Minor League Sports

2 Cedar Rapids RoughRiders selected in 2019 NHL Draft

Forward Aidan McDonough, defenseman Will Francis taken by Canucks, Ducks, respectively

RoughRiders defender Will Francis attempts to clear the puck from the goal area under pressure from Youngstown’s Matt DeMelis (left) in the first period at a RoughRiders hockey game with the Youngstown Phantoms at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
RoughRiders defender Will Francis attempts to clear the puck from the goal area under pressure from Youngstown’s Matt DeMelis (left) in the first period at a RoughRiders hockey game with the Youngstown Phantoms at Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The cliche is that you never know when it comes to any professional sports draft. They’re so unpredictable that anything can happen.

Yet it’s true. It’s really true.

Example No. 1 is Aidan McDonough. No National Hockey League team took him last year out of prep school, even though he was included on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s list of potentially drafted players.

This year, McDonough wasn’t on the CSB’s final list despite a fine season with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, and he ends up getting taken.

The 19-year-old winger was grabbed by the Vancouver Canucks in the seventh and final round of Saturday’s NHL Draft. The 195th player plucked, McDonough will begin his college career this coming school year at Northeastern University in Boston.

“You just never know, going through this process, like I did last year a little bit,” McDonough said. “All you can do is work hard, and you never know what’s going to happen from there. I’m obviously lucky and grateful that it worked out this way.”

McDonough scored 21 goals and added 21 assists for the RoughRiders in the regular season, missing a chunk of games with a concussion. He was equally good in the United States Hockey League playoffs, scoring four goals and accumulating seven points in six games.

He wasn’t worried either way about what happened Saturday. He was on vacation with friends at Martha’s Vineyard, near his family’s home in Boston.

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“My dad called me, and I thought ‘Oh, boy,’” McDonough said. “I asked him ‘What’s up, Dad?’ and he told me I’d just gotten drafted by Vancouver. I told him ‘You’re kidding me, right?’ My phone has kind of been going crazy here. But I’m with all my best friends since I was a little kid, so it’s pretty awesome.”

RoughRiders defenseman Will Francis also was drafted Saturday, by the Anaheim Ducks in the sixth round. The 6-foot-5 defenseman had two goals and eight assists in 59 regular-season games and is considered more of a defensive rearguard right now.

The 18-year-old is a Minnesota-Duluth commit but is expected to play one more season in Cedar Rapids.

“Obviously, it’s just an unbelievable feeling,” Francis said. “I have so many people to thank. So many coaches, friends, family, trainers. Everyone from the community I grew up in (in Colorado), as well as my billet parents and everyone that supports us in Cedar Rapids ... It’s just an unbelievable feeling. Words almost don’t explain it at first.”

Francis attended the draft in Vancouver, which allowed him to meet Ducks brass, wear a jersey and hat and get his photo taken.

“Coming into the USHL this season, this wasn’t even something that was on my radar,” Francis said. “At first, I went to Cedar Rapids without a scholarship. So to earn that first, then have it end like this in my first year, it’s absolutely crazy.”

Going back to the you-never-know theme, RoughRiders center Grant Silianoff went undrafted Saturday despite being listed as the 60th-best skater (non-goalie) in North America by the Central Scouting Bureau. Silianoff is expected to return to the RoughRiders this coming season before heading off to Notre Dame.

A second big season in the USHL should get him drafted by some NHL team next summer.

Nine players with USHL ties were taken in Friday night’s first round, led by foward Jack Hughes of the United States National Team Development Program, who went first overall to the New Jersey Devils. The only player not from “The Program” to go in the first round was Sioux Falls defenseman Ryan Johnson, 31st overall to Buffalo.

The USHL had 38 players taken overall in the seven-round draft.

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

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