Little did they know back then they’d not only become close friends, but also head to Michigan together just a few years later to represent their country competing with and against some of the world’s best junior-aged players.
Earlier this month, Hreschuk and Murchison - both of whom skated for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings’ state champion 16U AAA team this past season - were selected to join USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (NTDP) and will compete on the U.S. National Under-17 Team in 2019-20.
The 2003-born defensemen are beyond excited for the opportunity.
“It was unbelievable to be offered a spot on the team,” said Murchison. “It means everything to wear a USA jersey; not everyone gets the honor.”
“Being offered a spot was an amazing experience,” Hreschuk added. “Joining the program has been a goal of mine for a while now and I’m excited to wear the USA jersey for the next two years with some of the best players in the country.”
Located in Plymouth, Mich., the NTDP is a two-year residency program for high-performance players.
The Under-17 Team plays in the United States Hockey League, the only Tier I junior league in the United States, as well as against select competition in the North American Hockey League and Minnesota Elite League.
It’ll also compete in three international tournaments next season, including the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, 2020 Four Nations Tournament and 2020 Five Nations Tournament.
Countless players who’ve come through the program have gone on to play NCAA Division I hockey and professionally - many in the NHL (Los Angeles Kings defenseman Derek Forbort and goaltender Jack Campbell both played for the NTDP).
“As a staff, we’re thrilled about the bright, young talent we have on our roster,” said Kevin Reiter, director of player personnel for USA Hockey’s NTDP. “We’re confident they’ll contribute to the long history of success the National Team Development Program has had and are excited to see what they can accomplish this upcoming season.”
James Gasseau, a coach within the Jr. Kings organization who was instrumental architecting the program’s 03 birth-year group into a national powerhouse, believes both Hreschuk and Murchison have bright futures ahead of them.
“I noticed Aidan’s hockey sense right away,” said Gasseau, who first saw Hreschuk on the ice as an 8-year-old before meeting his parents, David and Theresa. “He was playing defense and doing well for a young kid.
“Over the years with our group, I noticed how competitive he became. He also matured and was very eager to learn and could elevate his game when the pressure was on.
“He could log a ton of ice time when the game was important because he wanted to win so badly. He was able to handle the workload, knew how to manage his energy and was aware of the clock. I knew early on he’d be a strong prospect at the 03 level.”
Gasseau first encountered Murchison and his parents, Ken and Allyson, at a roller hockey tournament.
“We were playing against each other,” said Gasseau. “He’s a very good roller hockey player, and he ended up getting on the ice with our group and enjoyed it.
“He adjusted to ice hockey very well. Ken and I had good discussions about getting Ty on the ice because he was a natural talent and the last few seasons he’s proved it.
“He’s solid defensively and can contribute offensively. He’s calm with the puck and has good feet, too. He’s hard to play against.”
Hreschuk and Murchison - also key components of the Jr. Kings’ 14U AAA group that advanced to the USA Hockey National Championships in 2017-18 - are quick to credit the program and a handful of its coaches, including Gasseau, Jeff Turcotte and Glen Murray, for their growth and maturation both as a player and person, on and off the ice.
“Our 03 group experienced a lot of success over the years and helped me get exposure by going to the best tournaments and showcases,” said Hreschuk, who’s already announced his commitment to attend and play his NCAA Division I hockey at Boston College following his junior career. “The entire organization has been supportive of me throughout my seven years with the club.”
“This program has provided me with great teammates who’ll be lifelong friends,” Murchison added. “Our team has received great exposure over the years and that’s helped my teammates and I have great success even though we live in a non-traditional hockey area.”
Five former Jr. Kings have played for the National Team Development Program: forwards Robbie Earl (2001-03), Brett Sterling (2000-02) and Nolan Stevens (2012-14) and goaltender Thatcher Demko (2012-13). Forward Cole Guttman played three games for the program during the 2015-16 season.
Hreschuk and Murchison are honored to add to that prestigious list of Jr. Kings alums - and do it together.
“We’re close and have had a lot of success together,” Hreschuk said of Murchison. “I’m very excited to be able to play with him the next two years.”
“Aidan and I have been best friends ever since I joined the team,” Murchison added. “Whether it’s been ice or roller hockey, we’ve always pushed each other to be the best we can be. Every jersey I’ve worn, he’s been right there next to me and to wear the most important jersey with him is a dream come true.”