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Barnett speaks to prospective players in Michigan

October 8, 2014
By Michael Caples
From Oct. 4-6, some of the top high school hockey players in the state of Michigan were under one roof for an inaugural event. 
Hosted by Total Package Hockey’s ‘Michigan Hockey Advancement’ program, the select group of players and goaltenders competed in games spanning three days during the inaugural Top 80 Showcase. They also heard from guest speakers representing the likes of the NAHL and College Hockey, Inc.
NAHL and NA3HL Director of Player Personnel Craig Barnett was on hand to speak to the 80 players about the opportunities that exist in the NAHL and NA3HL.
“This weekend was to do two different things,” said TPH director Brandon Naurato, who played high school hockey for Detroit Catholic Central. “One, provide exposure for the top high school players in the state, with the goal to move these guys on to the next level. But more importantly, to also educate these kids on the path, on what it takes to get to the next level – the sacrifices that go into it, the adversity that you’re going to deal with. It’s easy to be a hockey player when everything’s going well for you. When the cards are down, or your back’s against the wall, having the passion for the game and the love for the game to fight through that and then to have success is a feeling that we’re trying to get these kids to go through.”
The Michigan Hockey Advancement program offered a rare opportunity for various scouts to see the top high school hockey players in the state before their seasons begin. Representatives from NCAA and junior hockey programs were all in attendance at one point or another over the weekend slate of showcase games (players were split into four different squads and competed against one another).
Players from across the state took part in the MHA Top 80 Showcase.
MHA commissioner Jason Rowe said that’s the main goal of the program. “Through this program, the Michigan Hockey Advancement program, we want to showcase the high school boys before their season starts, so they get on the radar of scouts. Through our network of scouts, we’re going to help them get to the next level.” 
The three-day showcase also offered the opportunity to educate the high school players. They went through training sessions with Barwis Methods and heard from guest speakers like Fox Sports Detroit analyst and former NHL goaltender Darren Eliot, College Hockey, Inc. director of education and recruitment Kyle Lawson (South Lyon) and NAHL director of player personnel Craig Barnett.
“We wanted to kind of introduce them to the NAHL and NA3HL, and what we do,” Barnett said. “Talking about opportunities in the NAHL– we call ourselves the ‘league of opportunity’ and we take care of the players in our league in terms of educating them on the NCAA process and the recruiting process. Kind of what it takes to play in our league, what our coaches look for, how they build their teams through tenders and draft picks and so forth. Really just to give them an oversight of who we are and what we do. I think they’re familiar with a few teams in the Michigan area, but now they know that we are a global footprint from Fairbanks, Alaska down to Texas and everywhere between and Michigan obviously develops a lot of great hockey players.”
For Naurato, who went from playing high school hockey at Detroit Catholic Central to playing at the NCAA level for the University of Michigan, the MHA is just the latest step in helping grow the game at the high school level.
“There’s been a great track record of kids playing Division 1, Division 3 college hockey and even playing in the NHL from Michigan high school hockey, and we want to keep that going and even grow it. This is just the start of what we’re trying to do here.”
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