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Plenty’s in Storr for Kings

Sam McMaster took charge. The sociable new general manager of the Kings rose to make the introductions Tuesday, in a room occupied by Joe Cohen, Bruce McNall, Barry Melrose, Rogie Vachon, most of L.A.'s boys of winter.

There were several young hockey prospects in their midst, the future of the team. Among them: Jamie Storr, 18, the goaltender of tomorrow, drafted higher than any goalie in the NHL’s last 11 years.

Becoming McMaster of ceremonies, the GM asked: “Anybody know who was taken higher?”

No takers at first.

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Like a smart kid in class, McNall said: “I do! I do!”

“Who?”

“Tom Barrasso.”

Headmaster McMaster now turned to ask, “Jamie, did you know that?”

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Like a shy kid in class, Storr merely nodded.

Cohen, standing in a corner, smiled with satisfaction and said: “Yeah. He knew that.”

This is the new King family tree. Cohen, the new (with Jeffrey Sudikoff) majority co-owner. McMaster, the new decision maker. And the kids, top draft choices Storr and left winger Matt Johnson, a couple of teen-agers, Johnson already 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds.

Heck with World Cup; time to start talking Stanley Cup.

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Camp opens on Labor Day. The kids still have to sign up. Then the coaches have to evaluate whether the kids are already ready for the big-time. They’re only 18. Is it conceivable Storr could replace Kelly Hrudey or Robb Stauber right now? Could it be Johnson is one of those muscular boys Melrose has been seeking everywhere but Venice Beach? Is McMaster the man to bring the Kings the rings?

In other words:

If the New York Rangers can do it, good Lord, can’t we?

McMaster’s first mission was the draft. He said the player he wanted most was Storr. He said he had known Jamie since Jamie was 14. He saw the kid from Brampton, Canada, tending goal in a junior game and imagined what he would be like after puberty. He said, “You don’t have goalies like him come along that often.”

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One problem:

Poor as they were last season, the Kings had only the seventh pick of the first round June 28 at Hartford. And no way Storr would last that long. He would go, oh, fifth, as Barrasso, John Davidson and Ray Mariniuk had. Or even fourth, because Edmonton scouts were drooling. Oiler director of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast had said, “He’s a pressure player, destined to be an outstanding pro.”

McMaster made provisions. If he couldn’t have Storr, he would take Brett Lindros, little brother of Eric.

One problem:

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Lindros wanted no part of Los Angeles. Brett’s dad got on the phone to McMaster and said, “There’s a rumor you might take our son.”

“That’s no rumor,” McMaster says he told Carl Lindros. “That’s a fact.”

Lindros said his son would not report.

“I said, ‘That’s too bad,’ ” McMaster recalls.

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The way the King GM understands it, the Lindros family wants nothing to do with Wayne Gretzky. McMaster says, “They’re under the impression that Wayne bad-mouthed Eric. Wayne has no idea where they got that.”

As the draft loomed, Edmonton abruptly determined that Bill Ranford had good years left in goal. Officials from the Washington Capitals began pestering McMaster to trade down, because they wanted Storr. But so did the Kings, who now had a shot.

“If Jamie was gone, I’d probably have gone for Lindros,” McMaster says, chuckling. “But only to trade. I don’t even know if he would have come up to the podium. I could have been standing there with Lindros’ name on a sweater and a stupid look on my face.

“I don’t know about you, but I want a kid playing for me who thinks being drafted is one of the greatest days of his life.”

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McMaster got his man. Made his day, he says.

“I really believe that the L.A. Kings are secure in goal for many years now,” McMaster said. “The future is solidified. I think Stauber has to jump up right now to be No. 1, if he’s ever going to be, because it’s time. Because this kid isn’t going to take long.

“It’s his composure everyone notices about Jamie, first thing. He defies you to score. He’s a stand-up goalie who moves like a Ranford, like a (Kirk) McLean. He doesn’t give you any space to score. He just shuts it off, period.”

Storr took a stroll into the Forum rink Tuesday, to check out what could become his new home office.

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“Feels perfect,” he said, smoothing his hand across the crossbar, sliding his street shoe along the crease.

His father had been a goalie, one who, at 31, after playing for an industrial team, enrolled in an academy for would-be goaltenders and stood beside 8-year-olds. Jim Storr quit his job and spent $10,000 on lessons, equipment, even a puck-shooting machine. In 1979, he let the Maple Leafs use him for target practice. It was wrongly reported as a tryout. Jim lets them be wrong, enjoys it.

Jamie Storr gestures toward center ice at the Forum.

“When I was 11, I was having trouble skating from here to there,” he says. “So people said I should stick to being a goalie. I got called sluggish and even lazy. Then they found out I had an iron deficiency. Soon as we corrected that, I never had another problem. But I found I liked being a goalie more than anything else.”

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Can an 18-year-old be goalie for the Kings?

“Hey,” Storr says, “I wouldn’t have hired a personal trainer this summer if I wasn’t serious. This is where I want to be.”

Good answer.

Go to the head of the class.

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