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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.

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Fourteen 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 in May.

“That’s an impressive number, and each one of these kids and their families deserves a lot of credit for the hard work and sacrifice they’ve put in over the past few years, on and off the ice,” said Jr. Kings general manager of hockey operations Nick Vachon. “I think the recognition speaks volumes, too, of the high level of coaching and vast developmental resources we have throughout our entire club.”

Two players were chosen in the WHL draft, which was reserved for 2004-born players: forward Zane Rowan and defenseman Pavel Bocharov, both of whom skated on the Jr. Kings’ 14U AAA team this past season.

The Regina Pats chose Rowan in the third round, and Bocharov went in the eighth to the Saskatoon Blades.

The next week, 12 players with ties to the Jr. Kings were selected in the USHL Draft.

Three members of this past season’s 16U AAA state champion team – forwards Danny Minnehan, Parker Murray and Ean Somoza – were selected in Phase I of the proceedings, which was reserved for 2003-born players.

The Muskegon Lumberjacks chose Minnehan in the second round; Murray went to the Chicago Steel in the seventh; and the Sioux Falls Stampede landed Somoza in the eighth round.

Defenseman Shai Buium, a former Jr. King, was selected in the sixth round by the Sioux City Musketeers.

Minnehan, Parker and Somoza were also members of the Jr. Kings’ 14U AAA team that advanced to the USA Hockey National Championships in 2017-18.

In Phase II of the draft, which took place the next day and was open to all junior-age-eligible players, nine players with Jr. Kings ties were selected, including four who skated in the program this past season: forwards Jacob Brockman (pictured), Jordy Brisson and Andre Gasseau and defenseman David Tolan.

Brockman, who played on the Jr. Kings’ 18U AAA team in 2018-19, was chosen by the Green Bay Gamblers in the 12th round, while Tolan, who skated for the Jr. Kings’ 15U AAA team, was selected in the 14th – also by Green Bay.

Chicago landed Brisson in the 14th round, and the Fargo Force selected Gasseau in the 18th. Both played for the Jr. Kings’ 15U AAA team last season.

A handful of former Jr. Kings were also selected, including goaltender Mattias Sholl, who was the first Californian picked in the draft going in the sixth round to the Madison Capitols.

Other graduates of the program selected were defenseman Colton Huard, who was chosen in the seventh round by Fargo; goaltender Ian Shane, picked by Chicago in the 13th round; defenseman Jack Blake, who was taken in the 17th round by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders; and forward Huston Karpman, selected in the 19th round by the Sioux City Musketeers.

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 to exposing and advancing their players to higher levels of the game.

“We’re excited,” said Vachon. “There’s a strong, dedicated group of kids coming through our program at virtually every birth year and our expectations for each of them are extremely high.”

— Brian McDonough

(July 1, 2019)