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USHL: Ryder Rolston, Waterloo Black Hawks (2020)

Ryder Rolston spent all of last year playing with the legendary USNTDP U18 class, but was one of three regulars who were too young to be eligible for the 2019 draft. Currently tied for the scoring lead on a strong Waterloo side, he is one of the better draft eligible players in the USHL this season, even including the current USNTDP U18 squad. He is a high end skater with a plus shot, but he plays a simple, North-South game for the most part. He has adjusted well to being a team’s focal point after spending two years as a useful cog in a much bigger machine. He has top six potential, but a more realistic outcome would be a middle six role on a good club. The comparisons to his father Brian are easy to make, and will be discussed at greater length below.

Ryder Rolston 2020 NHL Draft Eligible
Position: RW, Shoots R H/W: 6-0", 165 lbs
Stats to date (GP-G-A-PTS-PIMS) Waterloo Black Hawks, USHL (13-5-6-11-4)
Ryder Rolston, USHL. Photo by Hickling Images
Ryder Rolston, USHL. Photo by Hickling Images


Skating: In a case of the apple not falling far from the tree, Ryder Rolston is a very good skater, much like his father, long-time NHL’er Brian. The first few steps are solid, but his top speed is a standout trait. He is very quick off the mark, and is often in the position of leading the offensive attack. He bends very sharply at the waist while accelerating, making him quite aerodynamic. Would like to see more agility, but the speed will make him a weapon and can demonstrate great edgework. Grade: 60

Shot: Rolston ha a big, hard wrist shot, and he loves to fire the puck. His 51 shots on net in 13 games not only leads the Back Hawks, but are a full 20 more than the runner up. He is able to get a strong shot off even under tight coverage. He would do well to think more about shot selection on occasion, instead of just shot volume, as he can lapse into shooting the puck too early into a zone entry, making it more difficult for Waterloo to sustain the attack. Grade: 55

Skills: He has a quick stick, but Rolston is not a high end puck handler. He can maintain possession at a high level, allowing him to rag the puck in the offensive zone when he can’t find a passing option, but I have yet to see him fool defenders with his puck skills. Grade: 50

Smarts: As with his skating, so too with his hockey IQ. Like his father, Ryder plays a strong two-way game, and has already seen a lot of time n both special teams units. He keeps his head up and his stick down and is constantly looking to pick off passes when the opposition has the puck. His ability to think the game and process the game conditions rapidly ensure that his floor will be high enough to forge out an NHL career even if his skills don’t allow him to play in a top six role. Grade: 55

Physicality: Rolston can withstand being defended against physically, but is not himself a physically engaging player. He will also need to gain a fair bit of muscle mass before he moves on. He has the frame to carry more weight, but he will not be a heavyweight. Grade: 45

Overall Future Projection (OFP): 54