Pair of Storm standouts selected in USHL Draft
Two Nevada Storm players and another Las Vegas native saw their advancement dreams get closer to happening as the trio was all taken by United States Hockey League (USHL) teams during Phase II of the USHL Draft on May 3.
Defenseman Steven Avalone (top right) and forward Zach McClenahan (top left) both played for the Storm 16U AA team last season, while forward Dominic Garcia is a local talent who skated for the Aston (Pa.) Rebels in the North American Hockey League this past year after playing prep school hockey for the Culver Academy in Indiana.
Both Avalone and McClenahan were key cogs with the 16U squad in 2015-16.
“We are very proud as an organization to have Zach and Steven selected in the USHL Draft,” said Storm hockey director Gabe Gauthier. “This is the start of many more to come. As for Dom, I had the privilege over the last two summers I have been in Vegas to work with him, helping him understand what it takes to move on. He will be back this summer hungry to play in the USHL next year.”
Avalone was selected in the 18th round (290th overall) by the Tri-City Storm, McClenahan in the 21st round (338th overall), also by Tri-City and Garcia was taken by the Sioux City Musketeers in the 16th round (247th overall).
“I can’t believe it,” Avalone said. “It feels amazing because the USHL is the top junior league in the country. It is a dream come true for me. I’m going to prepare for next season by working out hard to get faster and stronger and get on the ice as much as I can. When I train or skate, I will think about one day playing in USHL and that will push me beyond my limit to keep working hard and never giving up.”
He added that just being drafted means nothing unless his effort and work ethic continues to build.
“Being drafted will affect my play by never letting myself get too comfortable,” said Avalone, who captained the 16U team this past season. “It will make me never be satisfied with my play.”
Avalone said his biggest attributes on the ice are his hustle, perseverance, team play and will to win.
“Steven is a very mature defenseman with the skating ability that reminds me of Paul Coffey,” boasted Gauthier. “Steven is a leader on and off the ice and when he is one the ice, you can feel his presence as a teammate and as an opponent.”
For McClenahan, who served as an alternate captain for the Storm 16U team last year, he said getting drafted “feels great knowing that Tri-City saw something they liked in my game.”
“I look forward to maybe getting a chance to play in the league one day,” said McClenahan. “I will prepare for next season by getting stronger in the weight room and getting my cardio up while trying to improve my speed. Being drafted I don’t think will affect my play. I would play the same if I wasn’t drafted. This just lets me know that when I’m ready, I’ll be able to get the call up to play for Tri-City.
“I think Tri-City liked my speed and my hockey IQ is what I think separates me from other players in my age group.”
Gauthier said there is a great deal to like about McClenahan’s game.
“Zach is a very dynamic player and fun to watch,” said Gauthier. “He has a natural ability to use his speed and sense to make the right plays. Zach is no stranger to goals or points as he led his team this past year in both categories.”
Garcia recorded 14 goals and 27 points in 49 games with Aston this past season.
— Matt Mackinder