Frisco, TX – The North American Hockey League (NAHL) unveiled a new and exciting event, the 18U Top Prospects Invitational Tournament, this past weekend, May 11 – 13, 2018, which was designed to showcase elite level players for future NAHL, USHL, NCAA and Professional Hockey scouts and five members of the 2017-18 U18 Esmark Stars AAA squad participated.
The Showcase Tournament, which included eight different teams made up of 160 top prospects in the 18U division from around the world, featured teams from the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) East and West, Tier 1 Elite League (East and West), as well as two teams from Minnesota High School Hockey, and team’s representing the Atlantic Youth Hockey League (AYHL), and European stars. Each team consisted of a 20-man roster (12 forwards, 6 defensemen and 2 goalies).
The five Esmark players, defensemen Ethan Webb, Billy Rapone and Blake Rossi, and forwards Andrew Murphy and Nathan Hilzendeger, all skated for the NAPHL East squad.
The Tournament took place at the Fogerty Arena in Blaine, MN, and coincided with the NAHL’s 2018 Roberston Cup Championship, in which the Shreveport Mudbugs claimed their first NAHL crown. Each team played four games during the event, including three round-robin games, followed by consolation and championship games.
The NAPHL East squad finished round-robin play 2-0-0-1, defeating the Minnesota High School Seniors team (6-1) and the Atlantic Youth Hockey League (5-2), before falling to the Tier 1 Elite League West squad 3-2 in overtime. The loss relegated the NAPHL East squad to third place and a consolation game against the Minnesota HP 18U squad, were they lost in a overtime shootout (4-3).
During the event, all five Stars players made there way onto the score sheet, led by Murphy (3 goals, 1 assist) and Rossi (1 goal, 3 assists) who each recorded four points. In addition, Rapone recorded 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists), and Hilzendeger (1 goal, 1 assist) and Webb (2 assists) two points each.
“This was an awesome opportunity for elite level players to continue to showcase their skills and talent to high-end scouts looking to fill our rosters for next season and beyond,” offered Stars U18 head coach Dave Kosick. “And our five Esmark guys grabbed that opportunity and had a fantastic showing.”
The five players from Esmark represented the single largest block of players from a single organization in the tournament field.
“This event was designed to expand our horizons and partner with a variety of leagues while providing some incredible exposure for top flight players and have them play in front of a large number of scouts and coaches, including the NAHL, who attended this event,” said NAHL Director of Player Personnel and NAPHL Director Tony Zasowski
Over the past two seasons, the NAHL has hosted the Robertson Cup National Championship in the state of Minnesota (2016-Edina, 2017-Duluth). Doing so has not only brought everyone to a central location to compete for the oldest junior hockey trophy in the United States, but it has also drawn the interest of scouts. Close to 200 NHL, NCAA, and NAHL scouts have attended the event the past two seasons, with over two dozen NAHL players making an NCAA Division I commitment following the events.