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Four former Jr. Ducks make U.S. Under-18 Team for Hlinka Gretzy Cup

By Chris Bayee, 07/25/23, 2:45PM PDT


The group includes two players from '22-23 16U AAA team

Four players with ties to the Anaheim Jr. Ducks made the U.S. Under-18 Select Team that will participate in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup starting July 31 in Czechia and Slovakia. 

The quartet includes two players who played for the Jr. Ducks 16U AAA team this past season, defenseman Tanner Henricks and forward Colin Frank. They are joined by fellow 2006 birth years Trevor Connelly, son of longtime Jr. Ducks coach Scott Connelly, and Chase Stefanek.

"This is a testament to all of the coaches who have worked with these players over the years and to the players' hard work," said Alex Kim, Jr. Ducks Director of Player Personnel. "The club is extremely proud of all four of them."

The four double the number of Jr. Ducks who have made Team USA's U18 squad since 2018. Defenseman Slava Demin played in the 2018 event, defenseman Ryan Johnson and forward Josh Groll played in 2019, and forward Merril Steenari played in 2021. 

"It shows the club is going in the right direction," Kim said. 

Three of the four of this year's players have made Division I college commitments - Connelly (Providence), Henricks (St. Cloud State) and Stefanek (Harvard). In all, 70 players with ties to the Jr. Ducks have made D-I commitments. 

Henricks, the lone defenseman of the four, had 79 points (16 goals) in 85 games for the 16Us, who advanced the USA Hockey Youth Nationals this past spring. Frank led that squad in scoring with 143 points (66 goals) in 85 games. 

Kim coached both this past season and Frank for the past two seasons on the 16U team. 

"Both are extremely nice young men, that's the biggest thing about them," Kim said. "If I asked them to help with a Mite team they would do it and engage with the little kids. 

"Both of them were leaders on our team. I relied on them to set a standard for the rest of the group. I've seen incredible growth from both of them."

Two other players from California also made the team, so six of the 23 on the roster (or more than 25 percent) are from the Golden State.

"It shows you don't have to leave the state to continue developing," Kim said. "You're not missing a thing by staying. Tanner and Colin are great examples of that."

Both are headed to the United States Hockey League for juniors next season, as is Stefanek. Frank will play in Dubuque, Henricks will play for Lincoln, and Stefanek is headed to Muskegon, where Henricks' older brother Ty - a 2023 New York Rangers draft pick - played this past season.

They no doubt will encounter Connelly in the USHL. Connelly had an outstanding season for Tri-City, putting up 47 points (24 goals) in 57 games against players as much as four years older than him. 

Frank, Connelly and Stefanek were three of the top-10 scorers at the recent U.S. Select 17 camp. Frank had 11 points, Connelly nine (five goals) and Stefanek six (also five goals) in six games.

"It's a privilege to represent your country, and all four of these young men will do that well," Kim said.