A lot is new for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders entering the 2009-10 season. A new group owns the team, significant upgrades have been made to the arena, and 18 new faces are on the 23-man roster. Amongst those new faces are Montreal Canadiens third-round pick Mac Bennett (who was very impressive from his first shift of USHL action), Michael Parks (who will almost certainly carry on Cedar Rapids' traditional of NHL draft picks in 2010), Nolan Zajac (the youngest brother of NHLer Travis Zajac), and the 2011-eligible Sam Warning and Cason Hohman.
However, some things do remain the same. Ottawa Senators draft pick Jeff Costello returns to the team for second and final season in the United States Hockey League (and he looks set to give opposing defensemen far more fits than he already did last season) and the team looks set for success once again. The RoughRiders lost the Battle of Iowa, a four-team tournament they hosted Sept. 19 and 20 after coming across red-hot goaltender Matt Skoff of the Sioux City Musketeers, but the won the 2009 USHL Fall Classic with a 3-0-0 record, including beating the Sioux City the first night of the three-day event.
McKeen's correspondent Kevin Wey was able to see the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in action at both the Battle of Iowa and the Fall Classic and enters notes on several prospects. In part 1, Mac Bennett, Jeff Costello, Michael Parks, Stu Wilson, Peter Sakaris and Justin Kovacs are featured.
Mac Bennett (Mtl), D, Cedar Rapids
Rookie USHLer already looks like a challenger for Defenseman of the Year honors at the end of the season .. elite level puck poise .. does not panic with the puck when pressured, even if he doesn't have full control of it .. adept at corralling difficult pucks and draws pucks off the boards very well .. very confident skating the puck and has a smooth, powerful stride that gives him above-average speed .. able to build considerable speed through crossovers, but also has strong straight-line acceleration .. makes powerful turns with the puck and can evade checkers with tight circles .. smooth walking the blueline and can get off a smooth, hard, fading slapshot .. possesses a crisp, hard wristshot from the point, thanks to the significant stick bend he creates .. skating abilities give him a quick release, as he can promptly position himself to get a quality shot off quickly .. is also adept at passing the puck, as he makes crisp, accurate breakout passes and doesn't unnecessarily rush the breakout .. also an adept point-to-point passer .. skating prowess also translates to his defensive game, as he has professional-caliber stopping abilities backwards to stick with shifty opponents .. lateral mobility enables him to get to assignments deep in the defensive zone quickly .. only listed at 6-foot-0, 175 pounds, but can level opponents, or at the least bodies them off the puck .. appears capable of surpassing Matt Donovan, who should have been the 2008-09 USHL Defenseman of the Year .. committed to the University of Michigan .. played prep hockey for Hotchkiss in 2008-09 and scored 2 goals and 9 assists in 15 games .. went without a point in two games at the Battle of Iowa .. tallied 1 assist in 3 games at the 2009 USHL Fall Classic.
Jeff Costello (Ott), LW, Cedar Rapids
Probably going to be the most difficult opponent USHL defensemen are going to face in 2009-10 .. able to build impressive speed down the wing and is more than willing to use it to crash the net with reckless abandon, including with the puck .. high level of competitiveness and will fight through as many checks as it takes to get to the net or navigate in the offensive zone .. a threat to clear the opponent's crease of their defensemen, or at least send them into their goalie .. stick skills look enhanced over last season .. displayed some patience with the puck and some lateral stickhandling moves that made opponents look silly and that led to goals .. possesses a hard wristshot and can get it off in stride .. still physical away from the puck, laying down big hits on the forecheck and on the backcheck as well .. able to make open-ice hits .. still uncertain how well he'll create plays utilizing his teammates, but he'll score even more goals in 2009-10 thanks to his ramped-up physicality with the puck and superior puck skills .. very stout at 5-foot-11, 200 pounds .. NHL future as a potential third-liner looking more promising, and you want a guy like this on your team .. committed to Notre Dame .. played for Cedar Rapids in 2008-09 and scored 24 goals and 9 assists in 54 games .. scored 1 goal in 2 games at the Battle of Iowa .. tallied 1 goal and 1 assists in 2 games at the 2009 USHL Fall Classic.
Michael Parks (2010), RW, Cedar Rapids
Cedar Rapids' next NHL draft pick .. strong two-way hockey player .. a fairly smooth skater with a wide, long stride .. able to use his speed to beat opponents wide and drive the net .. uses his agility to protect the puck along the half boards and create plays .. makes crisp, accurate passes .. led Cedar Rapids in overall preseason scoring, but is special because of his well-rounded game .. creates turnovers on the forecheck .. if he doesn't get the turnover he creates, he's quick to the front of the net to set screens or go for rebounds .. plays with some physicality and will comes across the zone to make a big hit if the opportunity presents itself .. willing to drop and block shots .. not real big at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, but not too small, and doesn't play small .. certainly looks capable of receiving prime icetime as a rookie .. committed to the University of North Dakota .. played midget major for the St. Louis Selects in 2008-09 .. played for Team USA's Under-18 Select Team at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August .. went without a point in his lone game at the Battle of Iowa .. scored 4 goals and 2 assists in 3 games at the 2009 USHL Fall Classic.
Stu Wilson (2010), C, Cedar Rapids
Despite being undersized, he does have a legitimate shot at being selected late in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft thanks to his skill and two-way play .. has good speed with the puck and decent quickness to help him separate from opponents .. able to stop quickly and ditch defensemen .. displays patience with the puck and does a good job protecting it using swivels, stops, and starts .. able to execute some nifty moves with the puck .. able to get his shot off quickly, but could use a little more power in his wristshot when in stride .. defensively, he puts in a nice effort on both the forecheck and the backcheck .. a threat to intercept passes and quickly transition them to offense .. competes hard down low in the defensive zone and is conscientious in helping his defensemen .. finishes his checks .. only 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, but not impossible for him to garner draft consideration.. no college commitment of yet .. played junior B for Maksymum of the Empire Junior Hockey League in 2008-09 and scored 30 goals and 41 assists in 44 games .. went without a point in two games at the Battle of Iowa .. also went pointless in two games at the 2009 USHL Fall Classic (did score 2 goals in Cedar Rapids' other exhibition game).
Peter Sakaris (2010), LW, Cedar Rapids
Three weeks younger and Sakaris would not be eligible until the 2011 draft .. a decent two-way player .. displays nice patience and vision with the puck, spotting open teammates and knowing when not to force a play or a shot .. possesses decent speed and has the agility to sidestep open-ice checks .. puts in a good effort on the forecheck and finishes his checks .. small at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, but has the balance to stay on his skates when hit by some of the USHL's bigger defensemen .. probably a long shot to be selected in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but it's not impossible .. committed to Clarkson for 2011-12 .. played Quebec midget AAA hockey for C.C. LeMoyne in 2008-09 and scored 23 goals and 36 assists in 59 games .. went without a point in his lone game at the Battle of Iowa .. also went pointless in three games at the 2009 USHL Fall Classic.
Justin Kovacs (2010), C, Cedar Rapids
Shows some promise as a two-way center, but does have some work to do .. is a tad slow with the puck by USHL standards and stickhandles with his head down too often .. shows a little bit of speed for loose pucks, but needs more extension in his stride .. has a little dangle to his game .. involved in the breakout and makes crisp, accurate passes .. engages physically on the forecheck in the defensive zone .. a real long shot for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but he made the roster, and that's a start .. no college commitment of yet .. played Michigan high school hockey for Grosse Pointe North in 2008-09 .. named to the All-State First Team by the Michigan High School Hockey Coaches Association .. named to the Michigan Interscholastic Hockey League First Team .. scored 1 goal in two games at the Battle of Iowa .. went pointless in three games at the 2009 USHL Fall Classic.