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Stift, 6 graduates selected in USHL Draft

By Brian McDonough, 05/08/18, 3:30PM PDT

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Seven players with ties to the Los Angeles Jr. Kings, including forward Thomas Stift, who played for the program’s Midget 15U AAA team this past season, were selected in this year’s USHL Draft, which was conducted on May 7-8.

Seven players with ties to the Los Angeles Jr. Kings, including forward Thomas Stift, who played for the program’s Midget 15U AAA team this past season, were selected in this year’s United States Hockey League (USHL) Draft, which was conducted on May 7-8.

Stift (pictured) was selected in Phase I of the draft, which was held on Monday and reserved for 2002 birth-year players, by the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in the fourth round (53rd overall).

Stift ranked third in Tier I Elite League scoring in his division in 2017-18 after tallying 25 goals for 35 points in 24 regular-season games for the California Amateur Hockey Association state championship 15U AAA team.

“I don’t think there’s any question Thomas established himself as an impact player this season, and with that caught the attention of a lot of scouts and coaches at the higher levels,” said Jr. Kings 15U AAA head coach Jaro Modry. “He’s a great kid who works hard and puts his team first, and he certainly has the skills and drive needed to elevate his game even further in the coming years.”

In Phase II of the USHL Draft, which took place the next day and was open to all junior-age-eligible players, six former Jr. Kings were selected.

In the second round, the Des Moines Buccaneers picked forward Nathan Burke (1998-born), a St. Cloud State University recruit (18th overall), while the Omaha Lancers landed forward Andre Ghantous (1998) in the third round (35th overall).

The Dubuque Fighting Saints selected defenseman Kaelan Taylor (1999) in the seventh round (105th overall), and forward Cooper Haar (1999) went three picks later, also to Dubuque (108th overall).

Cedar Rapids chose goaltender Garrett Nieto (1998), a Union College recruit, in the 11th round (168th overall), and the Fargo Force selected forward Tomas Urbanec (1999) in the 18th round (290th overall).

The USHL is widely considered North America’s premier junior league when it comes to developing players for NCAA Division I hockey. It has also groomed countless players for the professional ranks, including the NHL.