The Fargo Force had a very obvious need entering the 2012 United States Hockey League Entry Draft. The team needed to fill the hole left between the pipes with Co-USHL Goaltender of the Year Zane Gothberg departing for the University of North Dakota.
The Force used its first pick in the draft (20th overall) to select 17-year-old netminder Tomas Sholl from the Fresno Monsters of the North American Hockey League. Sholl put up impressive numbers as a youngster in the Junior A Tier II league last season, going 20-14-6 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.38 save percentage.
The numbers are appealing, and so is the fact that he is a young kid with a year of junior hockey experience under his belt.
“Tomas was the highest end goaltender that we felt was available in the draft with junior experience”, said Assistant Coach/Director of Scouting Jesse Davis in a press release. “Being that we didn’t have a pick until the middle of the second round, we made a trade to move up three spots in order to get him. Other teams in the league were looking for goaltenders and we wanted to make sure we could get him. We are very excited to get him. With losing Zane Gothberg to school, we knew it was a big hole that we had to fill and we wanted to secure it with a player we were really confident in. We did that with Tomas Sholl.”
Fargo has created something of a goaltending chain in its four seasons of existence. Mike Lee, who won the USHL Goaltender of the Year award in the team’s inaugural, went on to play at St. Cloud State University before signing with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Ryan Massa was sent over to Fargo in a trade with Bismark of the same NAHL that produced Sholl. Massa went on to be a mainstay between the pipes for more than a season and a half in Fargo. He now plays at Nebraska-Omaha.
Then, Gothberg took over the reigns and set a handful of franchise records en route to winning the most recent USHL Goaltender of the Year award, sharing it with Ryan McKay of Clark Cup champion Green Bay.
The Force has also had goaltenders Dayn Belfour and Cody Campbell spend some time in net and each of them now play collegiate hockey.
Sholl hopes to be the next in line. The 6-foot, 155 pound Hermosa Beach, California native is expected to battle with returning goalie Reed Peters for the starting job in 2012-13. In fact, Sholl is pretty highly thought of and his commitment to Division I Bowling Green is just one proving point.
The first steps towards proving himself to his new coaches and potentially winning the starting job for next season is the tryout camp that the Force will be hosting this weekend in the Twin Cities. The Force coaching staff will get a chance to see him against USHL talent, rather than simply going off of what they have seen in the NAHL and on paper.
Fargo is set to return as many as 16 players next season, and that would likely include defensemen such as Taylor Richart, Justin Wade, and Neal Goff, among others. Having a decent crop of returning defensemen and a second-year goaltender in Peters could allow Sholl to grow into his role much like Gothberg did.
Gothberg was a Frank Brimsek Award winner as the top senior goalie in Minnesota with Thief River Falls High School. He split time with Ryan Massa during his first USHL season and really grew into a big-time threat and a high-end prospect during his second season for both North Dakota and the Boston Bruins, who selected Gothberg in the NHL draft.
It isn’t fair to compare Sholl to Gothberg, but it also isn’t fair to slight Sholl, who is a talented goalie in his own right. He played in two-thirds of Fresno’s regular season games last year and made over 1,000 saves in a league that has produced former Force players like Massa, Dan Weissenhofer, Kero, and more.
The Force has also had success pulling players from California. Matt Leitner, from Losa Alamitos, California, scored 39 goals and tallied 123 regular season points in two years and is the all-time points leader for the organization. Garrett Haar, a Huntington Beach, California native, grabbed 23 points and was drafted by the Washington Capitals in his one season with Fargo.
Fargo has also had some success with their first picks in recent entry drafts. Jordan Nelson was taken ninth overall in last year’s draft and totalled 18 points for the Force last season. Kero was taken 13th overall in 2010 and scored 37 points in his lone USHL season.
The last time they picked a goalie with their first pick was in 2009, and that was Gothberg at the seven spot. If the Force can get anything close to Gothberg-type numbers out of Sholl, moving up to take him at 20th overall will be an absolute bargain.
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