It was a banner day at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft for alumni of the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL), as three former players who played and were trained in the NAPHL were drafted by NHL teams.
Entering its fifth season in 2013-14, the NAPHL has established itself as the premiere training ground for development and exposure. Since the formation of the NAPHL four years ago, 210 NAPHL players had played in the NAHL and over three dozen NAPHL players have moved onto NCAA Division I programs. That is in addition to the three alumni who were drafted into the NHL on Sunday.
“This is a great day for the NAPHL and shows just how far we have come as a league in just four short years,” said NAPHL Director Denny Scanlon. “In addition to the hundreds of NAPHL players that have moved on the next levels of hockey including the NAHL and NCAA, to have three former players drafted in the same NHL Draft speaks volumes to the level of play in the NAPHL and the kind of exposure our players are receiving during the annual events.”
The highest former NAPHL player drafted was forward Zach Pochiro, who played in the NAPHL for the Nevada Stars 16U team during the 2009-10 season. Pochiro was selected in the 4th round (#112 overall) by the St. Louis Blues.
Pochiro spent last season playing major junior hockey with the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League (WHL). During the 2011-12 season, Pochiro played for the Wichita Falls Wildcats in the NAHL, where he led the team in scoring as a 17-year-old with 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists) in 52 games played.
During the 2009-10 season with the Nevada Stars, Pochiro was second in team scoring with 29 points (18 goals, 11 assists) in 20 games played. Pochiro also added seven points in five playoff games during the 2010 NAPHL Championship series.
“Zach has a lot of determination, ruggedness and is a grity player,” said Bill Armstrong, Director of Amateur Scouting for the St. Louis Blues. “We are eager to see what he will do at our prospect camp later this summer.”
Just a season ago, defenseman David Drake was helping the Indiana Jr. Ice 16U team to the NAPHL 16U Championship title. On Sunday, the former NAPHL defenseman was drafted in the 7th round of the NHL Draft (#192 overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Drake played in the NAPHL during the entire 2011-12 season for an Indiana Jr. Ice 16U team that finished 2nd in the regular season standings with a 15-3-0 record and then went onto win the 16U title in the 2012 NAPHL Championship series. Drake recorded five points in 18 games played during the regular season, but amped up his game during the playoffs as he had four points in five games to lead all defensemen on the team.
Drake went onto play a portion of the 2012-13 season for the Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL. “This is the beginning of a childhood dream come true,” said Drake. “Thank you to everyone for the support and words.”
Lastly, Miles Liberati, a former member of the Pittsburgh Viper Stars 16U team, was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the 7th round (#205 overall) of the NHL Draft. Liberati played for the Viper Stars in the NAPHL during the 2010-11 season.
“I am extremely excited that Miles was selected in the NHL draft,” said Viper Stars 16U head coach Yuri Krivokhija, himself a former draft choice of the Montreal Canadians. “He has worked hard and earned this opportunity and Miles is as determined and focused to succeed as anyone I have ever coached.”
A 6'0”, 195 lbs., defenseman, from Cheswick, Pennsylvania, Liberati, skated for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) during the 2012-13 season. He was selected by the Knights in the third round of the 2011 OHL Entry Draft, following his midget minor season with the Viper Stars.
This past season, his first in the OHL, Liberati scored 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) in 42 games for the Knights, helping them to a 50-13-2-3 record and 105 points, first place in the OHL’s Midwest Division, the top overall OHL regular season record, OHL Playoff Championship and a spot in the 2013 Memorial Cup Championships.