Previewing the NAPHL: Pursuit of Excellence
September 13, 2014
Over the course of the next two weeks, the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) is proud to feature a new series that will preview each of the 32 teams in the NAPHL for the 2014-15 season. Each day, leading all the way up to the first event of the season at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, MN, the league will feature a different organization and take a look at both their 18U and 16U teams. There will be a review of last season and a look ahead to this season, which will include an interview with each of the team’s head coaches.
Pursuit of Excellence 16U
The Pursuit of Excellence is a hockey academy based out of Kelowna, British Columbia. They joined the NAPHL during the 2011-12 season and have been a great addition to the league. Head coach Ed Zawatsky is starting his third season behind the bench of the 16U team.
Coach Zawatsky has experience coaching at all different levels of youth hockey throughout Canada and has been very pleased with the exposure that the NAPHL has provided for his players over the past few seasons. “Our academy is based around player development and the NAPHL gives our players a chance to compare their development against some of the top players and teams in the United States. We expect to be a hard working group that is competitive in every game we play this season. We look forward to giving our players the experience and exposure that the NAPHL provides us,” said Zawatsky
Their roster is looking to be one of the youngest in the league this season. They have no returning players from last year’s 16U team. Their roster is also entirely made up of 1999 birth year players. Luckily for coach Zawatsky he is familiar with some of the kids on his roster, as they have played for the academy in years past.
“Some of the players that are retuning to the program that will be counted on to have an impact this season are forwards Cayden Kraus, Cassidy Bowes, Alec Zawatsky, Steven Wright, and Bryson Cecconi. On defense we have Oleg Senko and Kaleb Comishin returning to the academy as well,” said Zawatsky.
The Pursuit of Excellence is yet to qualify for the NAPHL gold division playoffs since joining the league, but they are hoping to break that streak this season.
Pursuit of Excellence 18U
Last season was a strong one for the Pursuit of Excellence. They were able to make the NAPHL gold division playoff for the first time since joining the league three seasons ago. They had a NAPHL first team all star in Tyler Benson who was also the first overall pick in the WHL bantam draft by the Vancouver Giants. They also had 1998 birth year forward Zach Andrusiak sign with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL.
This season they are looking to have similar success at the 18U level. They are making a change behind the bench of the 18U team this season. They are bringing in Matt Hughes to lead the team this season. Coach Hughes has experience coaching in many different junior leagues, which should bode well for his team.
He has spent time coaching in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, British Columbia Hockey League, and the North American Hockey League. Glen Naka, Director of Hockey for the Pursuit of Excellence had this to say about Matt Hughes, “We are very happy to have a quality individual like Matt join the POE family. He is a team player with a proven track record of GM and coaching experience at the junior level. Matt’s passion for helping and developing young players fits the Pursuit Academy model of building the 360 degree player.”
Hughes’ team appears to be a very young one this season. The roster includes three 1999 birth year players and five 1998 birth year players. That will make them the youngest team at the 18U level of the NAPHL. Last season they were the youngest team in the NAPHL as well, but that didn’t stop them from having a tremendous season. They are hoping that is the same case this season.