116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — For reasons not entirely clear, the United States Hockey League decided the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders would pick 15th and last in the league’s Phase I and Phase II drafts conducted this week.
That seemed unusually harsh considering the Riders are building a team essentially from scratch.
It was no fault of their own that a once-in-a-generation storm blew apart their home city last August and their own rink, forcing them to take a one-season sabbatical. Players went to other teams in the league in a dispersal draft.
The RoughRiders did retain rights to those guys who can return to the USHL but there aren’t many of them. Five is the exact number.
“We take on the challenge, baby,” RoughRiders Coach/General Manager/President Mark Carlson said succinctly Thursday after completion of the draft’s Phase II.
Cedar Rapids added 16 players to the fold, to go along with 10 drafted in Wednesday’s Phase I. Throw in kids from last year’s affiliate roster of younger players and the possible returning five, and there’s your starting point for the 2021-22 team.
The RoughRiders’ annual tryout camp is June 10-13. Most importantly, it’s at the re-opened ImOn Ice Arena.
The club officially is up and running again, though Carlson said it never stopped. He was asked how it felt to be “back.”
“Really, we’ve been at it all year,” he said. “I understand why people ask that, but as you know, we’ve been really engaged in the community, been involved, kept people in touch with what we’re doing. Our staff has just been working all year. We’ve been extremely busy. I haven’t really been away from it. I went to a lot of USHL games in the beginning of the year, the fall. Just really been at it all year, which is good. Now we’re at this part of the process, which we’re used to. We move forward.”
Not having a team to coach meant Carlson was able to get out and about to scout talent. He lauded the work of all of the club’s scouts coast to coast and in Canada, specifically mentioning assistant coach Dustin Timm and director of player personnel Dan Riedel.
Cedar Rapids went heavily with players from Minnesota and Massachusetts in its drafts. It also took goaltenders from Latvia and Hungary.
Phase II’s first-round pick was defenseman Jon Bell, a Minnesotan who played this past season in the North American Hockey League. The NAHL is considered a tick below the USHL in junior hockey.
Minnesota high school product Kade Nielsen, a forward, was C.R.’s second-round selection. Its third-rounder was forward Conor Lovett, who played for NCAA Division I Merrimack College this past winter.
“Everyone just worked really hard,” Carlson said. “I thought we had a real good staff. Happy with how it went, but you never know until you get going.”
By the way, the five returning guys are defenseman T.J. Schweighardt (who played with Omaha this past season) and forwards Nate Hanley (Green Bay/Youngstown), Kyle Bettens (Omaha), Adam Flammang (Sioux Falls) and Doug Grimes (Sioux City).
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