Minor League Sports

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders take son of longtime coach with 1st pick in USHL Draft, Phase I

Cade Littler's dad, Bliss, coached for 10 years in league

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders head coach Mark Carlson talks to his team during the first period of their United States Hockey
Cedar Rapids RoughRiders head coach Mark Carlson talks to his team during the first period of their United States Hockey League game against the Fargo Force at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, April 12, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Yes, Mark Carlson is good friends with his father. But make zero mistake here.

Cade Littler is a hockey player. That’s the biggest thing and why the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders plucked him with their first pick Monday in the United States Hockey League Draft, Phase I.

“Cade is a big right-shot forward,” Carlson said. “I think he is 6-foot-1, 6-2 already. He can play center, can play wing, has very good hockey sense, can make plays. Really competes, really dedicated, comes from a great family. A coach’s son, has a great mom, just all-around (good kid) on and off the ice. Really happy about Cade. He is going to be a very good RoughRider.”

Littler was one of nine players with a 2004 birthdate taken by the RoughRiders. The picks included forward Dylan Hryckowian, younger brother of Riders forward Justin Hryckowian.

“I thought it went well,” Carlson said. “Thought our staff worked hard, put a lot of time in. We feel good about it. Now we need all these guys to really work hard in the weight room and in their training to make sure they become impactful RoughRiders.”

Now back to Littler, who is listed at 6-2 and 190 pounds. He played this past season for the Wenatchee Wilderness 16U team in the state of Washington.

Littler’s father, Bliss, is the general manager of the junior Wenatchee Wild of the British Columbia Hockey League. Bliss Littler is a longtime successful junior coach who spent 10 years coaching in the USHL for Topeka, Tri-City and Omaha.

That’s where he and Carlson met. Carlson has known Cade Littler for a long time.

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Cade Littler is a legit player, one of 49 kids invited to participate in the United States National Team Development Program’s Evaluation Camp. He didn’t make “The Program,” which is why he was available in Monday’s draft.

Another Evaluation Camp guy, forward Quinn Finley, was taken by the Madison Capitols with the first-overall pick Monday. Littler went next.

“He has been in the rinks, been in the locker rooms, around the game for a long, long time,” Carlson said. “He has really grown, his body has grown into a real young man recently. Very dedicated, really hungry. He’s one of those athletes that during these tough times the world is in, he has found a way to train at a high level, a high level six days a week.

“Yeah, he’ll have a chance (to make the team this year). But we’re going to be smart about it as well. If he’s ready, great. If not, he’ll come in that following year and be a top-six guy ... We believe he is going to be a great RoughRider.”

Cedar Rapids’ other picks Monday were Michigan defenseman Dominic Elliott (third round), upstate New York forward Andrew DellaDonna (fourth round), Michigan center John Emmons (fifth round), Minnesota defenseman Eric Pohlkamp (sixth round), Minnesota defenseman Carson Reed (seventh round), Boston-area forward Bobby Landry (eighth round) and Buffalo-area defenseman Alex Zakrzewski.

The main, Phase II draft is Tuesday.

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

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