USHL, WHL draft success continues for Jr. Kings
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.
Nine current and former players were selected in this year’s United States Hockey League (USHL) Drafts and Western Hockey League (WHL) Bantam Draft, all of which were conducted earlier this month.
“I think the recognition speaks volumes to the quality of our entire Tier I coaching staff, and of course the hard work and dedication these boys put in over the course of the season,” said Jr. Kings executive director Kelly Sorensen. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment.”
Forwards Nick Castro and Jackson Wozniak (pictured), members of the Jr. Kings’ Pacific District-champion 16U AAA Major team this past season, were selected in Phase I of the USHL Draft, which was held on May 2.
Wozniak was taken by the Sioux City Musketeers with the first pick in the fifth round, while Castro went to the Dubuque Fighting Saints with the 14th pick in Round 10 of the proceedings, which was reserved for 2000-born players.
“These guys earned it,” said Jr. Kings 16U AAA Major head coach Jack Bowkus. “They’re outstanding hockey players and great young men, and there’s no question both have bright futures in store.”
Defenseman Noah Kim, a former Jr. King, was selected with the 14th pick in the seventh round by Dubuque.
The next day, defensemen Jack St. Ivany and Jacob Modry, also members of the Jr. Kings’ 16U AAA Major team this past season, were selected in Phase II of the USHL Draft.
St. Ivany was chosen in the fifth round (73rd overall) by the Sioux Falls Stampede, and Modry, a RPI recruit, was selected in the fifth round (82nd overall) by the Lincoln Stars.
Two former Jr. Kings – forwards Rory Herrman and Brett Pickler – were also selected in Phase II, which was open to all junior-eligible players for the 2016-17 season (1996-2000 birth years).
Herrman, an Arizona State University recruit, was picked in the 10th round (165th) by the Green Bay Gamblers, and Pickler went in the 13th (200th) to the Des Moines Buccaneers.
The USHL is widely considered North America’s premier junior league when it comes to developing players for NCAA Division I hockey. It also regularly produces top NHL draft picks.
Forward Hunter Campbell and goaltender Dustin Wolf, members of the Jr. Kings’ Pacific District-champion Bantam Major team this past season, were selected in WHL Bantam Draft, which was held on May 5 and reserved for 2001-born players.
Campbell was chosen by the Calgary Hitmen in the third round (60th overall), and Wolf was taken by the Everett Silvertips in the fifth round (104th).
Wolf was also invited to attend the prestigious Warren Strelow National Team Goaltending Camp, which features many of the top U.S. goaltenders eligible for international play within select age groups. The camp was showcased earlier this month in Plymouth, Mich.
“I couldn’t be happier for these guys,” said Jr. Kings 2015-16 Bantam Major head coach Shawn Pitcher. “They both played a big part in our success last season and are very deserving of this recognition.”
One of the three Major Junior circuits that comprise the Canadian Hockey League, the WHL regularly produces professional players, including top NHL prospects.
And with plenty of promising talent being groomed amongst the younger age groups, the best might just be yet to come for the Jr. Kings.
“This is an exciting time for our club,” Sorensen added. “The depth we’re cultivating at Bantam, Pee Wee and Squirt levels is very encouraging, to say the least.”
In addition to the players from the Jr. Kings, USHL and WHL teams selected players from the California Titans, San Jose Jr. Sharks and Anaheim Jr. Ducks.
The Jr. Ducks’ Stanislav Demin (second round, Des Moines Buccaneers) and the Jr. Sharks’ Luke Robinson (ninth round, Des Moines) were taken in Phase I of the USHL Draft. Robinson was also drafted by the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL Draft.
In Phase II of the USHL Draft, Walnut Creek native and former Jr. Sharks defenseman Zak Galambos (third round, Madison Capitols) and Corona native and former Titans forward Jacob Hamacher (fifth round, Dubuque Fighting Saints) were chosen.
Current Jr. Ducks 14U AAA forward Jackson Niedermayer (fifth round, Calgary) and former Jr. Ducks defenseman Cam York (ninth round, Red Deer Rebels) went in the WHL Draft.
— Brian McDonough