The Fargo Force identified a need prior to the 2011 United States Hockey League Entry Draft. The team was lacking a power play defenseman and they used the draft to fill that void. Fargo selected Brady Riesgraf form Holy Family High School in Minnesota with the 65th overall pick to help the man advantage.
Riesgraf had a notable senior campaign for a school that is up-and-coming, but has never been well known for hockey. He scored 16 times and tacked on 38 assists for an impressive 54 points in 24 games. Five of his 16 regular season goals came on the power play. Playing for a smaller school gave him an opportunity that he took advantage of.
“It was great playing at Holy Family. I got the chance to lead the team even as a young player and it helped me to mature a lot,” Riesgraf said. “Our team was somewhat unknown around Minnesota being a new private school, but my time there was great. The coaching staff helped me improve on many parts of my game to get me where I am now.
“And, being at a small school, I was able to handle and control the puck a lot more and this helped me learn how to control plays and be creative with the puck, which helped me out a ton in my hockey career.”
Assistant Coach and Director of Player Personnel Jesse Davis explained that the coaches sat down prior to the draft and looked for specific areas and weaknesses that they needed to take care of. With 10 players leaving for college, there were certainly a few things written on the board. A power play defenseman was one of them.
“What’s missing? A power play guy,” Davis said. “That’s where we had him. So, we expect him to come right in and do some things on the power play.”
Riesgraf is one of the specific players that the Fargo coaches had their eyes on from the get-go. With the options still on the board for their first four picks, the organization just had to wait and see if their guy would still be on the board.
“[He’s a] really, really high end Minnesota High School player,” Davis said. “We actually had him slotted a higher round pick for us than that.”
Fargo was only able to pick Riesgraf in the fifth round thanks to a couple of trades. The team originally traded away their fifth round pick to Lincoln as part of the trade that sent Brandon Carlson to the Stars. The Force picked up their fifth round pick from Waterloo in a trade that moved prospect Daniel McNamara to Waterloo. With that pick, Fargo took Riesgraf.
Another thing that Fargo was looking to add in the draft was experience. They took some players early with junior hockey experience and then Riesgraf, the high school senior.
“In a sense, he’s a little bit older. So, he’s going to bring some maturity too, even though he’s coming from high school,” Davis said. “The only thing he’s going to have to work on pretty hard is putting some weight on, and it’s no hidden secret.”
Riesgraf, who was captain of the Holy Family Fire last season, has a lot of positive skill. He says his vision, quickness, and puck handling skills are his top skills as a player. Being an excellent skater can be added to that list as well. Those four skills, along with several others in his arsenal, make him the power play threat the team was looking for.
“The power play is one of my favorite parts of hockey because I get to make decisions on how the how the rest of the power play moves,” Riesgraf said. “It puts the responsibility on my shoulders to create scoring chances for the team and I love it.”
“I work well on the power play because I see the ice very well and I work very well as a setup man up on the point. It is one of the places I have always thrived.”
As for adding weight, he knows it is a priority and is addressing it immediately.
“I will be in the weight room a lot this summer putting on the weight I need to bring my game to the next level,” Riesgraf said. “This off-season I just have to make sure I am eating right and getting into the weight room as much as possible and I know if I do those two things the muscle will come.”
By: Tim How