For Jr. Ducks’ 16U AAA standout Kim, hard work paying off with commitment to NCAA D-I Michigan State
It turns out Christian Kim had nothing to be concerned about.
A forward for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks’ 16U AAA team and a member of the club since he was a 10U player, Kim entered the season with a goal of committing to college in the forefront of his mind.
His coach, Jr. Ducks director of player development Alex Kim, gave him some simple advice – just play and keep working hard and the rest will take care of itself.
And it did.
Christian Kim began 2022 by committing to Michigan State on New Year’s Day. Although the Jr. Ducks have had 30 players make Division I commitments in the past seven years, Kim is one of the rare few who has done it while still playing 16U.
“This is years and years of work to get to this point,” Alex Kim said. “He’s gotten faster and stronger, and that helps him to protect pucks because he’s not the biggest guy (5-foot-8). All the work he’s put in, and the quality of that work, is paying off.”
Christian Kim, a 2005 birth year from Torrance, has been dominant this season for the 16U team, scoring 118 points (48 goals) in the squad’s first 51 games. Those totals more than double what he produced in 47 games last season, when he had 55 points and 19 goals.
Last summer, he and then Jr. Ducks teammate James Hong played in the prestigious Beantown Summer Classic as members of NextGen AAA Foundation’s teams of color.
“I had a really good offseason,” Christian Kim said. “I was in the gym five times a week and I did skates at Optimum Hockey Academy with Alex and Craig Johnson. They pushed me to be better.”
The choice to head to Big Ten country was easy for Kim, who played one season of youth hockey in the Detroit area.
“Michigan State is a well-known program,” he said. “I visited it on Nov. 3, and I loved the campus, loved the atmosphere. The football stadium is huge.
“People might laugh, but I missed the cold weather. And MSU has a really good class coming in in 2023. It’s exciting to think what we could accomplish together.”
He is hopeful he can begin his college career in 2024.
His Jr. Ducks coach said the forward’s strides this season can be traced to a combination of factors, including his teammates.
“He’s able to capitalize on opportunities,” Alex Kim said. “When there is a play to be made, he can execute on the ice. He’s able to distribute the puck, and he can finish when he needs to.
“He has a good line with Ty Henricks and Colin Frank. They helped him through the process.
“Another thing that has helped is he gets a lot of touches every day. He’s at our academy. Being able to work on things on you’re not able to during a team practice helps. Christian is shooting an extra 500-700 pucks a week, that has a lot to do with it. He’s able to dial things in, and he’s more confident when situations arise on the ice.”
Christian Kim is one of six players on his team who also attends Optimum, and he said the flexibility that allows for a travel hockey schedule without sacrificing academic standards has helped.
“I can either finish my work before a trip or take it with me,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about missing too much class time.”
In seven seasons with the club, Kim said many coaches have influenced him.
“Sandy (Gasseau) had a big impact on me when I was young,” he said. “I’ve had lessons with Alex since I was 8, and I developed a lot of skills working with him. Craig is a really strong defensive coach. There are a lot of people in this program who have helped me, as well as my family and my teammates. Ty Henricks and I have played together for a long time, and he has been a big help.”
Next up for Kim and his teammates is trying to earn a return to Nationals. If they can qualify, they will be the sixth team at 16U AAA to do so for the Jr. Ducks since 2015.
After that, Kim has his sights set on beginning his junior career. He was selected by Tri-City in Phase I of the United States Hockey League Draft last spring, going in the third round (52nd overall).
— Chris Bayee/JrDucks.com
(January 11, 2022)