NAHL Showcase sets new standard of excellence
September 27, 2018
Virtually every Showcase game was filled to capacity with scouts and fans.
The 16th annual NAHL Showcase once again delivered on its moniker… it was the Greatest Show on Ice.
In total, over 360 scouts, coaches, and evaluators were in attendance during the annual event. It once again broke a record and set a new standard for the league that seems to be making it a tradition to keep topping itself.
The numbers from the event were eye-popping. It included 66 NHL scouts, including 30 of the 31 teams sending at least one representative, and also included 159 NCAA Division I and III scouts and coaches.
In addition, 100 coaches and scouts from NAHL and USHL teams were in attendance evaluating the impressive competition and prospects playing in the NAPHL.
The record-breaking 331 NCAA commitments this past season and 1,345 NCAA commitments in the last five years are in direct correlation with the increased attendance of scouts at NAHL events, in particular, the NAHL Showcase. Not only did teams and players put on a great show during the five-day event, but the NAHL set a new standard and record for attendance, particularly attendance by the scouts.
“The Showcase is the Super Bowl of hockey events. It brings everyone together under one roof to celebrate our sport and we know of no other event like this that brings together this many these kind of scouts and coaches at the same location and same time. You are seeing almost every NHL and NCAA Division I team here. It is a great way to get our players started on the right track, so that scouts can make an evaluation now and then follow a player’s progression throughout the season,” said NAHL Commissioner and President Mark Frankenfeld.
The NCAA Division I commitments have already started for NAHL players and the NAHL Showcase plays a big role in that success. Currently there are 72 NAHL players committed to NCAA Division I schools in 2018-19 and dozens more will earn an NCAA Division I opportunity in the coming weeks following their participation in this year’s event.
“The math tells us that the majority of players that play in the NAHL are now ending up with an NCAA opportunity, with 70% being an NCAA Division I opportunity. It starts with a serious commitment by our owners, who all take a big risk to provide the best opportunity possible. It continues with some of the best coaches in the country who then try and identify and develop the best players. Ultimately though, it falls to the players. Their job now is to train, work hard on and off the ice, and grow as men so they can get to the point of being ready to play in the NCAA,” continued Frankenfeld.
Perhaps those that can testify the most as to the NAHL’s growth and success when it comes to NCAA commitments is current NCAA Division I coaches themselves, all who used to be involved in the NAHL at some point.
Northern Michigan University Associate Head Coach Byron Pool was formerly a head coach in the NAHL for two seasons for Bismarck Bobcats, leading them to the 2008-09 Central Division Title in his first campaign behind the bench, and later winning the NAHL’s Robertson Cup National Championship during the 2009-10 season.
“The level of play has undergone a big change and improvement. There has been a shift to include some younger talent on the rosters and those kids are showing they are ready to play at the junior level and beyond,” said Pool. “I think the other thing that stands out is the professionalism of the NAHL and the way that the league is operated. I think Mark and his staff do an incredible job and the owners of the teams have made a serious commitment to put out a good product. Lastly, I think the coaches all have very good credentials and are an asset to the league. They are prepared, knowledgeable, and have the player’s best interest in mind.”
Another NCAA Division I coach who is familiar with the NAHL is current Minnesota State-Mankato Associate Head Coach Todd Knott. Knott spent a pair of seasons (one as an assistant coach, one as head coach) with the Fargo-Moorhead Jets in the NAHL. Under his guidance, the Jets earned a NAHL regular-season title with a 36-17-3 record, a West Division playoff championship and a runner-up finish at the Robertson Cup in 2004-05.
“I think the amount of scouts at this event is crazy. There is literally something for everyone at the NAHL Showcase and our program has had a lot of success with NAHL players. I think adding the dynamic of being able to see younger players in addition to the older players, has really added a nice element to the event. It is a very unique and great event for everyone, but most importantly, for the players,” said Knott. “The NAHL gave me my start and an opportunity. You learn how to do everything as a coach in the NAHL… recruit, scout, on-ice systems, strategy, equipment, host families, community appearances, managing a staff, and so on. It really prepares you for the next level.”
Brown University Assistant Coach Jason Guerriero has not only has been scouting the NAHL for years as an NCAA coach, but he understands the dynamic of being a player in the league. He played in the NAHL for two seasons and during the 2000-01 campaign, was voted the league’s Most Valuable Player.
“An event like the NAHL Showcase is definitely one that is a separating factor for the players. Starting the season like this in front of the hundreds of scouts is an incredible opportunity for the players to showcase themselves,” said Guerriero. “The NAHL Showcase is one of the best events in North America and one we have to be at every year. I think we are focused on the more immediate need with NAHL players. Ultimately, I think to myself ‘would I want that guy on my line?’ or ‘Is that a guy we can rely on to make the big save or block a shot?’ We are looking for guys that compete hard, can skate, and are good academically, and you find a lot of that in the NAHL.”
NAHL events like the Showcase are now the gold standard for evaluating hockey’s best prospects. “Our mission is to raise the bar each season. We truly enjoy what we do and who we have become, as we continue to provide more places for players to play, coaches to coach and officials to officiate than any hockey property of our kind, which truly defines the NAHL as the League of Opportunity. We are off to another great start and this should be another memorable season of player commitments and advancement,” concluded Frankenfeld.