It’s not uncommon for the Jr. Ducks have players selected in the United States Hockey League and Western Hockey League drafts. What stood out about those events this year was the amount of current and former Jr. Ducks who were picked.
The 10 players nearly equaled the amount of the past three years combined. Eight went in the USHL’s Phase I and II drafts on May 7-8, and two more were taken in the WHL’s Bantam draft on May 3.
“It’s fantastic for these kids, especially those who played for the Jr. Ducks last season,” said Jr. Ducks Director of Player Personnel Alex Kim, who also co-coached the 16U AAA team. “It’s good to see these players rewarded.”
Defenseman Kobe Pane, a 2002 birth year, was picked in the USHL’s Futures draft (Phase I) by Central Illinois in the 10th round (145th overall). Pane was a member of the Midget 16U team that won a bronze medal at the Tier I USA Hockey Nationals last month and had 19 points in 36 Tier 1 Elite Hockey League games.
Seven more players – three 1998s, two 1999s and two of Pane’s teammates – were selected in the Phase II draft.
Pane’s 16U teammates included forward Joseph Harguindeguy, who was picked by Muskegon in the 14th round (222nd overall), and forward Jonathan Panisa, who went to Central Illinois in the 15th round (229th overall). Both are 2001s.
Harguindeguy had 35 points in 36 Tier 1 Elite League games, while Panisa had 26 points in 36 games.
The 1999 selections included defenseman McElhaney, who went to Muskegon in the fourth round, and forward Cooper Haar, who was taken by Dubuque in the seventh round (108th). McElhaney had 47 points in 32 games for Cushing Academy, while Haar had 33 points for Bismarck (NAHL). Haar previously had been picked by Fargo in the 2015 Phase I draft.
The 1998s included forward Andre Ghantous, whom Omaha picked in the third round (35th overall), forward Patrick Choi, who was selected in the ninth round (147th) by Omaha, and goaltender Garrett Nieto, who was picked in the 11th round (168th) by Cedar Rapids.
Ghantous scored 58 points, including 14 in the playoffs, for Trail (BCHL). Choi had 56 points, including 24 goals, for Syracuse of the NCDC. Nieto, who has committed to Union College, had a 25-7-2 record with a 2.00 GAA and a .929 save percentage for Janesville (NAHL).
“It’s a really good goal to make that league,” said Kim, who played for Des Moines of the USHL during his junior days. “The first step is to get drafted, it’s another to go to a camp and make a team.
“The USHL is a great platform to get to an NCAA Division I program.”
In addition to the USHL picks, the WHL Bantam draftees were a pair of 2003s – forward Benjamin Palmerscheim, who was taken by Kamloops in the eighth round (176th overall), and former Jr. Ducks defenseman Ross Roloson, who went in the 10th round (200th overall) to Victoria. Roloson’s brother Brett was taken by Dubuque in the 2017 Phase II draft.
“Now the works really starts for these players,” Kim said. “They have to get stronger and faster because junior hockey is different. Each level you move up you have to work twice as much as before. The best are playing against the best.”
The Jr. Ducks had four players selected in the USHL drafts last season, including defenseman Ryan Johnson, who went third overall to Sioux Falls and became the highest-drafted Californian, and fellow 2001 Nicholas Kent in the Phase I draft. Roloson and Drake Usher went in the Phase II portion.
Three players went in 2016, including NHL draft prospect Slava Demin (Phase I) and Rory Herrman and Brett Pickler in Phase II, while a trio of players went in Phase II in 2015, one day after Haar was picked – Justin Dixson, Jack Gates and Chad Sasaki.
Gates played every game as a freshman at Colorado College this past season, while Demin is a Denver commit and Sasaki is a Colorado College commit.