Nearly a dozen players with ties to the Anaheim Jr. Ducks recently were either drafted or received tenders from North American Hockey League (NAHL) teams.
The group includes six players who were part of the club’s Midget 18U AAA team that reached the USA Hockey Youth Nationals and another who was part of the 16U AAA team that also advanced to Nationals.
The NAHL is a one of the primary junior hockey stepping-stones for players seeking to play NCAA hockey.
The four 18Us who were drafted included forwards Ben Biester, Thomas Cody Sherman and Tyler Shetland as well as defenseman Victor Massicotte. All but Shetland are 2001 birth years. Shetland is a 2000. Additionally, both of the teams’ goaltenders – Ethan Lahmon and Tyler Shea (both 2001s) – signed tenders and saw action with NAHL clubs after the 18s’ season ended.
“A lot of people say you can’t move on from 18s in California,” 18U AAA coach August Aiken said. “But this shows that’s not the case. You can stay in California and develop.”
Jr. Ducks Director of Player Personnel Alex Kim said the club has worked hard to forge relationships with NAHL franchises, and this year’s draft is evidence of that.
“It’s another pathway, and sometimes it’s a better fit for certain individuals,” he said. “Every player has a different path they have to take. These kids have done a very good job staying patient and committed as they try to get to college hockey. Hopefully they’re rewarded.”
Shetland, one of the 18s’ captains, was selected by Kenai River in the fifth round (111th overall). He put up 20 points in 27 Tier 1 Elite Hockey League games and added nine points (five goals) in 10 CAHA games.
Sherman was selected 14 picks later, also in the fifth round, by Minot, and he played a game for the NAHL club after the Jr. Ducks’ season. He led CAHA in scoring with 12 points in nine games and had 31 points in 30 Tier 1 games.
Biester was one of the 18s’ big goal scorers, netting 19 among his 32 Tier 1 points (in 30 games) and six more among his 11 in CAHA. He went in Round 6 to Minnesota.
Massicotte showed an offensive flair from the blue line, getting 18 points in 25 Tier 1 games and five more in nine CAHA games. Springfield picked him in Round 13 at 330th overall.
“All of them are good players,” Aiken said. “They have good skill and offensive instincts, but all of them take care of the D zone, too.”
Lahmon and Shea were lights out for the Jr. Ducks all season. Lahmon, who signed with Fairbanks and played three games there, had a .931 save percentage and a 2.30 goals-against average in Tier 1 play. In CAHA games, those numbers plummeted .946 and 1.33. Shea, who played a game with Austin after tendering there, had 1.82 and .945 Tier 1 numbers and posted an unreal .987 and 0.25 in CAHA play, where he allowed just one goal on 81 shots.
“The goalies were unbelievable all year,” Aiken said. “They kept us in so many games. If we had slow starts, I knew they were ready to play every single game.
“I’m happy for all six of these guys. They all put in the work every week and came to practice with good attitudes. All of them were big pieces in our run to Nationals.”
Defenseman Kobe Pane (2002), who has been a key component of back-to-back 16U teams that reached the Tier I Nationals, signed a tender with Springfield and played two games there, as well as one with Central Illinois of the USHL. Pane had 22 points in 47 games for the Jr. Ducks.
Four other players with ties to the club – three of them 1999s – also drew attention from NAHL teams, headlined by goaltender Patrick Pugliese, who was a first-round pick by New Jersey (14th overall).
The former 16U Jr. Ducks player enjoyed a breakout season with Nipawin of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, going 18-3 with a 1.95 GAA and .931 save percentage in his first season of juniors.
Another player who put himself on the radar in his first junior season was forward Jesse Lycan, who signed a tender with Johnstown after putting up 39 points (15 goals) in 66 games with Navan of the Central Canada Hockey League.
The third 1999, forward Cooper Haar, was selected by Lone Star in Round 6 (148th overall), despite having played three season of junior hockey already, including this past season for Dubuque of the USHL. He had 19 points in 67 games after putting up 36 and 33 points in two seasons with Bismarck of the NAHL.
The youngest member of this cohort, 2002 goaltender Hunter Garvey, who played Pee Wee AAA hockey for the club, was selected by Corpus Christi in Round 13 (324th overall).
As junior tryouts continue through the spring and summer, it’s important to note there are other opportunities out there for players, Kim added.
“There are only so many spots at the next level. At 18U you’re buying more time to develop,” he said. “Ethan and Tyler are two great examples. Both are excellent goaltenders. Now they have an opportunity to play junior hockey on a regular basis.
We’re very happy to see them recognized.
“At the same time, if a player goes undrafted, sometimes it’s better to have the flexibility to try out for – and potentially play for – different teams.”