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USHL, WHL draft success continues for Jr. Kings

 

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As one of the premier youth hockey organizations in all of North America, the Los Angeles Jr. Kings regularly attract scouting attention from elite junior leagues.

This past season was no exception.

Eighteen players with ties to the organization were selected in this year’s United States Hockey League (USHL) Draft and Western Hockey League (WHL) Bantam Draft, both of which were conducted last month.

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“That’s an impressive number, and these kids and their families have worked extremely hard over the past few seasons to earn that recognition; it’s well-deserved,” said Jr. Kings general manager of hockey operations Nick Vachon. “It’s a credit to our club, too – specifically our coaching staff – for helping develop and expose these promising young athletes to higher levels of the game.”

Eight of the players chosen in the WHL draft, which was reserved for 2003-born players, skated for the Jr. Kings’ Bantam Major team that captured California Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) state and Pacific District championships this past season.

Those selected from that USA Hockey National Championships-qualifying squad included: forwards Noah Alvarez (Vancouver Giants, 10th round, pictured), Arvega Hovsepyan (Kelowna Rockets, eighth round), Parker Murray (Portland Winterhawks, 10th round) and Ean Somoza (Everett Silvertips, 13th round); defensemen Aidan Hreschuk (Prince George Cougars, fifth round), a Boston College recruit, Paul Minnehan (Tri-City Americans, seventh round) and Ty Murchison (Portland, third round); and goaltender Alex Bonrouhi (Tri-City, 10th round).

Forward Easton Armstrong, who played for the Jr. Kings’ Bantam AA1 team this past season, was selected by the Regina Pats in the 10th round.

The Victoria Royals picked forward Chris Alexander, a former Jr. King, in the eighth round of the draft. Defenseman Spencer Shugrue, another former Jr. King, was selected by the Saskatoon Blades in the ninth round.

The next week, seven players with ties to the Jr. Kings, including forward Thomas Stift, who skated for the program’s Midget 15U AAA team this past season, were selected in USHL Draft.

Stift was selected in Phase I of the proceedings, which was reserved for 2002 birth-year players, by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the fourth round.

In Phase II of the USHL Draft, which took place the next day and was open to all junior-age-eligible players, six former Jr. Kings were selected.

In the second round, the Des Moines Buccaneers picked forward Nathan Burke (1998-born), a St. Cloud State University recruit, while the Omaha Lancers landed forward Andre Ghantous (1998) in the third round.

The Dubuque Fighting Saints selected defenseman Kaelan Taylor (1999) in the seventh round, and forward Cooper Haar (1999) went three picks later, also to Dubuque in the seventh round.

Cedar Rapids chose goaltender Garrett Nieto (1998), a Union College recruit, in the 11th round, and the Fargo Force selected forward Tomas Urbanec (1999) in the 18th round.

The USHL and WHL are widely considered two of the top junior leagues in North America. No other circuit trumps the USHL when it comes to developing players for NCAA Division I hockey, and both have groomed countless players for the professional ranks, including the NHL.

And with the promising level of young talent continuing to funnel through the Jr. Kings’ pipeline, Vachon expects more of the same in the coming years as it relates exposing and advancing its players to higher levels of the game.

“From our Mites all the way through to our Midgets, our kids are getting the best coaching out there, and that makes a huge difference,” said Vachon, whose program also produced 12 USA Hockey National Select Camp invitees this season. “But, in the end, it’s the players and their families putting in all the hard work and sacrifice and truly earning their success.”

— Brian McDonough

(June 12, 2018)