 2-2 hockey game and it was done with. We were in a 2-2 game and we blew it.”

Purple Rain…

Embracing everything which comes with Purple-N-Pucks is the approach the Fargo Force are taking with tonight’s game.

Perhaps its fitting the Force are taking the mindset given they are using tonight as fundraiser for Embrace, a Sanford-based program for cancer survivors. Every year the Force partners up with a local business to raise money for cancer victims.

The Force partnered up this season with Jill Henning, a local State Farm Insurance agent, to raise money for Embrace. So instead of going with pink, the universal color for breast cancer, this year the theme is purple, which is the universal color for cancer.

“Embrace’s colors are purple and that’s what we decided to go with,” said Force spokesman Whitney Baumgartner. “No one else in the USHL has (done a purple-themed cancer night) and it was a cool direction to go in.”

Baumgartner said the Force are going all out for the game. Last night, fans were able to see a purple ribbon on each end of the ice.

The Force will also be wearing purple jerseys for the game. Baumgartner, who was in charge of getting the jerseys, said tonight’s jerseys are a culmination of other designs.

In the middle of the jersey will be a purple ribbon in a circle design similar to what the Pittsburgh Penguins wore for last season’s NHL Winter Classic, she said.

“It does have a lace-up front,” she said. “The lettering on the back is white and it is the same font as the blue jerseys. All the captains will have their letters on the front of the jersey.”

Baumgartner said even team mascot, Kid Bobble, will have a jersey.

The jerseys will be auctioned off after tonight’s game to raise money for Embrace and this is where it could get pretty interesting. Jersey auctions in Fargo can bring out some big bucks and last year was proof.

Goaltender Ryan Massa (now at Nebraska-Omaha) had his jersey bring in $2,000 which was the most of any jersey last season.

“You don’t know which jersey will get the most,” said team captain Brian Cooper. “I could see (Zane Gothberg) going high because he’s the starting goalie and he’s popular. I could see (Bryn Chyzyk) jersey going for a lot. Same thing with (Colton) Hargrove. Mine will be tough because I go first but we’ll see.”

Cooper said the auction will go in numerical order with his No. 2 being the first overall selection.

If you think this doesn’t mean a lot to the players, guess again. Cooper, who’s known to open his mouth, joked defenseman Neal Goff could have the highest selling jersey.

And yes, Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha) had a sarcastic reason as to why.

“I could see Goff’s going high,” Cooper said as Goff was walking by him. “It’ll be nice and fresh since he won’t be using it that much.”

But there’s more to it than jerseys. Forward Nick Stoskopf got the shaft of his stick painted purple and there’s a possibility a few guys could break out something at the last minute.

Baumgartner said the team was looking at dying their hair purple but once they were told they’d have to bleach their hair first, most of the team was against it.

Cooper, who is a natural blonde, will be dying his hair. He will dye the middle portion of his hair and the back of his mullet purple. He added defenseman David Mead will be dying his goatee purple for the game.

So Cooper, do you plan on looking like a purple skunk?

“Yeah,” Cooper said. “A bad ass purple skunk.”

Back To Front…

Fargo Force chief scout Jesse Davis said this week the team has no plans to make any moves tomorrow at the USHL Trade Deadline.

So far the Western Conference has been extremely active. Waterloo, which is in a tie for third with the Force, made one of the bigger moves so far trading goaltender Jay Williams (Miami (Ohio) to Sioux Falls for goaltender Stephon Williams (Minnesota State-Mankato).

Stephon Williams, despite being 6-9-2 when he was traded, was one of the best goaltenders in the league last year winning 20 games en route to having one of the sparkling playoff performances leading the Stampede to the Western Conference playoffs before losing to eventual Clark Cup champion, the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

“We just talked about it and we are not really looking for one certain particular thing,” Davis said. “Some teams around this time are fighting to make the playoffs and they are looking for a goalie or defenseman. We don’t see a need and we are happy with what we got.”

Davis said a reason why the team is happy with its pieces is the recent nine-game winning streak the Force went on to not only salvage their season but transform them into a legitimate playoff contender.

He also talked about how the Force, in a way, made the necessary moves earlier in the season

Citing toughness, the Force traded forward Tanner Lane (Nebraska-Omaha) to the Omaha Lancers for defensemen Dominic Racobaldo and David Mead. Racobaldo has practically played in every game for the Force since the trade. He’s played in 27 games and has four points – all assists.

Mead has played in 20 games with the Force providing a physical face to the team as he’s among the league leaders in fights in addition to adding an enforcer something John Marks said earlier in the season the team needed.

The Force have also brought in other players since the season has started.

Forward Dave Gust came up through the affiliates list and has gone on to forge what is the team’s second-best line with Alex Iafallo and Gabe Guertler (Minnesota). Gust has put up 16 points (7 goals, 9 assists) in 23 games.

Another player the Force added was Russian Pavel Zykov, who came over from the renowned CSKA Moschow system. The 6-1, 175-pound Russian, who Davis described as a high-end player, has zero points in six games with the team.

“Some of the trades we made earlier in the year made us think about what moves we would need to make later,” Davis said. “With the guys we brought in and how things are panning out, they are panning out great. There is no pressure to make a move. We have not talked to other teams. There is talk about other players but nothing to make a move on.”

Davis said there could be a slight possibility the Force could add a high school free agent tomorrow.

The Force added three high school free agents on Deadline Day last season when they acquired Jonny Brodzinski (St. Cloud State), Nick Stoskopf and Keaton Thompson (North Dakota). Brodzinski and Stoskopf, who are both still with the Force, came to the team after their high school seasons in Minnesota were completed.

Thompson came to the Force after his high school team, Devils Lake, was knocked out of the North Dakota High School Playoffs. Thompson played 15 games with the Force but opted in the spring to accept an invitation to play for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.

“We don’t have the room on our (affiliates) list,” Davis said. “If it came up, maybe. Right now, nothing is solid.”

Keep It Rollin…

With Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota) committing Monday and Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan) committing Thursday, it’s now time to play the game which fascinates Force’s fans for five minutes before they realize there’s better things to do.

Who will be the next Force player to commit to a college?

We did this last year after Brian Cooper, who like Chyzyk was highly-recruited, committed to Nebraska-Omaha. We had a list of five names and reasons they could commit soon or sooner than the rest of their teammates still looking for a school.

Here it is, the list:

1. Taylor Richart, defenseman: Richart said about a month ago he was talking to Air Force and a few other schools and hoped to have a decision before the season was over. Richart’s really started to come on this season playing a role either on the first or second defensive pairing for the Force. Nothing has been said yet but it wouldn’t be a surprise if this is his only year in Fargo. He’s certainly been playing like he could jump to the next level next year. Don’t be surprised if he does.

2. Alex Iafallo, forward: Assistant Byron Pool said last week there have been some guys getting looks and interests from some colleges and Iafallo is up there on the list. Iafallo has come to the USHL and has been one of the team’s better forwards this year. Another source, which wasn’t Pool, let me know Iafallo has been offered by Minnesota-Duluth earlier this week. The feeling with him and the following two guys on this list is they’ll be back next year. So a decision might not be looming immediately, but don’t be too shocked if he commits soon.

3. Nate Arentz, forward: More and more scouts are talking to Arentz after games. There have been more this year than last year. He’s showing glimpses of what he can do by leading the rush or at times, getting out on a breakaway. There have been times where he’s lost the puck at the last second but if he continues his progression, he’ll eventually start scoring and generating more interest. At 6-1, 185 pounds he has the physical tools needed for colleges to be more than interested.

4. Dave Gust, forward: Gust will be in Fargo for one more season so he has time but the way he’s playing lends itself towards thinking it could happen soon. He’s on the line with Iafallo and Gabe Guertler (Minnesota), which has become the Force’s No. 2 line. Assuming Iafallo and Guertler will be back next season, they have the potential to take over as the Force’s top line and maybe become on of the better lines in the USHL. Gust is also drawing comparisons to Farley with the way they each play down to the way they each look on the ice. So far, he’s way ahead of what Farley did as a rookie and well, look where Farley is now.

5. Neal Goff, defenseman: This is a tough one because you can make the case for Goff or Nick Stoskopf. Goff gets the edge because he’s been getting quite a bit of playing time lately and has looked solid. It’s almost like what we saw with Justin Wade (Notre Dame) last season when the Force started playing him in the second half and then you saw he was consistently in the lineup. Goff might be the best athlete on the team as he’s the only won to win a state title in high school in a sport (track and field) aside from hockey. He’s what Southerners would call an “Ath-a-lete”