CEDAR RAPIDS — At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, he has the size. That he was asked earlier this season to play some forward shows you he has the skill.
Will Francis of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders is a National Hockey League Draft prospect, without question. He was listed this week as No. 98 among North American skaters on the Central Scouting Service’s midterm rankings.
The 18-year-old defenseman from the Twin Cities suburbs knows his standing amongst scouts. But he insists it does not affect him.
“Honestly, I don’t pay too much attention to it,” said Francis, whose RoughRiders beat Sioux Falls, 4-3, Friday night at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. “I read it, and that’s cool. But, at the same time, the season is so long. There’s a long time (before the draft).”
Francis goes into the weekend with two goals and four assists in 32 games. He has a solid plus-minus rating of plus-six.
The Minnesota-Duluth commit has had the usual learning curve all players coming from Minnesota high school hockey to the top junior league in the U.S. experience. But he’s doing all right.
“I think I bring a physical presence, being 6-foot-4,” Francis said. “I think I also bring some creativity and skill with it. That’s my game. I try to bring that every game I play. Just working hard every day and getting a little bit better every day, that’s what I focus on.”
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RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson has played Francis up front a bit, saying he has very good vision and passing skills. That’s even though Francis had little to no experience as a forward.
“I was down low on the power play in high school, but that’s it,” Francis said. “It has been a little different, but I’ve just been going out there and working hard. Knowing the system, it’s pretty easy to do your job.”
RoughRiders teammate Grant Silianoff was listed at No. 93 among North American skaters on the CSS midterm rankings.
Cedar Rapids is 17-13-2-2, its 38 standings points good enough for fourth place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. The top six teams in each conference qualify for the league’s playoffs.
Aidan McDonough scored the game-winning goal Friday with 8:26 left. Cedar Rapids allowed the game’s first two goals but came back with the next three: one from Nathan Smith and two from Liam Walsh.
Smith has points in his last 11 games. The RoughRiders play Saturday night at Waterloo.
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