By Tom Robinson
For Sunday Dispatch
PITTSTON TWP. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights continued making preparations for their future as a new Tier II junior team in the North American Hockey League, then had reason to celebrate the illustrious past of their youth program.
The Knights participated in their first NAHL Draft June 10 and followed it up with a tryout camp to settle on the group of players that will attend their main camp Aug. 6-9 at the Revolution Ice Centre.
Ivor Provorov, a Russian-born defenseman, became the first alumnus of the Junior Knights youth program to be selected in the National Hockey League Draft. He was a member of the 2012 USA Hockey Tier I U-14 national championship team.
Provorov was selected seventh overall by the Philadelphia Flyers Friday night. He spent the past season in Canadian junior hockey, playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League.
While the Junior Knights youth program will continue to try to compete on a high level across multiple age groups, the Knights are in transition on the junior hockey level.
In the 2014-15 season, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will replace what had been franchises on both the Eastern Hockey League and Metropolitan Junior Hockey League on the Tier III level by instead moving up to compete with one team in the NAHL on the Tier II level.
“We have 31 kids who in one shape or form were either tendered (signed) with the Knights or drafted by the Knights,” said Justin Lyle, the team’s coach and general manager. “I should have 27 or 28 kids at main camp and then I’ll bring in kids we didn’t draft, who could make our team, as sort of free agents.”
Braden Brown, originally from Dallas, Texas, was the first pick by the Knights and the first of the entire NAHL Draft out of the Little Caesars U-18 team in Michigan.
The draft was completed in a virtual meeting. As the NAHL team with the most open roster spots, the Knights picked the longest, going 16 rounds. They had two of the final three picks among the 202 players who were selected and used them to take two northeastern Pennsylvania players who had been part of the Knights U-16 program.
Defenseman Paul DeNaples, from Moscow, and Joseph Campolieto, from Eynon, were those picks.
The NAHL announced its division alignment for 2015-16.
The 22-team league has teams in 10 states and has reached farther east from western Pennsylvania. Three new teams – the Aston Rebels from suburban Philadelphia, New Jersey Titans and Knights – will join the Johnstown Tomahawks in the new East Division.
“The new East Division is a very exciting step for the NAHL and one that is reflective of the changing landscape in the league,” NAHL commissioner Mark Frankenfeld said in a story on the league website. “The NAHL has a wide variety of markets that enabled our owners to sustain and grow their respective teams, so that they may continue to provide opportunities for the players and entertainment for the communities that support them.
“We feel like the new teams in the East will not only provide their teams with enhanced access to scouts and a deep player pool, but also allow them to showcase the type of hockey that has enabled the NAHL to thrive as a premier development league for 40 years now.”
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