CEDAR RAPIDS — Bobby Hampton found out in early November that he’d been traded from the USHL’s Chicago Steel to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.
He was going from the first-place team in the Eastern Conference to a club that hadn’t won a game, yet. And he was thrilled about it.
“I kind of just wanted to be in a better spot,” the winger said. “Go to a team and just help them in as many ways as possible.”
This was about playing time, if you haven’t figured that out. Hampton wasn’t getting many minutes in Chicago but was going to a place where he would get them and in important situations.
That means on the power play and everything.
“Night and day,” he said. “It’s nice. I’m one of the older guys in the league, there are a lot of younger guys. So I don’t have a lot of time to mess around anymore.”
The 19-year-old from Middletown, N.J., scored a pair of goals in a game last week against Chicago. Some irony there, huh?
He’s settling in with his new team and in a league where he hasn’t had a ton of experience. He played one game with the Madison Capitols in 2014-15 and 12 last season with the Steel.
Most of his winter was spent with his U18 Tier I team back home, the North Jersey Avalanche.
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“We’ve known about Bobby for awhile and liked him as a player and have liked his ability,” said Riders Coach Mark Carlson. “He’s getting an opportunity here. But I think the big thing for him is we’re trying to teach him, and I think he’s learning it, that there’s a reason you don’t get an opportunity. That’s kind of been our approach. The ability is there, it’s just a matter of getting some seasoning and learning and growing and getting better every day.
“When he learns to play responsible every shift and hard every shift, he’s got a chance to be a really, really good player.”
Hampton has committed to Northeastern University, a choice he said he made because of the coaching staff there and his love of the city of Boston. He feels his affable nature is a plus in the RoughRiders locker room.
Cedar Rapids (1-16-2) plays road games Friday and Saturday night at Madison.
“We have a good group of guys here,” Hampton said. “As soon as we start believing in what we have and what we can do, that will go a long way for us, for sure. We finally got our first ‘W’ (this past Saturday against Waterloo), and that will open up eyes a little bit for us.”
In other RoughRiders news, second-year defenseman Riese Zmolek has been named the team’s captains. Assistant captains are second-year forward Zac Robbins and second-year defenseman Ben Foley.
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