KEARNEY, Neb. – With the regular season behind them, the Tri-City Storm have been busy preparing for 2014-15 and will help shape their team when they make selections in the 2014 USHL Draft on May 5-6.
The two-part draft starts with Phase 1 on Monday, beginning at 5 p.m. Phase 1 consists of eight rounds as USHL teams will select players born in 1998.
This portion of the draft allows teams to choose players who are traditionally not ready to play in the USHL the following season, but will continue to develop at lower levels of hockey in preparation for USHL play in future seasons. Based on last season’s final standings, Tri-City will have the third overall pick in the Phase 1 Draft.
Storm assistant coach JB Bittner has been hard at work, scouting, recruiting and evaluating potential draftees that will impact the team for years to come.
“You have try and project where a player’s going to be in 2-3 years and sometimes that’s hard to do,” Bittner said. “I would say the first two rounds are kids that almost every team has high on their list. After that you start getting into other projections and things are less certain. You try and do your homework, and take kids that are going to put in the work to end up in this league.”
Phase 1 will be broadcast live with the USHL Draft Show on USHL.com and FASTHockey, the USHL’s exclusive video network. The voice of the Storm, Jared Shafran, will be contributing to the coverage during the broadcast.
Last season, the Storm used their first round selection to tender defenseman Tory Dello. The Notre Dame commit, who was born in Crete, Neb., appeared in 46 games during his first USHL season, scoring two goals and five assists.
After Phase 1 is completed, the draft continues with Phase 2 the following morning, beginning at 8 a.m. In this phase, USHL teams will select players from multiple birth years who will compete for roster spots for the 2014-15 season.
Phase 2 continues until all USHL teams have 45 players on their Initial Protected List, which is made up of affiliate players from the 2013-14 season and players selected on Monday in Phase 1.
The Storm have one pick in the first round and three selections in the second round during the Phase 2 Draft. Bittner said he is expecting these players to make a big impact right away.
“With our top four picks, we plan on taking four kids that are going to come and play for our team next year,” Bittner said. “We want to have the right character kids. In those top four picks we’re looking for kids that compete and come to work every day, want to get better, show some passion for the game and live the game. They’ll want to be a part of hockey, they’re rink rats, and they hang around the ice and the gym all the time. We want hockey players that want to be here and want to spend hours at the rink getting better.”
A year ago, Tri-City selected forward Chris Wilkie with the second overall pick in Phase 2. In his first season with the Storm, Wilkie led the team with 36 points on 17 goals and 19 assists in 57 games.
In addition to these draft picks, the Storm have 19 players from the 2013-14 roster that will be eligible to try out for next season’s team.
“We want to get kids that are going to come in and be impact players that the fans here in Kearney are going to enjoy watching play,” Bittner said. “We weren’t happy with what happened last year and the way the season went. We want to put a winning team on the ice.”