The NHL Combine has become a great way for teams to evaluate young players and make future decisions for their organizations. The United States Hockey League Combine is becoming the same sort of thing. It worked for Zach Pochiro, at least.
The Fargo Force fell in love with Pochiro at the USHL Combine. They fell in love with his puck skills, his talent, and his character. If it was not for the combine, the organization may not have drafted Pochiro in the sixth round (84th overall) of the 2011 United States Hockey League Draft.
“Pochiro is a high-end skill guy, very special puck skills,” Interim Head Coach Byron Pool said.
During the 2009-2010 season, Pochiro notched 18 goals and 11 assists for 29 point in just 20 games for the Nevada Stars U-16 team. Last year, he tallied 22 goals and 34 points in 31 games for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings U-16 club.
The Las Vegas native was hesitantly compared to former Fargo Force standout Jimmy Mullin by Pool. The coach did explain that those shoes are going to be big to fill and that Pochiro will become that guy eventually with a similar skill set.
“He’s got kind of that stop-and-go to his game,” Pool said. “Like, he’s not a burner, but he’s got a really good chance of speed, super good puck skills. He was one of the top scorers in the U16 Midget AAA league.”
Pochiro is so talented and has such a high ceiling that the Force felt lucky that he was still available in the sixth round. Like Mullin, Pochiro can beat an opponent in several different ways. He has the ability to undress the defender and excite the crowd at any point in the game.
That electric skill set is something that Scheels Arena is going to need with the likes of Mullin, Chad Demers, and Tanner Kero moving on from last year’s squad. Those three players finished 1-2-3 in points for the Force last season. The team hopes Pochiro’s electricity level can make up for those losses.
“On talent level alone, there’s more to the game than that, but on talent level alone, he might be one of the most talented kids that we picked in our draft,” Pool said. “One-on-one talent, anyways.”
The 17-year-old has a lot of raw ability, but like many players Fargo drafted he needs to fill out physically. One of the big changes that a lot of the draft picks will have to make is in regards to routine. USHL teams spend a lot of time in the weight room, a lot of time on the ice, and a lot of time traveling.
Take the game schedule alone. Pochiro has played in 51 games between the last two seasons. The Force had 15 players that played in 51 games or more in last year’s regular season. Combine that with a much more grueling work out regimen and higher intensity practices and the jump can be a big one.
“[He’s] still kind of growing into his body physically,” Pool said. “Like, I think if you look at his height and weight, he’s six feet but I think he’s 165 pounds. So, that’s something a lot of our guys are going to have to work on, but he is going to have to fill out physically.”
If he can make the adjustment physically, which the Force easily sees him doing, Pochiro could be a good one for the Force in years to come.
By: Tim How