RoughRiders draft 22 more players, but lose top goaltender

Drew DeRidder leaves team for "The Program"

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CEDAR RAPIDS — They drafted five goaltenders Monday and Tuesday, which seems like a high number. But there was a reason the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders did that.

Coach/General Manager Mark Carlson confirmed that Drew DeRidder, who was expected to be a cornerstone for his club next season in net, has decided to leave and join the United States National Team Development Program instead.

The USNTDP is run by USA Hockey, the governing body for the sport in this country, and is based in Michigan, DeRidder’s home state. It fields two teams (Under-17 and Under-18) that play a combined United States Hockey League Schedule.

“The Program,” as it's called, generally attracts the top players for their age in the U.S. The U-18 team did not retain its goalies from last season’s U-17 team, bringing in two new guys instead.

One of those is DeRidder, a Michigan State recruit who impressed greatly as C.R.’s No. 1 guy this season. He won 10 games, had two shutouts and posted a respectable goals against average and save percentage for the USHL’s worst team.

“That’s life. Just move on,” Carlson said. “That’s what we do. We move forward. We drafted some good goaltenders today, drafted some good players today. We’re moving forward.”

The RoughRiders had two goalies among their 10 picks Monday in Phase I of the 2017 USHL Draft (players with a 2001 birthdate) and plucked three more netminders in Tuesday’s Phase II. The highest of those Tuesday draft picks was Colorado native Austin Park, who played this past season with Minot of the North American Hockey League, a league considered a notch below the USHL.

Though it was poached by “The Program,” Cedar Rapids did return the favor, of sorts, with its first-round pick Tuesday, forward Graham Slaggert. Also Phase II’s first-overall selection, Slaggert is a Notre Dame commit who graduated out of the USNTDP.

He is the son of Notre Dame associate coach Andy Slaggert.

“I think with Slaggs, you start with the kind of person he is. He is a driven individual, a team-first guy,” Carlson said. “He’s got two years of experience in the league, can play in all situations. He did a lot of penalty killing for his previous team. He knows what it takes to be successful, knows how to train, can play wing, can play center. He has tremendous speed, wins puck battles, have tremendous versatility. We think he’s going to come in and be a real key piece for us right away.”

Among its other 22 picks Tuesday was defenseman Will Zmolek, the younger brother of 2016-17 captain Riese Zmolek. Will Zmolek was selected in the fourth round and played this past season for Rochester (Minn.) Century High School.

The RoughRiders’ annual tryout camp — featuring this year’s draft picks, those on the club’s affiliate roster of younger players and those on this past season’s roster who are eligible to return — begins June 1 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.

“I think the mood is excitement,” Carlson said. “Now we get ready for camp. Probably like everybody this time of year, you like your picks. Now it comes down to how hard the guys are going to train and how hard they’re going to work here this summer. I think we’re certainly going to have a competitive camp in June.”

Here are all of Tuesday’s Phase II draft picks of the RoughRiders:

Round 1 — F Graham Slaggert (South Bend, Ind.) Team USA U-18 (University of Notre Dame)

Round 2 — D Chase Blackmun (Hudson, Wis.) Hudson High School

Round 3 — F Sam Rhodes (Powhatan, Va.) Skipjacks HC U16 (Providence College)

Round 4 — G Austin Park (Highlands Park, Colo.) Minot Minotauros (NAHL)

Round 4 — D Will Zmolek (Rochester, Minn.) Rochester Century High School

Round 6 — F Kevin Lombardi (Schwenksville, Pa.) Northwood School Junior

Round 7 — G Connor Murphy (Hudson Falls, N.Y.) Springfield Jr. Pics

Round 8 — D Justin Lee (Waskada, Manitoba) Notre Dame Hounds AAA

Round 9 — F Josh Bohlin (Verona, Wis.) Wausau West High School

Round 9 — D Andrew Lucas (Alexandria, Va.) Loomis Chaffee PS (University of Vermont)

Round 11 — F Spencer DenBeste (Marquette, Mich.) Soo Indians U18

Round 12 — F Matthew Hayami (Oakville, Ontario) Oakville Blades

Round 13 — D Luke Albert (Fergus, Ontario) New Hampton Prep School

Round 14 — D Jack Millar (Westminster, Colo.) Rocky Mountain RoughRiders U16

Round 15 — F Neil Shea (Marshfield, Mass.) Lawrence Academy (Northeastern University)

Round 16 — D Bradley Stonnell (Surrey, British Columbia) Drumheller Dragons

Round 17 — D Matt Slick (Buffalo, N.Y.) Proctor Academy

Round 18 — F Justin Paul (Thunder Bay, Ontario) Milton IceHawks

Round 19 — F Paul Fletcher (Frisco, Texas) Selects Hockey Academy U16 (Quinnipiac University)

Round 20 — G Josh Graziano (Williamsville, N.Y.) Nichols School

Round 21 — F Nathan Iannone (Penticton, British Columbia) Salmon Arm Silverbacks

Round 22 — F Jordan Taupert (Medicine Hat, Alberta) Drumheller Dragons

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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