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Riders strengthen foundations

by Sylvain Tremblay | August 27, 2017, 1:32 PM ET

For the Riders, the draft is one of the most important events during the year. It is the time to strengthen the foundations of the team. While the Riders have developed a high number of stars over the years, it has never given to the temptation to sell the farm and draft picks to bolster temporarily the lineup.

This year was no different. With nine picks heading into the draft, the Riders were hoping to add talent once again.

In the first round, the Riders had certain prospects in their crosshairs. In their initial projections, to get a player from their list with certainty, the team would have to move up to the top 12 in the draft. Despite their efforts at moving up, offering a current 20-20 player or two soon to be 20-20 prospects, Reykjavik was unable to find a team that would have moved down to secure an extra asset. However, the saying "sometimes the best deals are the ones you don't make" applied this time around, since two players were still available from the Riders list when it came to select a prospect.

This made the GM of the Reykjavik based team really happy: "This turn of event makes us confident that we will be able to add yet another first rounder that will contribute to the team's success in the near future". The Riders have had a good batting average with their first rounders since 2007. Between 2007 and 2013, every first selected player in the draft by the team have passed the 150 games played in the SICHL (214 excluding Filip Forsberg). In the most recent years, despite drafting later in the first round, the Riders added Beauvillier in 2015 and Kunin in 2016 who both should make their SICHL debut next year. While being a bit of a laggard compared to the others, Sonny Milano from 2014 will likely make his SICHL debut either next year or the one after.

The first pick for the Riders this year, Lias Andersson, should have a similar trajectory when compared with the team's other first selections. Already being productive in a men's league at 17 years old, he will likely play in the SICHL sooner than later. An all-around player that gives a constant effort, Andersson also has superior puck skills and a very good shot. He should be able to fill in a top 6 role in a couple of years.

Then in the second round, the story was a bit the same. Riders tried to move up a bit but despite being unable to, they were able to secure one of the players they had their eye on. Jesper Boqvist is another highly skilled offensive players. However, unlike Andersson, he has to work on his consistency and effort on the ice.

In the third round, the Riders selected two more players. They went with a Dane, Jonas Rondbjerg, a winger that combines size, soft hands and a good on ice vision. Then with the other pick, Kasper Kotkansalo was selected, a big and mobile defender. He has room to improve his offensive contributions.

In the later rounds (4th to 7th), the Reykjavik team went mostly with prospects in their second year of eligibility. Drake Rymsha, who had a first year eligibility squashed by an injury, turned it on during his second year to match the goal production of other highly touted prospects like Adam Mascherin or Boris Katchouk. Anthony Salinitri doubled his point production on a team where scoring was anemic. Joachim Blichfeld scored close to a point per game while having a good showing at the U20 WJC. Riders also picked up Dylan Ferguson who was one of the top WHL netminders last year backing up Connor Ingram. Lastly, the Riders went with a player who spent last year in prep hockey, Jonathan Dugan. He has a good scoring arsenal but it's tough to compare those players playing at inferior levels.

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