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NHL Draft

Rolston's pedigree could boost 2020 NHL Draft stock

Forward, son of 17-year NHL veteran, aims to hone skills in USHL this season

by Wes Crosby / Independent Correspondent

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2020 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

Ryder Rolston was raised in NHL locker rooms.

The son of former NHL forward Brian Rolston spent a large part of his childhood, between the ages of 3 and 12, following his dad to NHL rinks. Ryder, a forward who turned 18 on Thursday, will have the chance to make some of his own memories as he prepares to be chosen in the 2020 NHL Draft.

"Growing up around the game, you eat, breathe and sleep hockey," Ryder Rolston said. "It's something special. Not every kid has that opportunity. I think I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for that."

Brian Rolston was chosen by the New Jersey Devils with the No. 11 pick of the 1991 NHL Draft and played 17 seasons in the League, for the Devils, Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild, Colorado Avalanche and New York Islanders, from 1994-2012 and won the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1994-95. That might be hard to match.

Ryder Rolston (6-foot-1, 175 pounds), a B-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list, isn't thinking that far ahead. He's instead focused on this season and his eight points (four goals, four assists) in eight games for Waterloo of the United States Hockey League.

"You always want to see yourself getting drafted as high as possible," he said. "It's always there. You kind of think about it, but I just try to have fun day to day because I know if I do that, good things will happen."

Waterloo traded up to select Rolston with the No. 2 pick in Phase II of the 2019 USHL Draft on May 7. He was coveted after he had 33 points (20 goals, 13 assists) in 33 games last season for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 team, which had 17 players selected in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Eight of those 17 went in the first round, including center Jack Hughes, chosen No. 1 by the New Jersey Devils.

Rolston now is looking forward to his turn.

"It's something you think about just because of last year," Rolston said. "I was with all those guys who went in the first round last year and got drafted."

Before fully turning his attention to the draft, Rolston wants to refine his game. His versatility is something he would most like to improve, particularly his play away from the puck, which will serve him as he moves forward in his hockey career; he will be a freshman at Notre Dame next season.

"In the next level you have to be able to play in all scenarios," said Rolston, who said he's modeled his game after Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and Los Angeles Kings forward Ilya Kovalchuk. "I feel like just working on that side will kind of turn me into a more complete player. I'll be able to play in all situations when the time comes."

Rolston said his speed and skating is where he'd like it to be. He has worked on his shot the past year, making a concerted effort to get better from the outside instead of solely scoring from around the crease.

All that effort has paid off, Waterloo coach PK O'Handley said.

"His world is open. He wants it. You have to have that," O'Handley said. "He's got the competitive nature. You've got to have that. He's got the skill set. You've got to have that. Just all has to come together, and that just takes a little bit of time."

It's easy to tell when a prospect comes from a family with NHL experience, O'Handley said.

"When you look at a guy like that, many guys like that that have the pedigree, they've been around the game," O'Handley said. "They've been around the room. They've been around coaches and they've heard the speak. So not surprised. Great family."

Pressure could come with being from a certain family, but the younger Rolston said that hasn't been his experience because of a simple message from his father.

"The biggest thing was competing for your team," he said. "So I would say compete, have fun and work hard. Those are the three things that are big coming from him, and I try to go with every single game."



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