The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Junior Knights are a USA Hockey-sanctioned team led by Head Coach / Director of Knights Hockey, Alex Vasko.
The WBS Knights elite teams play in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League (AYHL). The AYHL is the premier Tier 1 AAA travel league on the East Coast. It comprises over 125 teams from the Atlantic, Southeast, New York and New England Districts.
In 2019, the WBS Knights joined the Eastern Junior Elite Prospects League (EJEPL). The EJEPL was created to prepare players to become the Junior, Prep School and College recruits of the future. Many of the owners of top Junior programs, top Prep School programs and AAA Youth organizations regularly scout the EJEPL and it’s (90) partner organizations.
In order to better meet the needs of all girls/women interested in playing hockey, in 2020, the WBS Jr Knights (in a partnership with King’s College Women’s Hockey NCAA III) joined the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Hockey Association (MAWHA). For the 2020 season, the WBS Jr Knights are looking to field a U14 and a U12 team. The MAWHA has two Division Leagues: the Tier I and Tier II Division with Tier II supporting two levels, “AA” and “A” (“AA” is National Bound and “A” is not National Bound). The MAWHA provides opportunities for the elite level players to develop the skills necessary to play at the college level.
- U6 – Mite Minor – Mite U6 is a team for younger or first year Mite skaters; typically 5 or 6 year olds. A basic ability to skate is helpful before beginning U6 Mites. 2014 & Younger
- U8 – Mite Major (Blue & White Division) – birth years 2012 – 2013 – 2014
- Mite Blue – This is the first level of Mite 8U (ages 8 and younger) hockey. The Mite Blue team is the first stop for kids that transition from the learn to play hockey or the intro mite program. The games are played in cross ice zones.
- Mite White – This is the second level of Mite 8U (ages 8 and younger) hockey. The Mite White team is the last phase of USA Hockey cross-ice development. The number of players is the same as it was at the blue mite level and teams continue to play games cross-ice.
- U10 – Squirt (Major and Minor) – birth years 2010 – 2011
- U12 – Pee Wee (Major and Minor) – birth years 2008 – 2009
- U14 – Bantam (Major and Minor) – birth years 2006 – 2007
- U16 – Midget (Major and Minor) – birth years 2004 – 2005
- U18 – Midget (Major and Minor), High School – birth years 2002 – 2003
- U20 – Junior (EHL, NA3HL, NAHL, USHL) – Ages 16 – 20
Obviously, we don’t have a crystal ball to know what each state will do with regard to youth sports and ice hockey in particular. The WBS Jr Knights are planning as if there will be a full hockey travel season and will adjust our schedules or plans as further information becomes available. Our rink owner also owns SCE Environmental Group (SCE). SCE is one of the foremost providers of emergency response services in the wake of biological incidents and hazardous materials, having responded to hundreds of hazmat releases across North America and more than 20 suspected terrorist incidents with potential biological releases. SCE is currently engaged in COVID-19 responses throughout the world and the intention is to have the rink disinfected and cleaned to a very high standard throughout this pandemic to ensure the safety and well-being of all players, coaches, parents and guests while closely following the CDC guidelines.
The youth hockey season runs ~25 +/- weeks typically starting in September and ending in February. Time is taken off during the Christmas holiday.
The governing body of youth hockey, Atlantic Amerature Hockey Association (AAHA), is moving forward with permitting Member Clubs (WBS Jr Knights) to offer Player Agreements (Contracts) without a tryout at this time to allow for the planning of the 2020-21 season. This planning includes determining team counts, ice requirements, scheduling, uniform orders, etc. It also permits our rink to better plan for other activities within their building. We believe that all organizations were hopeful that we would have traditional tryouts for this upcoming season before picking our teams, but COVID-19 has altered that plan. Although this new ruling allows the clubs and rinks to plan for next season, it also makes it difficult for families, coaches, and most importantly, the players that have improved this spring or will improve this summer from last season as players will be chosen by their play last season.
- Tier 1 Player Agreements (AYHL Teams) can be processed on June 1st, 2020
- Non-Tiered Travel Player Agreements (EJEPL Teams & Independent Teams) can be processed on June 22nd, 2020
|U14 Girls – MAWHA (Non-tiered)||A-AA||2006, 2007|
|U12 Girls – MAWHA (Non-tiered)||A-AA||2008, 2009, 2010|
|Bantam – EJEPL (Non-tiered)||A-AA||2006, 2007|
|Peewee Major – AYHL (Tiered)||AAA||2008|
|Peewee – EJEPL (Non-tiered)||A-AA||2008-2009|
|Peewee Minor – AYHL (Tiered)||AAA||2009|
|Squirt Major – AYHL (Tiered)||AAA||2010|
|Squirt – EJEPL (Non-tiered)||A-AA||2010-2011|
|Mite U8 (NA)||NA||2012, 2013, 2014|
|Mite U6 (NA)||NA||2014 & Younger|
These proposed teams to be fielded this year are based on player interest and returning players from last season. Teams may be deleted or modified depending on the final total roster count.
The WBS Jr Knights Executive Board has met several times in the past few weeks to discuss our plan, players and the possible outcomes for next season. We are currently working on a plan for this process that will be made available to families and players within the next couple of weeks to ensure we have a transparent plan for choosing rosters including the use of game films from last season and utilizing outside, non-Knights coaches. We are also speaking to other clubs to see what they are doing and looking for the best possible solution for the WBS Jr Knights families.
Contracts will be given out to parents according to the table above. Tier 1 Player Agreements (AYHL Teams) can be processed on June 1st, 2020 and Non-Tiered Travel Player Agreements (EJEPL Teams & Independent Teams) can be processed on June 22nd, 2020. There are limited spots available on each team, so signing the Contracts and returning the executed Contract and deposit to the organization is imperative. If we do not receive a signed Contract, we will offer that spot to other players.
Depending on the age bracket, teams play between 20 and 35 games per season. This includes tournaments and/or showcases where multiple games are played in one weekend. The majority of games are located in NY, NJ, Philadelphia and south central Pennsylvania. Occasionally, games are played in CT or MD. When a tournament is played, it is a multi-game and multi-day event (3-5 games in 2-3 days). See your specific tuition fact sheet for more information and details.
Teams typically practice two times a week during the season. Those practices vary in length depending on the age bracket and skill level, but are between one-hour and one and a half hours in length. Practices are weeknights and are in the time range from 5:00PM to 8:45PM.
It is certainly a struggle with multiple children on multiple teams. Depending on the age group(s), practices may be on different nights and there may be games at different locations on the same weekend. It is certainly chaotic to manage this as we have many families with several children in our program.
In order to better meet the needs of all girls/women interested in playing hockey, in 2020, the WBS Jr Knights (in a partnership with King’s College Women’s Hockey NCAA III) joined the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Hockey Association (MAWHA). For the 2020 season, the WBS Jr Knights are looking to field a U14 and a U12 team. The MAWHA has two Division Leagues: the Tier I and Tier II Division with Tier II supporting two levels, “AA” and “A” (“AA” is National Bound and “A” is not National Bound). The MAWHA provides opportunities for the elite level players to develop the skills necessary to play at the college level. With a partnership with King’s College, this is a unique opportunity to allow our women players to work directly with an NCAA Division III program. Interest in this program will drive the number of teams and may take several years to actually get off the ground. Players may double roster and play on a WBS Jr Knights team as well as the WAWHA team.
If a player wants to play at the AAA level, possesses the skills and dedication to play at the AAA then they will be given the opportunity to try out for the Tier 1 AAA AYHL team. Unfortunately, not everyone can make the Tier 1 team as try-outs can be very competitive. Playing Tier 1 hockey will allow your child to work and get better throughout the year, because every year brings another open tryout and new kids who are eager to play Tier 1 hockey.
The overall competition and the level of play is higher at the Tier 1 level. The game takes an additional step up in skill and speed – just as it did when a player moves from house to travel hockey or when a player goes to the next level – age level for example. There is still a spread in terms of the skill level of individual players and teams at the Tier 1 level, but the overall level of play is much faster.
The EJEPL will provide extremely competitive play for your child at a high level with the Knights. Within the EJEPL, there are several divisions including Diamond, Platinum, Gold and Silver. Teams will be placed in the division based on their skill. These divisions range from AAA to A. EJEPL has a showcase at the beginning of the season where teams play to ensure that teams are placed in the correct division. If the teams are too strong or too weak, the league will move the teams up or down in a division. The EJEPL league creates a seamless transition process which will allow players at the 9 U to the 18 U levels to develop their skills and learn systems play while developing as a hockey player.
USA Hockey has determined that 12-year-old male players should not be permitted to play at the U-14, Bantam, hockey level whether as a registered player, or as an affiliate. This is a USA Hockey rule. This is mainly due to the fact that checking is introduced in the Bantam year. It is also recognized that whenever a principle is advanced, there is the potential for there to be exceptional athletes whose development would be impaired significantly if they were not permitted to participate at the U-14, Bantam Level. Definition of Exceptional: It is agreed the term “exceptional” is meant to be those athletes who may come along only once in a generation. To be an exceptional athlete, one must possess not only hockey skills that are so superior to players his own age but would also be superior to players two years older than his age.
The Jr. Knights’ teams have won youth hockey’s highest honor; a USA Hockey National Championship and they have competed Nationally several times in the highest level leagues. Those same coaches and management continue to lead the Knights organization. The Knights strive to play the best teams at every level. Our facility, combined with the proper balance of on ice and off ice training, will allow us to continue to compete at the highest levels.
As most of you are aware, the WBS Jr Knights organization operates at a budget deficit each year and relies heavily on fundraising to close the gap on this deficit. In the past, we have had minimal participation in our fundraising events. As an alternative to raising tuition to cover this deficit, the WBS Jr Advisory Board has implemented this fundraising fee. This $350 fee is a prepaid fee that can be recovered by the families by participating in one or more of the fundraisers that the organization will hold throughout the year including the rink snack bar, annual golf tournament, Cornhole tournament and raffles. If parents wish to opt-out of the fundraising for the organization, they can pay this fee and not participate in any events, work the snack bar or sell any tickets. If parents wish to opt-in to the fundraising for the organization, they can pay this fee and then “earn” 100% of the fee back throughout the season by selling tickets to events or raffles, working at the concession stand or participating in fundraising programs. The WBS Jr Knights Advisory Board will provide detailed guidance information for this program prior to the start of the season.
Although the youth hockey tryouts are typically in March and April, the season does not start until September and will run through March. WBS Knights players that sign a Contract will have the opportunity to skate throughout the summer at Revolution (assuming it is open) to continue developing their skills and get better. We are aware that some kids play other sports, but as your child gets older AND wants to play hockey at a high level (Tier 1 / AYHL / Diamond or Platinum EJEPL), it is important that hockey takes priority and that your child attend all skills clinics, practices, special skates as well as any camps that you are financially able to attend. It shall be duly noted that the casual hockey player that just enjoys the game is much different than the passionate player that has high level aspirations. Most importantly, we encourage the parents to communicate with the coaches and staff about your expectations.
Tier 1 teams will start practice in July. Also, the rink will be hosting an invitation only 3-on-3 league throughout the summer and also holding camps, clinics and more events as restrictions are lifted. Check our www.revo-ice.com and their social media pages (Facebook & Instagram) for updated information. Vasko Hockey Development will resume with private lessons as soon as the rink is open for business. These lessons are given by Coach Alex Vasko is a native to Kiev, Ukraine and represents the former Soviet Union Hockey Training School. Alex started his professional playing career in Eastern Europe Hockey League in 1995. In 1999 Alex moved to the United States to continue his playing career in Gold Rush AWHL, Sioux City Musketeers USHL and Mohawk Valley UHL. Alex also participated in NHL Rookie Camps of Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning and in ECHL, UHL Training Camps.
In 2007, Vasko moved to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area to begin his coaching career as a Head Coach of WBS Jr. Knights Youth Hockey Club. For the past four years Vasko has been selected as AYHL All Star Game Coach. From 2012 through 2014 hockey seasons, Vasko led his teams to a National Championship and in 2012 won National Championship with his Bantam Major AAA Team. Vasko Hockey Development (VHD) has trained some of the best hockey players in the world in a one-on-one setting, camp setting or clinic environment ranging in ages from mites through NHL. Please contact email@example.com for more information or to schedule a training session.
Over the past six years, the WBS Knights have sent 79+ players to continue their playing careers at Division 1 colleges and universities including Big 10, Ivy League and the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and 166+ players to continue their playing careers at Division 3 colleges and universities.
In conjunction with the WBS Knights, Northeast Youth Hockey Association (NYHA) was established as a 501(c)3 Pennsylvania non-profit organization to develop ice hockey in northeastern Pennsylvania. Since its development, Northeast Youth Hockey has worked with many players that needed assistance in playing travel hockey. NYHA provides merit based and financial based scholarships. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Playing higher levels of hockey doesn’t mean you have to play AAA or Tier 1 at younger ages, it means that you have to find the right program and coach. Development at younger ages means a lot different than older ages. Most players are not scouted until they are Bantam Major or older. Rarely a player will be touted about when he / she is a Pee Wee Major.
Hockey development is unusual in that the best players in their younger days may have played A, or house instead of the highest levels in their respective organizations. It is unfortunate but typically, the higher designation with extra A adds cost to hockey. It is often benefited with much higher league fees, more ice time and higher level coaches. More puck touches on a smaller lower level team might be more beneficial than no or low puck touches on a higher level team.
Other components play factors to creating opportunities for players also:
- Training: How good is the training? Are they working on skills or just team tactics? Are they working on becoming better athletes?
- Support: Do players have parents or family that picks them up when they make mistakes, and signs them up for training?
- Opportunity: Do coaches, teammates, parents, players themselves create opportunities for success? Does the program have a track record for successful placement of players in juniors, NCAA or NHL programs?
- Recognition and Achievement: Does performance lead to recognition and achievement?
As discussed earlier, scouts for junior and college teams come to see players that are in their Bantam and Midget years. Size, interests, skills change rapidly as players grow, puberty and external forces begin to impact hockey players. Athleticism, conditioning, speed, talent separate players at this age. For this reason, players are encouraged to be at the top of their games by bantam major. Players have the greatest development between the ages of 10 and 14. It is these years that define their future in hockey at the higher levels.
There are many paths to juniors, Division 1, Division 3 and pro hockey. There are many intermediate steps along the way. There is no right path or direct path. The best players will be found but to become the best player, players will need to compete against the best and get high level coaching.
In the past seven years, the WBS Jr Knights produced NHL players Ivan Provorov – Philadelphia Flyers (NHL Draft 2015, 1st Round, 7th Overall), Denis Smirnov – Colorado Avalanche (NHL Draft 2017, 6th Round, 156th Overall), CJ Yakimowicz – St. Louis Blues (NHL Draft 2014, 6th Round, 172nd Overall), Nikita Pavlychev – Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL Draft 2015, 7th Round, 197th Overall) and Dmitri Zaitsev – Washington Capitals (NHL Draft 2016, 7th Round, 207th Overall).
In addition to the six NHL draft picks, the WBS Jr Knights currently have players committed by the Big 10 and other Division 1 Colleges including: Denis Smirnov, Nikita Pavlychev, Paul DeNaples and Jacob Goldowski – Penn State, NCAA Div. I – Big Ten; Eugene Fadyeyev – Ohio State, NCAA Div. I – Big Ten; Derek Hamelin – Canisius College, NCAA Div. I; Marcus Joseph – Sacred Heart University, NCAA Div. I; Vlad Dzhioshvili, University of Vermont, NCAA Div. I; Konstantin Chernyuk- University of Maine, NCAA Div. I; Jacob Hamacher and Gavin Lewis – RIT, NCAA Div. I.