They’re coming back, one by one.
Rochester Jr. Monarchs general manager/head coach David Leaderer is pleased to hear from some of Rochester, N.Y.’s top young hockey players.
By Joshua Boyd
They want to come back home, knowing they can play in what is shaping up to be immediately among the top junior hockey destinations in America, the National Collegiate Development Conference.
“We still have to reach out to players, but having players reach out to you is a nice change of pace for us,” said Leaderer, who coached the Monarchs’ team in the United States Premier Hockey League’s Elite Division this past season.
The NCDC is the USPHL’s tuition-free top division for the 2017-18 season.
“We’re hearing from a lot of guys from Rochester who are looking to come back, guys who left for Canadian Jr. A or other leagues. They’re reaching out to us, and that’s a big part of why I took this job.
“The Monarchs want to revitalize junior hockey in Rochester, and so far, we’ve been very successful.”
During the months of March and April, since the end of the Monarchs’ 2016-17 season, the Monarchs coaching staff has been poring through information, video and making visits to tournaments where players who have reached out to them are playing.
“There is still a lot more work to go through those players, and see them and get a good grasp on their talent, and see where they would fit in our organization,” said Leaderer.
The Monarchs continue to canvas social media networks to get their message out that 2017-18 will be a very new era in northeastern U.S. hockey with the arrival of the NCDC.
Some of their best spokesmen, however, have been those who have worn the jersey, through word of mouth.
“With the year we had this year, the guys are talking to their friends, and those guys are talking to their friends,” said Leaderer.
The list for potential NCDC players is long, Leaderer said.
“I have to scroll quite a few times on my iPad to get through all the people we’re talking to. It is a good base,” he added.
NCDC teams are allowed eight tenders, or players who are Monarchs organizationally-protected players who aren’t eligible for the NCDC Draft in May. The Monarchs have used five, and fully intend to use all eight before April is out.
The Monarch are also holding a Pre-Draft Camp on April 28-30.
The Monarchs will field teams in the USPHL Spring Showcase. This will help the team better gauge which players may be ready to contend for NCDC roster spots.
“We didn’t have a USPHL Premier team this past year, so we’re focusing hard on that April camp. That camp will be very competitive for the guys we’ve signed so far,” said Leaderer. “There are a couple guys from our USPHL Elite team moving up to the NCDC.”
The Monarchs are looking at the draft as what should be the sealing of a compact between team and player.
“[With a draft pick or tender], I’m investing in you as a player. We fully expect to sign our drafted and tendered players right after the draft,” Leaderer said. “By signing them, we’re committing to each other, so I need to know if you’re 100 percent in. If so, we’ll draft you. If you’re still testing the waters, we might just have you at the main camp to try out for a spot.”
In addition to the Pre-Draft camp and USPHL Spring Showcase, the Monarchs will also be attending the USA Youth Hockey Nationals. They will attend other showcases and tournaments all over the country, as well.
“Our new USPHL Premier head coach Nick Unger and I want to tap into other markets, giving other kids the opportunity to play free hockey at a high level,” added Leaderer.
September’s start to the inaugural NCDC season seems like forever from now. However, the excitement for Game 1 is already building.
“We’re extremely excited about this. It’s an opportunity for a lifetime right now for players in our area,” said Leaderer. “We’re thrilled about it. People in our area are really excited about it. Guys who had left Rochester are excited about it. We’re rebranding and rebuilding junior hockey in Rochester, and that’s partly due to the NCDC.”
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