Different paths…

The Fargo Force organization tied its franchise record when three players were selected in the 2012 National Hockey League Draft. Dominic Toninato, Brian Cooper, and Colton Hargrove were all drafted by NHL clubs, but their paths could not have been more different.

Toninato showcased his talents at Duluth East (MN-HS) last season, as he helped lead the team to a consolation finish at the state tournament after being ranked No. 1 for much of the season. The Greyhounds were upset by Lakeville South in the state quarterfinals, shattering their dreams of a state title. The loss was just their second of the season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs took a flyer on Toninato with the 126th overall pick in the draft. He did score one goal in Fargo while playing four games in the last three weekends of the regular season, but it was his play prior to Fargo that attracted the scouts.

In 31 total games, Toninato netted 33 goals and 40 assists for Duluth East last season. In a three-year high school career, the 6-foot forward amassed 69 goals and 84 assists in 91 games while leading Duluth East to back-to-back-to-back state tournament appearances. His play in the Upper Midwest Elite League was superior as well prior to the 2011-12 season.

Toninato showed off his blazing speed and other components in his four-game stint with Fargo that made Minnesota-Duluth score him as a commitment. The plan is for him to play with the Force this coming season.

One pick after Toninato was selected by Toronto, three-year Fargo defenseman Cooper was chosen 127th overall by the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim is the same team that drafted and developed superstar defenseman in the making Cam Fowler in the first round of the 2010 draft.

Cooper made a name for himself with big hits and above average offensive ability for a blue liner. The undersized defenseman grabbed 13 points in his first year with the Force, then his totals ballooned to 33 points during the 2010-11 season. The offensive numbers regressed during his final campaign in Fargo, where he scored 24 points.

The 4.0 GPA student was commonly involved in the rush during his first two years, but seemed to play a more defensive style of hockey last season. In doing so, he recorded a career best plus-16 rating and reduced his penalty minutes by 40 from the previous season.

Despite being only 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, the Anchorage, Alaska native was projected to go much higher in several mock drafts. The wait was longer than Cooper may have liked, but he finds himself with a good organization. Nebraska-Omaha will get Cooper’s services next season.

Colton Hargrove got off to a slow start in his second USHL season with the Force, but he rebounded well enough to entice the Boston Bruins to select him in the 7th round with the 205th overall selection. The Bruins website recently had a feature story on Hargrove that referred to him as “The Hammer.”

Hargrove is listed as playing one game with the North American Hockey League’s St. Louis Bandits in 2009-10. He resurfaced in Fargo for the following season and had a strong campaign, netting 13 goals and 14 assists in 56 games. Not only did he chip in offensively, but he threw some bone crushing hits along the way.

After struggling to get into the lineup early last season, Force head coach John Marks played the 6-foot-3, 215 pounder as a defenseman for a short stretch. Hargrove actually chipped in offensively while playing defense and proceeded to take a wing on the Austin Farley-Bryn Chyzyk line. As the season progressed, so did his overall play. The Western Michigan commit finished the season with 16 goals and 38 total points. When healthy, the Hargove-Farley-Chyzyk line was one of the most dangerous in the USHL.

At times Hargrove showed off slick hands and keen passing ability, but more often he took powerful shot after powerful shot. He is blessed with a great wrist shot and a heavy slapper that was often used from the blue line or high slot on the power play. As the season wore on, he shot the puck more and produced more points. That was something that Boston was happy to see.

Hargrove becomes the second straight Force player drafted in the 7th round of the NHL draft. In 2011, Garrett Haar was selected by the Capitals and then left Fargo to join Western Michigan. The two will play together for the Broncos next season.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.

Force snatch UMD commit with final USHL draft pick

Similar things can be said for just about any forward drafted in the first round. They are often times “pure scorers” who like to shoot. That’s how Fargo’s 22nd round draft pick in the United States Hockey League entry draft was described by his own coach.

You read that right – 22nd round. The Force chose Brett Boehm 323rd overall to conclude its picks in the draft.

Boehm is a 6-foot-1 (also listed at 5-foot-9 in some locations) forward who is committed to Minnesota-Duluth for the 2014-15 season, meaning he has two full seasons before he would join the Bulldogs. The Force has a good relationship with UMD, as former head coach Jason Herter is in Duluth as an assistant and the Force have sent Keegan Flaherty, Willie Corrin, and Austin Farley there with Alex Iafallo waiting in the wings.

Add Boehm to the list.

He recently wrapped up a season with Beardy’s Blackhawks, a Saskatchewan-based AAA Midget club. The numbers are beyond impressive – 40 goals, 46 assists and 86 total points in 2011-12. In his first season with the Blackhawks, he notched 17 goals and 34 total points. Whether or not playing close to home had anything to do with the production, the Martensville, Sask. native was able to play in his home province.

The scoring ability is certainly there and one would imagine there is room to grow, considering Boehm was just a 17-year-old when he was drafted by Fargo. He has also shown that he can be a playmaker with the 46 assists.

Being drafted by the Force leaves Boehm with an option to play American hockey not far from where he will play in college. He also appears to have an option to play at Flin Flon, as he is listed as scoring one point in three games with them.

According to Elite Prospects, Boehm will play for Flin Flon to start the 2012-13 season. He was not listed on the Fargo Force All-Star list from their tryout camp in the cities. Often times picks in the second phase of the USHL draft are for the future and that may be the case with Boehm.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.

Force add three defensemen to add depth to organization

The Fargo Force used its 19th, 20th, and 21st round draft picks to add defensemen in the 2012 United States Hockey League Entry Draft. The team was looking to add depth after losing some key defensemen during the offseason with NHL draft pick Brian Cooper leaving for Nebraska-Omaha, Willie Corrin leaving for Minnesota Duluth, and Taylor Richart making a late commitment to Miami (OH).

The Force used its 19th round selection to snag high school skater Perry Holcombe. The interesting note about the defenseman is that his hometown is listed as Cumming, Georgia. Not a lot of hockey players come from Georgia.

In the 20th round, Fargo took highly talented blue liner CJ Garcia from the Don Mills Flyers. Garcia was drafted in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League Draft by the Barrie Colts weeks before the USHL draft. Garcia’s future is still unclear and that’s why the Force took him late in the draft.

Garcia is a talented skater and the Force has had its eye on him. In fact, watching Garcia ultimately led to the club drafting Sal Filice in the Futures Draft. Filice was Garcia’s defensive partner with Don Mills. The Force coaching staff is hoping both players wind up in Fargo, but that remains to be seen.

The draft turned to Sweden when Fargo drafted Victor Bjorkung 308th overall in the 21st round. Not a lot was known about Bjorkung at the time of the draft, but more has come out since then.

He is a Maine commit, which means Canadian juniors is not an option for the young man. It is also now known that he will be part of the 2012-13 Fargo Force. Chief Scout Jesse Davis recently said that after talking with Bjorkung and his family, that the decision has been made that he will come to Fargo and take the next step in his hockey career with the Force.

With the addition of Bjorkung, Fargo will have Neal Goff, Taylor Fleming, Justin Wade, Dominic Racobaldo, and Bjorkung on the blue line to start the season. The future of defenseman David Mead is still up in the air after being drafted in the North American Hockey League draft. That means there are between one and three defensive slots up for grabs for the upcoming season.

There are several players that could be a fit, but that will be narrowed down for preseason camp in August.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.

Force adds instant offense with Friesen

The Fargo Force had success in the 2011 United States Hockey League draft when it drafted veteran forward Bryn Chyzyk from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. He was amongst the league leaders in points, had a great season in Fargo, and turned in a commitment to the University of North Dakota.

The club now hopes for the same with 2012 draft pick Hudson Friesen who went off the board 263rd overall in the 18th round.

Hudson made the move from defense to forward last year with the Selkirk Steelers, and to say it paid off would be an understatement. The 6-foot-1, 190 pound skater netted 36 goals and totaled 81 points, which was good enough for second in the entire league.

Friesen, who has built-in two-way instincts since he used to be a defenseman, excelled on special teams in a big way as a forward. He had six goals and 17 total points on the power play, along with three goals in shorthanded situations.

He’s always had offensive instincts. In 2010-11, Friesen scored six times and added 13 assists as a defenseman. The move to forward more frequently featured his offensive skill.

At 19 years old, Friesen has a lot of likeable qualities. He is a bit older, but he isn’t in the top USHL age bracket. He has junior hockey experience and he can excel in both ends of the rink. He has a high hockey IQ, which only improved by adding forward experience to the resume. He comes from the same league as players like Chyzyk, Reed Peters, and even head coach John Marks.

Oh, and he can put the puck in the net.

The playoffs were kind to Friesen last season, where he scored four goals in four games.

Fargo will lose all of its top line from this past season with leading scorer Austin Farley heading to Minnesota-Duluth, Chyzyk going to North Dakota, and NHL draft pick Colton Hargrove heading to Western Michigan. Some scoring punch does return in the heir apparent top line of David Gust (Ohio State), Gabe Guertler (Minnesota), and Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth).

Friesen could be an offensive jolt if he joins the Force before he ages out of the league.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.

Moorhead’s Herdt could be first F-M player to play with Force

The Fargo Force took a local talent with its second pick of Phase II of the United States Hockey League Entry Draft, when the team drafted Moorhead High School sophomore Aaron Herdt.

The Spud forward netted nine goals and added on eight assists for a 17-point regular season. Herdt certainly has some offensive talent, but his grit and determination may be his two top characteristics. He is willing to go into corners and he is a sound two-way player who will be able to get more seasoning under first-year head coach Pete Cullen at Moorhead.

Herdt was one of two sophomore who saw regular ice time for a Moorhead team that made a deep playoff run, culminating in a fourth place finish at the state tournament. In six playoff games, he totaled three points.

For a youngster, Herdt really flourished on the power play. In 30 total games, he scored five power play goals for a Moorhead team that certainly wasn’t on offensive power house. The team relied heavily on senior goaltender and Lincoln Stars draft pick Michael Bitzer to win hockey games.

Phase II of the USHL draft is designed to help team build for the future. That makes Herdt a very solid pick for the Force. They can watch him at nearby Moorhead High School and allow him to get some more seasoning and experience prior to his potential USHL career. If Herdt progressed like many expect, he could wind up being an important two-way forward for Fargo in a couple of seasons.

Herdt already has a good relationship with the Force. He has been out and skated with the team, building a relationship with the coaching staff and the organization. The opportunity has also given Herdt an idea of what the next level is like.

Maybe the most surprising thing is that Herdt has a chance to be the first ever Fargo-Moorhead talent to play for the local Force. That’s could potentially be a pretty big deal.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.

Force take Priskie with first pick of Phase II

The Fargo Force kicked off Phase II of the United States Hockey League Entry Draft when they selected Chase Priskie with the 233rd overall pick.

Priskie showed some of his promise at the recent Force tryout camp that was held in the Twin Cities. He played well enough to be named to the Young Guns All-Star game at the end of the weekend.

The 5-foot-10, 165 pound defenseman is already committed to Quinnipiac for the 2015-16 season. He is a good skater who has a bit of a physical element to his game. The 16-year-old still has some developing to do, but he has a high-end skill set.

Here is what Reel Hockey Scouting says about Priskie:

One of the more promising ’96 U.S. born two-way rear-guards. Carries himself with a quiet physicality and swagger.

Transitionally smooth skater with balance and mobility. Gets stuck in one gear when activating laterally and needs to develop varying speeds and thrust. Could use more punch with his defensive footwork.

Shows the ability to contain his man down-low at this level but will have to develop more strength to do so at the next one. Would like to see him become more intolerant near his net. Works a nifty, quick and strong defensive stick. Although he connected on a few pristine outlet passes, he is somewhat inconsistent in his own zone when under pressure with the puck – seems to hear footsteps when beneath his blue line and tries to force the play out more times than not. Supported his partner effectively.

Anticipates the game well and does a good job disrupting plays and jumping on loose pucks in the neutral zone – does a fantastic job reclaiming possession and resuscitating the play by simply sending the puck back into the offensive zone. Will join the rush much like a fourth forward. Confident with the puck when offensively charged and protects it well with his wide skating base, size and reach. Good vision from atop the blue line and can read just when to spring into open ice to become the option. Possesses a strong nose for the net and shows glimmers of having soft hands but does not run awry with them. Needs to power up his shot.

Already committed to Quinnipiac University for 2015. Owns an intriguing blend of burgeoning defensive prowess and offensive upside. Not unlikely that he will be playing USHL hockey within the next year.  Still has two years to get stronger and put it all together before becoming eligible for the NHL Draft in 2014.


The Force had a need at defense entering the draft and that need is even greater with Taylor Richart committing to Miami (OH) for the fall of 2012. Richart, Brian Cooper (Nebraska-Omaha), and Willie Corrin (Minnesota-Duluth), three of the teams top four defensemen from a year ago have all completed their USHL careers.

The team will return Justin Wade (Notre Dame) and Dominic Racobaldo next year to man the blue line. Neal Goff and Taylor Fleming are also set to return next year, but both players spent a fair amount of time at forward last season. The future of David Mead is murky after being drafted 17th in the NAHL draft.

Players are waiting in the wings in the form of Butrus Ghafari (Western Michigan), Charles Hemstrom, Charlie Pelnik, Dante Suffredini, and others. It seems unlikely that Priskie would make the 2012-13 addition of the Fargo Force, but there may be a direct need for him to join the club for the 2013-14 campaign.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.

Taylor Richart set to join Miami (OH) this fall

Fargo Force defenseman Taylor Richart, once thought to be returning for the 2012-13 season, will be a Miami (OH) Redhawk next season after committing to the school late this week.

Richart was an important piece to the Force blue line during his only season in the United States Hockey league. What was impressive was the increase in statistics between his one season in the North American Hockey League and his one season in Fargo.

He scored 12 points and was a minus-23 in his lone season with the Aberdeen Wings. He took off in the USHL, being named the league’s Defenseman of the Week during the first week of the season. He went on to net 16 points and finish with a plus-8 rating.

A heavy shot and a high hockey IQ helped Richart man the top power play unit with Minnesota-Duluth bound Willie Corrin for much of the season. The Force power play was its second best in team history at 18.89%.

The 5-foot-9, 160 pound Blaine (MN-HS) graduate featured a heavy shot at times on one-time chances on the power play.

Richart also saw heavy minutes on the penalty kill, which finished third in the league at 86.08%. That total is the best in the organization’s four years of play.

Force assistant coach and chief scout Jesse Davis said earlier in the summer that Richart had received walk-on offers from un-named schools, but was planning to come back to Fargo at the time. Things changed when Richart had some good conversations with Miami, and it culminated in him committing to the school for this coming fall.

The loss of Richart means that the Force will only return Justin Wade (Notre Dame), Dominic Racobaldo, Neal Goff, Taylor Fleming, and possibly David Mead on the blue line. Racobaldo came over midseason in a trade from Omaha, while Goff and Fleming both played key minutes at forward last season. Mead’s status is still uncertain, as he was drafted 17th overall in the recent NAHL draft.

Richart had looked like he would be a solid replacement for three-year player Brian Cooper, who will be at Nebraska-Omaha next season. The more he played last season, the more Cooper-like qualities he showed.

He plays hard, he likes to be involved in the offensive, and he can deliver the occasional big hit despite being undersized. Richart also has strong leadership qualities.

Richart becomes the second Force player to leave for the college ranks after being expected to return for next season. Jonny Brodzinski said recently that he will join St. Cloud State University for the 2012-13 season rather than returning to Fargo. Brodzinski and Richart were high school teammates at Blaine.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.

Colorado Thunderbird’s forward Eyssimont drafted by Force

The Fargo Force had six selections in Phase I of the United States Hockey League Entry Draft back in May. Normally, the first portion of the draft is designed for teams to build for the upcoming season and Phase II is a function to help teams fill their affiliate lists for future seasons.

In the case of the Force, the team is set to return a high number of players leaving them with fewer active roster positions to fill. Essentially, the franchise used its first four picks to help build for the immediate future and their Phase II started after that. After taking Teemu Kivihalme With their fifth pick, Fargo took forward Mikey Eyssimont with their sixth pick.

If nothing else, Eyssimont may be able to eventually take over the team lead in hockey “flow” hair once Nick Stoskopf departs.

Eyssimont as a hockey player is a skilled centerman who has battled some injuries in his young career. The Force coaching staff has been watching him for a while and they have seen significant progress in his game. Having centers with strong skill sets is vital in the ever-improving USHL.

The 16-year-old Littleton, Colorado skater played last season with a Colorado Thunderbirds (AAA) team that won a lot of hockey games. He also advanced to participate in the USA Hockey National Development Camp for 1996-born players.

This past weekend, Eyssimont was one of many players showcasing their talents for the Fargo coaching staff in the Twin Cities. The tryout camp consisted of three days, with Sunday afternoon featuring two all-star contests. The 1:00 p.m. game was the Young Guns All-Star Game, which took a look at the best youngsters from the camp.

Eyssimont was listed on one of the rosters for the Young Guns game, and he was also on the roster for the all-star game at 3:00 p.m. which was built to feature the camps best players. Guys like Minnesota commit and Fargo Force veteran Gabe Guertler, as well as the team’s first Futures Draft pick Mason Morelli were selected to play in both games.

It isn’t likely that Eyssimont will join the team for the 2012-13 season, but after a sound tryout camp showing, the club hopes he can build off of that for the upcoming season.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.

Kivihalme a selection for Force’s future

The United States Hockey League Entry Draft is a two pronged production. Teams both draft to prepare for the upcoming season, as well as selecting players to build a strong group of affiliates for future seasons. Fargo’s early picks like Tomas Sholl, Matthew Pohlkamp, and Charles Hemstrom certainly could be players that help the 2012-13 club.

Fargo’s fifth selection in the draft could be one that helps the team out in the future. The team took Savage, Minn. native Teemu Kivihalme in the sixth round, 83rd overall. Kivihalme just wrapped up his sophomore season as a defenseman for the Burnsville Blaze (MN-HS), where is dad Janne is the coach.

Brunsville has built a very solid program over the past 5-7 years, making it to the state tournament and falling just short on a handful of occasions. The 2011-12 season was one of the near misses. The Blaze had a very strong regular season, but fell short against Edina in the section finals.

Kivihalme has a lot of offensive talent for a young defenseman. He scored nine goals and finished with 31 total points in 28 games, good enough for fifth on the club. The Blaze outscored opponents by 53 goals on the season and Kivihalme was a big part of that. Overall, the team allowed just 3.16 goals per game while playing a very difficult schedule in the metro area.

League rules would allow Kivihalme to return to Burnsville for both his junior and senior season before joining the Fargo Force if that were the route the sides decided on. He would also have the option of playing in the USHL before and after the high school season. The final option would be forgoing his junior and/or senior season to join the Force.

Fargo Assistant Coach and Director of Player Personnel Jesse Davis said the team expects that Kivihalme will return to Burnsville and that this selection is for down the road. The coaching staff likes how he has progressed and are excited about the kind of player he might be by the time he joins the Force.

Kivihalme made the 19 mile drive from Savage to Mendota Heights this weekend to take part in the tryout camp that the Force held at St. Thomas. He played well enough to be one of the 13 defensemen named to the Young Guns All-Star game. Names like Chase Priske and Steven Quagliata also played in the game.

Should Kivihalme return to Burnsville for his junior campaign, he would be one of five defensemen listed on the Minnesota Hockey Hub roster that would be back for next season. With the schedule that Burnsville plays and opportunities like the Elite League out there, Kivihalme could take a step or two towards earning a college scholarship next season.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.

Force dips back into Detroit area with Dedenbach selection

There must be something in the water in the Detroit area. The Force use its third pick in the United States Hockey League Entry Draft on Romeo, Mich. defenseman Charles Hemstrom. They went back to the well with their next pick, selecting Warren, Mich. forward Jared Dedenbach.

Dedenbach played last season for the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies and Director of Player Personnel Jesse Davis says that he is one of the few Midget players that could make a smooth transition to the USHL. Before his time with the Jr. Grizzlies, Dedenbach played for the Chicago Fury and was teammates with current Force forward and Ohio State commit David Gust. Gust may actually be one of the reasons that the transition to the USHL could go smooth for Dedenbach if he makes the team this year.

The Force has some bona fide offensive threats returning for the 2012-13 season, which can help alleviate some of the pressure that a rookie can put on themselves. They may return the most dangerous offensive line in the USHL with Gust, Gabe Guertler (Minnesota), and Alex Iafallo (Minnesota-Duluth). That line was virtually interchangeable as the top line with Bryn Chyzyk (North Dakota)-Austin Farley (Minnesota-Duluth)-Colton Hargrove (Western Michigan). Statistically speaking, Gust’s line was much better in the postseason.

Connections run thick in the USHL and Dedenbach is yet another example of that. Davis has known Dedenbach for quite a while and they are now both part of the same organization in Fargo.

Dedenbach scored 10 points in 17 games with the Jr. Grizzlies last season. The year prior, he tallied five points in 37 games with the Fury. The talent is there, the size is there, and the situation may be just right.

Davis told Slightly Chilled that the coaching staff believes that Dedenbach can score some goals, but they want him to be physical and tough to play against. At 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, he isn’t the biggest kid, but neither is his former teammate Gust and opponents would likely tell you that he is tough to play against.

Dedenbach is one of many players that are fighting for just a few open positions on the Force roster. Prior to the North American Hockey League Entry Draft, it was believed that Fargo could return as many as 16 players for the 2012-13 season. With a tender in Butrus Ghafari, a handful of picks in the Futures Draft, and a bunch more in the Entry Draft, all the players will have to be on top of their game in order to make the club.

The team held its tryout camp in the Twin Cities over the weekend, where Dedenbach was named to the All-Star Game.

For more Fargo Force info, check out www.fargoforce.com. You can also follow the team on Twitter @fargoforce and like them on Facebook.

You can also follow me on Twitter. My handle is @fmhockey.