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.
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