Laguna teen enters the ice age

Athletes from Laguna Beach have excelled in many ways throughout the years, be it on land, sand or in the water in a beach city synonymous with outdoor activity. It might then seem unusual for one to attempt to make a mark in ice hockey.

Tyler Levine has his set his sights on doing just that.

The 13-year-old is in Kent, Ohio, this weekend attending the invite-only Multi District Select Player Development Camp at Kent State University. The camps are coveted events that are important to a player serious in their pursuit of the sport. Top college and Junior League scouts regularly attend Select Camps.

The development camp runs through Sunday.

"The camps give USA Hockey the chance to [identify] the top hockey players in the nation," said Kelly Askew, a former member of the Canadian National Team and professional hockey player who now coaches the sport.

Askew said he is in his third year of coaching Levine. They train at Shoot 2 Score Hockey in San Clemente.

"Being selected to the camps means that Tyler is one of the top prospects at his age level," Askew said. "The camps are a great chance for a player to get noticed by scouts for all levels. College scouts are there and take note of players, and that can lead to a player going on to play at a school on scholarship. It's a great opportunity for him."

Levine was excited for the trip.

"I'm really looking forward to it," said the Thurston Middle School student who will enter the eighth grade in September. "This is a great chance to work alongside other players from around the country, to see how they play the game. I can't wait."

Levine said he began skating at 18 months old and starting playing ice hockey at 4 at a rink in Aliso Viejo. Four years later, Levine was playing travel ice hockey. For the past four years, he has played at the elite Tier 1 AAA level. At that level, he has played in tournaments that have taken him to Chicago, Detroit, Boston, Minnesota and throughout Canada.

"When I was young, I tried different sports," said Levine, who maintains a 3.8 grade-point average. "I liked all the sports I tried and was good at a few of them. Then one day I tried ice hockey. Somehow, I found it and it found me. It just clicked with me. I loved it. It's fast and physical. It's just a really fun sport and I encourage everyone to try it."

Levine, who played right wing this year at the Under-14 Bantam level, scored 22 goals and registered 33 assists. At season's end, he was one of the top 60 AAA level players selected to attend a local Tier 1 Select Camp run by the Southern California Amateur Hockey Assn. He was selected as a top-12 forward at the camp and went on to receive the same honors at the California Select Camp and Pacific District Select Camp in Washington. He learned in May that he had been invited to progress to this weekend's Multi District Select Player Development Camp.

Six districts (Pacific, Atlantic, Mid Am, Southeast, Massachusetts, Michigan) sent players to Ohio.

"He's an intelligent kid who really applies himself in all aspects of ice hockey," Askew said. "He's great from a communications standpoint, too. Factor in that he's got the heart of a lion, and you have a well-rounded player with a lot of potential."

Levine, who attended a Tier 1 AAA tryout in early-June for the 2011-2012 season and was selected by the Los Angeles Jr. Kings Bantam AAA team that plays out of the Toyota Center in L.A., had a gameplan in mind for his trip to Ohio.

"I hope to get 'seen' so that in the future, I can get picked up by a college and play on scholarship," he said. "That's my goal, to go to school. My ultimate goal is to play in the NHL. It's definitely a very high goal to set, but I think with a lot of hard work and dedication, I can reach it."

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