Just over three months into the 2011-12 PHL season and the desire for PHL players at the next level is already in full effect. Thanks in large part to their performances through the first three PHL events of the season, many players have begun taking the next step in their hockey careers.
To date, several PHL players have had the opportunity to play in North American Hockey League (NAHL) or United States Hockey League (USHL) games, earning valuable experience and learning what life is like in junior hockey.
It also has been a busy season so far for NAHL tenders. To date, 17 PHL players have signed tenders to play next season in the NAHL just three months into the season. With six months remaining for NAHL teams to sign tenders, that number is on pace to break the record set last season of 52 tenders. In the brief two and half year existence of the league, PHL players have signed a total combined number of 110 tenders to play in the NAHL.
The NAHL tender list is led by five players from the Pikes Peak Miners 18U team and four players from the Phoenix Firebirds 18U team.
The Firebirds tender list is led by Hector Majul, who is the most recent Pointstreak Peak Performer from the PHL 18U event earlier this month in Darien, Illinois. Majul signed a tender with the NAHL’s Texas Tornado as did teammate John Carkeek. Firebirds forward and leading scorer Thomas Kaddatz inked with the NAHL’s Alaska Avalanche and teammate Harry Hardarson signed with the Wichita Falls Wildcats.
“We have had success before with players from Arizona and consider it place where you can get quality players to come to play in the NAHL,” said Texas Tornado head coach Tony Curtale. “I think you are seeing that all across the PHL is that players don’t have to be from traditional hockey hot-beds to be considered a prospect. I think we as coaches and scouts would be selling ourselves short if we didn’t consider the entire spectrum of players the PHL has to offer.”
“It is an incredible opportunity for all these players and well-deserved,” said Phoenix head coach Todd Collins. “The three forwards (Majul, Kaddatz and Hardarson) all play on the same line and all those guys really stepped their game up in Darien. It is a reminder to everyone that the process is working and these events are a great opportunity for players in this league to really showcase their skills.”
The Pikes Peak Miners hockey program is prospering and flourishing - particularly during their time in the PHL. So far, four of their players from their 18U teams have signed tenders to play in the NAHL, including forward Colin Staub, who was not only tendered by the NAHL’s Wichita Falls Wildcats, but has appeared in four games this season with the club. The others include: Jake Townsend-defenseman-Wichita Falls Wildcats, Josh Haverstrom-forward-Topeka RoadRunners, Alec Butcher-forward-Kenai River Brown Bears and the latest Kirk Van Arkel-forward-Topeka RoadRunners.
Based out of Colorado Springs, Colorado, the Miners have become one of the best developmental organizations in the state and in the region. “There are four major organizations for youth hockey in the state and every year it seems to get closer and closer,” said Staub. “We know that whoever wins the state is going to be one of the favorites when it comes to districts and Nationals and makes you feel good about developing on a team like the Miners in the PHL.”
The Pittsburgh Viper Stars come into the PHL event in Dallas atop the standings in the PHL’s 18U Division. So it is no wonder that three of their players have signed tenders to play in the NAHL.
Heinz Koster, who currently the leading scorer in the PHL 18U league play with 22 points (11 goals and 11 assists), has signed a tender with the Aberdeen Wings of the NAHL. Jake Pilewicz, a 6’3/190 lbs. defenseman, who has scored 25 points in 39 games (9 goals and 16 assists) for the 18U Viper Stars so far this season, has signed a tender sheet with the Minot Minotauros of the NAHL for next season.
Finally, there is Viper Stars forward Bob Tritschler, who was named as the 18U Pointstreak Peak Performer earlier this season from the event held in San Jose, California. Tritschler, a forward from Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, has signed a tender with the NAHL’s Jamestown Ironmen.
“I think for all these players, it is about chasing a dream, which is playing hockey,” said Viper Stars head coach Dave Kosick. “I think all the players on our team understand why they are here and why they are doing this. I think it motivates guys to see their teammates signing tenders and making that next step a reality.”
The 18U division isn’t the only division in the PHL seeing its players get a shot at the next level. Case in point are the two teammates, Alex Schoenborn and Chris Wilkie from the Omaha AAA Lancers 16U Hockey Club, who both had their opportunity to play for the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League (USHL).
Schoenborn was selected in the 1st round by Lincoln last year (12th overall) in the USHL futures draft. He has played in three regular season games for the Stars, which came following his great start to the season with Omaha, where he has produced 13 goals and 28 assists for 41 points to go along with 118 minutes in penalties in 26 games overall. In the PHL this year, he has 6 goals and 5 assists in 9 league contests.
Wilkie played in one game with Lincoln this year and has produced 22 goals and 36 assists for 58 points to go along with 24 minutes in penalties in 26 games overall so far this season. In the PHL this year he has five goals and nine assists for 14 points in nine league contests. He leads his team in scoring this season in PHL contests.
Now in year three, the PHL and its student-athletes continue down a pathway of success. The evidence is clear, the exposure is real and the development continues. Not only are players from the PHL able to make it to the next level, but they are making an impact and succeeding. At just the midway point of the 2011-12 hockey season, who will be the next one to shine here in Dallas and seize the opportunity to move onto the next level. It is why we as fans watch and wonder, who will be next?