Former NHL first overall draft picks Patrick Kane and Erik Johnson got their starts somewhere. And shortly before they were prominent names in the National Hockey League, they were superstars in Junior A hockey and were scouted right here in Boardman at the Phantoms Hockey Showcase.
After a nearly two-year hiatus from hosting such an event, the NHL and NCAA stars of tomorrow will once again flock to the Valley January 18-21 for the 2008 Phantoms Hockey Showcase at the Ice Zone.
“It’s a great opportunity for the players and the scouts,” said Phantoms head coach Bob Mainhardt. “Any time you can get a lot of players in one place at one time for them to come out and watch, it’s a tremendous advantage. It’s a great motivation for those college guys to come out, so we’ll have a really good turnout (of scouts).”
In fact, being the home of Mahoning Valley Phantoms hockey, the Ice Zone has seen the likes of many future stars before their careers blossomed. Besides Kane and Johnson, names like James vanRiemsdyk, Ryan Hayes, and Phil Kessel have skated against the Phantoms as well.
“There are a lot of guys not only from our program, but other programs that have played here,” said Phantoms assistant coach Curtis Carr. “There have been a lot of kids from the National Development program that have played here at the Ice Zone. There are kids all over the country playing in the college and pro ranks that have played in this showcase.”
The six teams from the NAHL North Division, along with eight teams from the Midget Major AAA ranks will be pitted against one another, in what promises to be one of the most highly scouted events of the year. Scouts from most NCAA Division I and Division III programs, along with a number of NHL scouts are expected at the Ice Zone for the event.
“It’s a great opportunity for us, as scouts, to come and see a number of teams in one location - it is certainly convenient for us,” said Scott Robson, a scout and assistant coach for Quinnipiac University. “From a player’s perspective, it gives them an opportunity to showcase their talents to the best of their ability, while knowing that there are scouts in the stands that they are performing for.”
Fans watching the event next weekend will be privy to highly-skilled and up-tempo hockey games, showcasing some the best players in the world, looking to make that transition into the college and professional ranks.
“For fans it’s a chance to see some teams other than the hometown team that you might be rooting for,” Mainhardt says. “If you are a student of the game, you can really learn some things. It is an opportunity to have an enjoyable weekend for the family, spend a day at the rink, see some great hockey and just have a little fun.”
For business owners, events such as the Phantoms Hockey Showcase can be beneficial as well. With the influx of players, coaches, staff, family, friends and fans of 11 out-of-town teams, area restaurants and hotels such as the Austintown Comfort Inn and the Boardman Holiday Inn will also reap some rewards.
The high profile of the Showcase has even drawn the eye of NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld, who will be attending the spectacle.
“Events like these are great because they bring the NAHL to the forefront of the hockey community,” said NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld. “From a league level, it’s important for us to support anything that helps raise the awareness of our league and our players, and the Phantoms Showcase is perfect example of that.
“Anytime you can get a group of top-level teams together under one roof, it’s going to attract more scouts - which ultimately benefits the players.”