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Published May 01 2012

Force select Minot's Morelli with third overall pick in USHL Futures Draft

FARGO – Fargo Force scout Jesse Davis’ plan was to hide Minot’s Mason Morelli in the hopes no one else in the United States Hockey League would find about him.

Morelli, 16, ruined those plans by scoring a hat trick in his first game at the USHL Combine and being what many scouts said was one of the best players there. It resulted in the Force moving up the draft ladder and selecting Morelli with the third overall pick on Tuesday in the USHL Futures Draft.

“He lit it up and was probably the best player there as far as forwards go,” Davis said. “We realized he was a good player for sure and we just decided we had to draft him because he’s a good player and because he’s in our backyard.”

The Futures Draft allows teams to take what are considered to be the top soon-to-be or already

16-year-olds in the nation. It’s a draft used more to build for the future. The USHL Entry Draft, which is May 22, is a draft teams use to fill holes for next season.

Morelli, a left winger, played at Minot High School this season, scoring 40 points (22 goals and 18 assists) in 26 games. He also played in 11 games with the Minot Minotauros, the city’s North American Hockey League franchise.

Davis described the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Morelli as being a hard-nosed player with skill. He added Morelli had no problem stepping up to players, as he fought in the NAHL, which features players considerably older and larger. Davis said Morelli won’t be a “high-end” player in his first year but should develop into one in two seasons.

He is the grandson of former University of North Dakota forward Reg Morelli, who scored the game-winning goal against Michigan State in the 1959 NCAA title game. Morelli’s father, Matt, played four seasons at North Dakota alongside former Force head coach Jason Herter and was recruited by current Force coach John Marks.

“I was in school and my dad texted me the Force traded up to third, and I thought that would be awesome to get drafted by the Force,” Morelli said. “It is close to my hometown. Assistant coach Jesse Davis called me 45 minutes prior to the draft and told me the Force were going to be taking me. I was pretty fired up.””

Morelli, who said he wants to also play at North Dakota, has the chance to become the fifth North Dakotan to play for the Force if he makes the team next season.

Davis said he had the best chance of making the team out of the players the Force selected in the draft.

The Force selected forward Michael Booth in the second round; Canadian defenseman Sal Filice in the fourth round; forward River Rymsha in the fifth round and defenseman Steven Quagliata in the sixth and final round.

“All these guys will come to camp June 1-3 in Minneapolis and we will evaluate them,” Davis said. “This is a futures draft and not the place to bring in players for next year. We don’t want to get people too confused. It’s for down the road.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com

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