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Prospect Storm Helps Bolster St. Cloud's Defense

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

It was a day of possibilities for Ben Storm, but he did all he could to not think about potentially being selected in the NHL Draft.

Instead of traveling to New Jersey to attend the 2013 draft or watch it on television for hours with no guarantee his name would be called, Storm decided to hit up a local golf course to help him avoid thinking about the league's annual amateur selection event.

Ben Storm

"I knew I had a chance to get drafted, and I kind of wanted to keep my mind off of it all day," Storm said. "I went golfing with a couple of buddies that day, [to] try and keep my mind off it."

Several hours into the draft and in the sixth round the Colorado Avalanche used its 153rd pick on Storm. Despite being over 1,000 miles away, it didn't take long for Storm to hear the news.

"I got done with my round, and I started to get text messages and calls from all my friends and family," Storm said. "I had no idea until I looked at the TV and saw my name on there. I was pretty pumped."

Prior to the draft Storm had already made a commitment to play college hockey with the St. Cloud State University Huskies for the 2013-14 campaign. In fact, he was already in St. Cloud, Minn., participating in offseason workouts when draft day came on June 30.

The first thing that stands out about Storm, a defenseman, is his size. At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, he is the tallest player on his SCSU squad and is tied for the tallest in the Avalanche organization with Patrick Bordeleau.

When it comes to big hockey players, especially big defensemen, skating ability can sometimes be a bit of a concern. Storm said his skating is an area of his game that he has been specifically working on, doing lateral and footwork drills to help improve it.

"As a big guy, I need to continue to work on my skating," Storm said Jan. 11 after his team lost 5-2 at the University of Denver to close out a weekend series in the Avalanche's backyard.

Storm's skating is something he will continue to work on, but his coaches said they were happy with his progression midway through his freshman season.

"His skating, for his size, is very good," St. Cloud State assistant coach Garrett Raboin said. "He just has to use his quickness to get to the corner, and that's where the confrontation happens and he can use his body."

The 19 year old is more of a defensive defenseman and likely won't be counted on to score a lot of points in his hockey career. He had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) with Muskegon of the USHL in 2012-13 and only had one assist through 30 games this season with the Huskies. Yet, he did have a respectable minus-6 rating and only 14 penalty minutes in his first college season.

"My role is to be a good penalty killer, play good solid defense, play offense when I can," Storm said, "but most importantly play good defense and keep the puck out of our net."

Storm helped St. Cloud State to a 21-10-5 record this season and the inaugural National Collegiate Hockey Conference regular-season title. However, SCSU stumbled in the playoffs as it lost to Miami (OH) in the first round of the NCHC Tournament.

The Huskies still qualified for an at-large bid to the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament as a No. 3 seed in the West Regional and will begin the national tournament Saturday against No. 2 seed Notre Dame (7 p.m. MT, ESPNU). Despite the lower seed, St. Cloud State may have home-ice advantage with the game being played at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., just 74 miles from the school's campus.

If SCSU can defeat Notre Dame and then pick up a win against either No. 1 overall Minnesota or No. 4 seed Robert Morris in the regional final on Sunday, the Huskies would advance to the Frozen Four in Philadelphia from April 10-12. The Huskies made their first appearance in the national semifinals last year.

The addition of Storm this season has helped head coach Bob Motzko bolster his back end, and Storm's ability to make good passes out of his zone and play smart physically has aided SCSU to its 10th appearance at nationals.

"He has real good hands, and he's got athletic ability. We want him to make some plays with the puck," Motzko said of Storm in January. "We're not going to ask him to throw bombs down the rink, but he can make A-to-B (passes), breaking the puck out, getting us into transition, and he has showed us that. We want him to develop a really solid transition game with the puck, and he has to become a real physical, imposing defensive player because of his size. He needs to get some nastiness to his game, and those are the two main areas we are going to focus with him."

Ben Storm while with the Muskegon Lumberjacks during the 2012-13 season (Credit: USHL).

Rick Pracey, the Avalanche's director of amateur scouting, said after the team selected the big-body defenseman that Storm was a work in progress and that he expected him to play four years of college hockey.

"In conversations with Joe [Sakic] and Patrick [Roy], to get some of these players at the National Hockey League you have to take some chances at the draft day, and this was one of those situations," Pracey said of Storm during a July 1, 2013 news conference at Pepsi Center. "There’s a development curve here as well. We have a four-year time period at the NCAA level… There will be a time component with this player, but we’re curious to see where he goes and size was the major draw.”

Storm has faced the typical ups and downs of a freshman hockey player as he adjusted to the college game this season. After playing at Calumet High School in Michigan and only one season in U.S. junior before coming to St. Cloud, Storm said he knows it is a process to have success at the NCAA level.

"There has been some bumps on the road, but I feel that I'm getting better every day," Storm said. "Each week I try and get better."

This week, he'll try and help his team to two wins and a trip back to college hockey's final four.

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