Vegas’ WSHL team brings more opportunity
By Matt Mackinder
The Las Vegas Storm’s roster for its inaugural season in the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) has a mix of local and overseas talent.
That combination should make for an exciting foray into junior hockey in Las Vegas.
“I see junior hockey in Las Vegas as being a positive decision for the community along with the youth and organizations,” Storm coach and general manager Gabe Gauthier said. “This gives kids at a younger age the opportunity to meet higher-level players, who will go on to bigger and better playing careers, and have role models.
“It sets the bar for the local players to reach goals of playing junior hockey at a high level while still being at home.”
The Storm has nine players from overseas, including from Austria, Russia, Switzerland and Finland.
The Vegas connections include Richard Prekop, Jake McKenna and Hunter Ladd. Gauthier added that he likes the ability forwards Arrigo Burgener and Vincent Dekumbis and goaltender Gernot Wegerer bring to the table.
“Jake has grown up playing in our youth organization and has worked his tail off every day to have this opportunity to play for the Las Vegas Storm,” Gauthier said. “He’s a solid defenseman, and with growth and coaching, he’ll be a kid to look for in the near future.”
While wins and Gauthier added that wins and losses matter at this level, but the ultimate goal is to move players to the next level.
“If we can have players move on to Tier II, Tier I, NCAA and professional teams throughout the years, that will be the biggest win for us as an organization, along with establishing our youth program and developing players from Mites through Midgets so they have that opportunity to play in the WSHL,” Gauthier said.
“Players have to understand that they live in a fish bowl and there are consistently being viewed by scouts and coaches on not only how they play, but how they are as individuals in the world.”
The introduction of a WSHL team can have far-reaching effects, Gauthier added.
“We want to have the fans and young players come to games and see how good the level of hockey is and for them to feel the excitement and have the drive to play at this level.”