Matt Filipe, Ross Colton of Cedar Rapids RoughRiders are NHL draft picks

Hurricanes, Lightning select forward duo

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CEDAR RAPIDS — If the United States Hockey League wants to promote a kid whose story best fits what playing in the league is all about, it needs to look only at Ross Colton.

The forward spent two seasons with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders and developed from an average player to the franchise’s all-time single-season goal-scoring leader. He added National Hockey League draft pick to his resume Saturday.

Colton was a fourth-round selection of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 118th pick overall. He and 2015-16 Riders teammate Matt Filipe made it a good day for the club, as Filipe went to the Carolina Hurricanes in the third round, the 67th-overall pick.

“My dream growing up was to get drafted,” said Filipe, who was in attendance at the draft, which was held at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y., home of the Buffalo Sabres. “It was a great experience being here. I went to the first round (Friday) night and was able to watch and see what the atmosphere was like. It was a nerveracking time (Saturday) waiting for my name. You never really know with these types of things.”

Filipe, an 18-year-old forward from Boston, was a cinch to get drafted. He intrigued scouts with his size (6-foot-2 and 200 pounds) and abillity, being invited to take part in the NHL Scouting Combine last month.

He’s headed to Northeastern University after scoring 19 goals in his lone USHL season.

“I developed a lot this season as a player and person,” Filipe said. “The USHL is a great league.”

Colton, on the other hand, had no idea if a team would take a chance on him. This was his second year being draft eligible and he is an older player who will turn 20 in middle September.

The University of Vermont signee wasn’t even on NHL Central Scouting’s 2016 midterm rankings but began getting pro attention when he had a hat trick and five points in the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in January. He finished with 35 goals in 55 games for the RoughRiders, a real rags-to-riches story.

“I remember sitting in my living room a year ago and watching (former C.R. teammates) Erik Foley and Adam Gaudette get drafted and thinking ‘Yeah, I want that,’” Colton said. “A lot of hard work, a lot of hours went into it ... I heard a lot of people saying this and that. I thought maybe the sixth or seventh round, so to get taken in the fourth round is something really special. Tampa Bay saw something in me, and I’m honored.”

A record 45 players with USHL experience ended up being taken in the NHL draft, including first-overall selection Auston Matthews (USNTDP), who went to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Teams have until the conclusion of a player’s college or major junior career to sign their draft picks.

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2016 NHL Draft picks with USHL ties

Nhl by Jeff Johnson

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