Quartet of Jr. Ducks teams get early exposure at USHL Fall Classic
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A good portion of the hockey world converged on suburban Pittsburgh during the last week in September, and the Anaheim Jr. Ducks were no exception.
Four Jr. Ducks AAA teams – 14U, 15U, 16U and 18U – participated in the fourth annual USHL Fall Classic, one of the sport’s ultimate see-and-be-seen events. More than 300 scouts attended, representing junior, college and professional hockey. All 16 USHL teams participated as well.
“Besides Nationals, you’re not going to get that many scouts in one place,” said Jr. Ducks 18U coach August Aiken. “Every USHL team was represented, 12 NAHL teams were there, as was every single Division I college and NHL team.
“You can’t get better exposure.”
Jr. Ducks director of player personnel and 16U coach Alex Kim added that the tournament includes a bit of a paradigm shift.
“Of course, you want your team to do well because you’re playing the top teams in the country, but the scouts are there to look at individuals,” Kim said. “It’s an excellent opportunity for players to get on teams’ radar at the next levels.”
NCAA schools can no longer recruit players at the U14 and U15 level, but junior teams, particularly in the WHL and USHL, scouted those levels, said Aiken, who assists with the 14U team. The Midget levels had many more sets of eyeballs on them.
“This helps them get going for the season,” Aiken added. “When I get players at 18s, they’re a bit more mature having come through our 16s. My job is to make sure they’re focused and ready to take advantage of this opportunity.”
“Junior teams have been reaching out. Having Ryan Johnson drafted in the first round only one year out from playing in our club has really helped.”
Aiken also watched Jr. Ducks alumni Cody Sherman (pictured right) make his USHL debut with the Tri-City Storm.
“It was a real joy as a coach to see a young man who played for our club in his first USHL game,” Aiken said. “Cody was not drafted and made their roster after attending a series of camps. The sky is the limit for him now.”
— Chris Bayee
(Oct. 30, 2019)