J.J Layton loves seeing his teammates from the 2009 Peabody West team that made an unforgettable run to the Little League World Series making their presence felt on high school diamonds all over the state.
As for Layton, he’s always felt most comfortable wearing two skates on a sheet of ice. Like his Peabody West compatriots, he’s evolving into one of the top players in his chosen game.
The latest step in Layton’s hockey development was a selection in “Phase 2” of the United States Hockey League draft last week. The 16-year-old freshman at Austin Prep was nabbed by the Omaha Lancers with the 382nd pick.
“It’s a big stepping stone for me,” said Layton, a defenseman. “I went to a combine for the league last weekend and their coach told me he liked the way I played. I was a little nervous as the draft went on, but I’m pretty happy.”
Layton was one of 11 players with ties to the North Shore selected. The USHL is a junior league based in the Midwest that essentially acts as a feeder system for college hockey. It allows players to compete at a high level while, unlike in Canadian Major Junior hockey, retaining their NCAA eligibility. For example, Will O’Neill of Salem and one-time St. John’s Prep standout John McCarthy each played in the USHL after high school before playing in Hockey East.
At Layton’s age, his plans are to stick with Austin Prep for the forseeable future. It’s great news, and a sign of his stock in the hockey world, to be considered for the future, however.
“I’ll go to their training camp in June and see what I can learn, how I can compete,” Layton said. “It’s really one step at a time and see how things pan out. I’ve been in touch with a few colleges, and one of the coaches recommended the USHL combine. It’s a better stepping stone to get ready for college after high school.”