With the announcement made by the Tier II North American Hockey League (NAHL/NA) to acquire the Central States Hockey League (CSHL), the Pittsburgh Jr Penguins will find themselves in a unique position regarding recruitment in 2011. The move by the NA to bring the Tier III CSHL teams under their management while also operating Tier I Midgets and Bantams in the North American Prospects Hockey League (NAPHL) will create a seamless pathway for the area’s top flight talent (ages 14 and up) a genuine development program with a pipeline directly to the NAHL.
As a member of the newly formed NA3HL, the Jr Penguins will work hand-in-hand with the NA regarding operations, marketing partnerships, scheduling and most importantly, the NAHL's player procurement system, whereby NAHL tenders are allocated to each of the league's 26 teams for use on NA3HL players only. Additionally, this will put the Jr Penguins in the mix with respect to Showcase and All-Star events at the Top Prospect Venues.
To complete the development program, the Jr Penguins expect to ice midget and Bantam teams in the NAPHL beginning next season so that their top 14, 15 & 16 year old Tier I Bantams and Midgets can gain the same exposure advantages that their Jr A players do. Most believe that this maneuver by the NAHL combined with the CSHL’s recent success over the powerhouse EJ teams at the 2010 Jr Nationals will place the former CSHL teams atop the T-3 hockey world.
The Jr Penguins are expecting an immediate positive impact from players seeking advancement through the NA3HL knowing they’ll have real opportunities to reach the Tier II and Tier I Jr levels. By participating with the Jr Penguins in the NAPHL or NA3HL, players will be competing at the same high-exposure showcase and all-star events that the NA attends which attract hundreds of college, junior and professional coaches and scouts. Additionally, their players 17 and older will have greater advancement opportunities as they are exposed to dozens of D-3 and D-1 scouts who attend these venues. This is expected to create a huge advantage in the recruiting battles between the other T-3 leagues. In short, this clearly places the former CSHL teams above the rest of the T-3 leagues.
As stated on the NA3HL website, “The primary mission of the NA3HL, which is managed organizationally by the North American Hockey League (NAHL), is to provide a structured developmental environment for student-athletes whose youth options are limited but are still reaching their potential and have aspirations of playing in the NAHL or United States Hockey League and eventually the NCAA or American College Hockey Association.”
the new NA3HL owners are excited about the prospect of being in sync with the NAHL based on their prior success. They see the NAHL as a strong partner with a long-term strategy for growth who can provide greater support through available resources. Together, they expect to minimize the gap that existed for players making the jump from midget to junior hockey. The goal will be to continue focusing on player development in their current markets while simultaneously exploring opportunities to provide similar value in new areas.