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Anaheim Hills’ York motivated to be first-round NHL pick

 

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The Western United States is quickly becoming a hotbed for producing high-end hockey players.

And not just any old hockey players, but bona fide NHL prospects.

This weekend in Vancouver, B.C., three California natives look to be taken in the NHL Draft in Anaheim Hills’ Cam York, Tustin’s Dustin Wolf and Irvine’s Ryan Johnson.

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York, a longtime Anaheim Jr. Duck, figures to be a first-round choice, while Wolf, a longtime Los Angeles Jr. King, should be a mid-round selection. York skated on the blue line this past season with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (NTDP), committing to NCAA Division I University of Michigan along the way, Wolf was the top goaltender for the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Everett Silvertips, and Johnson skated for the United States Hockey League’s Sioux Falls Stampede after a successful youth career with the Jr. Ducks.

Arcadia native Nick Robertson (Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes), who moved to Michigan at a young age, should also hear his name called in Vancouver.

When he was initially chosen for the NTDP some two years ago, York saw it as an amazing accomplishment.

“It was crazy,” said York. “Being from California, a lot of people don’t really expect you to be there, but I worked for it and I earned it and it was very special. Just looking at guys that have come through this program, guys like Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews, I mean, it was a crazy feeling for me.”

York’s NTDP teammate, forward Jack Hughes, is pegged as the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Growing up, York played for the Jr. Ducks before moving to Minnesota to play at Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school.

“I had really good coaches with the Jr. Ducks,” York said. “Craig Johnson and Scott Niedermayer are both guys that obviously know the game really well. Just learning from Scott defensively, I just took little things that he does, and I can always pick his brain. Craig is a guy that I worked with on my skills, like stickhandling and stuff like that. I’ve worked with him a lot on that area of my game.”

The landscape of youth hockey in California has grown tremendously, even in just the past few years, said York.

“It’s changed 100 percent,” said York. “I think when I was first trying to get into it, a lot of people didn’t want to play because hockey wasn’t that popular. Now, with coaches there like Craig and Scott, they’ve done a really great job of bringing kids in and developing them. It’s really fun to see.

“Guys getting drafted from the West Coast, it’s fun to see and I think it’s good for the sport and motivates the next generation when they see guys like that going through all this that they can do it for themselves, too.”

So what would York’s dream team be come draft day?

“I’d have to say that I’d want to go to a team that’s in contention just because I hate losing,” York said. “I think a team like that already has great players there, so they can hopefully push me to be one of the great ones. Maybe a team like Boston or even Anaheim, they have teams with a lot of great players. For the past five years, I haven’t even been close to my home, so going to any team out that way would be unbelievable for me.”

Wolf is listed No. 12 among North American goaltenders; Johnson is 33rd among North American skaters.

In 61 games during the 2018-19 season, Wolf went 41-15-2-2, including seven shutouts, to complement a 1.69 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. Johnson played 54 games in Sioux Falls and fashioned six goals and 25 points while also committing last summer to play D-I hockey at the University of Minnesota.

Photo/Rena Laverty/USA Hockey’s NTDP

— Matt Mackinder

(June 20, 2019)