NAHL Prep league gaining momentum
February 6, 2018
Starting next season, high school, prep and academy teams across North America will get a chance to compete in a brand-new league, and many academies and prep schools are hopeful that their teams will be accepted into the prestigious league.
Earlier this season, the North American Hockey League announced the formation of the NAHL Prep league for the 2018-19 season. The league will be a premier training ground for the development and exposure of high school, prep and academy teams, targeting teams that are looking for a competition and recruiting platform to advance their players and programs.
NAHL Prep teams will compete in three high-profile showcases strategically timed to maximize scouting exposure and minimize days missed from school. Each event will also be in cooperation and partnership with events that feature teams from other leagues under the NAHL umbrella.
Tony Zasowski, the director of player personnel for the NAHL and the director of the North American Prospects Hockey League, will oversee the new prep league, and is thrilled to be filling a need for high-level hockey at a critical age level.
“As the ‘league of opportunity,’ we were approached by prep schools and academies looking for a place to play competitive games with increased exposure, and we felt the we could meet their needs,” Zasowski said. “The response since our launch has been very good and there is a lot of conversation regarding the NAHL Prep. We have had some great success and feedback from high school, prep and academy teams who have participated in our Future Prospects Tournaments, so it was obvious to us that providing a full-time league with all the valuable benefits associated with it was a necessity.”
Zasowski was a founding member of the NAPHL in 2009, and as the head coach and general manager of the NAHL’s Springfield Jr. Blues the last five seasons, he has placed more than 40 players with college hockey programs. He previously coached the San Jose Jr. Sharks’ 18U and 16U teams in the NAPHL, and played at the University of Notre Dame and in the ECHL before moving into coaching.
One the programs that has shown an interest is Tahoe Academy in California. Mike Lewis, the head coach of Tahoe’s prep team, said that Tahoe Hockey Academy hopes to be selected to play in the league because the competitive level and the exposure for the academy’s players will be second to none.
“The NAHL has set the bar in providing a systematic approach to getting players exposed and recruited to junior hockey,” Lewis said. “With the addition of the NAHL Prep league, you’ll see an even greater level of players being showcased throughout the NAHL scouting events. Tahoe Hockey Academy is excited for the opportunity to be a part of the inaugural season.”
Added Tahoe Hockey Academy varsity head coach Leo Fenn: “We’re really excited about the possibility of finding a great home for our prep team to play against some of the best competition out there. We’re extremely grateful for the opportunity.”
Zasowski said he has already been approached by more than 20 programs about participating in the league’s inaugural season. While he hasn’t determined the number of teams that will make up the league, he plans to start with a good core that will ensure the quality of play and a high competitive level.
“The league is a great avenue for high school teams from all over the country, as it gives them three events with roughly 12 games against some terrific competition,” he said.