Storm’s career takes off just in time

CALUMET – In a matter of months, Ben Storm’s hockey career took flight, and now he’s in rare air.

The Laurium native parlayed a strong second half of the season for the United States Hockey League Muskegon Lumberjacks into selection in the 2013 National Hockey League draft by the Colorado Avalanche.

“It took a while for it to sink it. It was a pretty exciting time when I first found out. I didn’t really know what to think …” Storm said. “When I went to bed that night, I was thinking about it. It’s an amazing feeling.”

As recently as last December, Storm did not have a guaranteed place in the Lumberjack lineup, had a minus rating as late as January and had yet to score a goal for the United States Hockey League outfit.

The breakthroughs came fast and furious.

Storm notched seven points in a 12-game stretch beginning in mid-January, including his first goal, the game-winner in a 3-1 win at Chicago Feb. 8.

Even more importantly, he was invited to the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, played in his home rink in Muskegon on Jan. 23. Storm had an assist in the game, which he said was a turning point.

“It kind of boosted my confidence, too. That was the midpoint of the season where I was in and out of the lineup and that point on, I felt like I had a tremendous amount of confidence.”

Storm’s playing time picked up and he added a second goal as part of a Gordie Howe hat trick (goal, assist and a fighting major) in the regular season finale.

According to an article on Storm in the St. Cloud (Minn.) Times, Storm said he’d talked to at least six NHL teams before the draft, but not the Avalanche.

On draft day, Storm decided to defuse the uncertainty of his fate by heading out to a golf course in the St. Cloud area, where he found out he’d been taken in the sixth round, 153rd overall by the Avs.

“I was kind of nervous. I didn’t really want to talk to anyone about it. I was kind of skeptical if I would be drafted or not,” he said. “I knew that there was some interest from some NHL teams. I wasn’t surprised that I was picked up. I knew I had a chance. Colorado’s a great organization with a lot of rich history. I was more than happy to get drafted by them, and it was awesome.”

Only eight local players have been selected since 1968, though this is the second year in a row a Calumet High School alum was picked after Ben Johnson went in the third round to the New Jersey Devils last year.

“It just goes to show the kind of talent they have in Calumet and the coaching. Jim Crawford and Glenn Patrick were tremendous coaches for me and they taught me a lot and I’m sure that goes for the others too,” Storm said.

Of course, between now and any professional debut, Storm has a lot of work to do at St. Cloud State, where he will enroll in the fall. The Huskies program reached the Frozen Four for the first time in 2013 and produced a Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner in Drew LeBlanc.

Storm said both he and coach Bob Motzko’s staff believe he’s ready to take his game to the collegiate level.

“They’re all real good guys, they’re all hard-working and they have a lot of skill. Where they finished up last year is just incredible and we have the same chance and same opportunity to maybe even go farther this year with a national championship,” he said.

Hard to believe for a player who stands 6-foot-6 without skates, but one of the areas Storm identified as an improvement area was getting bigger. Storm estimated he played a little over 200 pounds in Calumet, and is 220-plus now.

“If I can get stronger and put on some weight, work on my quickness, work on my speed, I think I’ll be all right,” he said.

The bright lights remain far off in the distance, but Storm found a road in front of him Sunday night and is ready to start moving forward.

“It was very challenging and now looking back at it, I’m glad I went through it and it was a learning experience. It’s just proof if you work hard, anything’s possible.”