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Pochiro Out to Prove He's No Gamble

by Dan O'Neill / St. Louis Blues

Meet Zach Pochiro.

Zach has been a St. Louisan his entire life, though more in spirit than in residence. His parents moved the family to Las Vegas when he was just one-year-old. His mom worked in the gaming industry while in St. Louis and has continued that work since, while his dad currently owns a furniture business that doubles as a boxing gym. A former fighter himself, his dad also works as a promoter and manager for boxers and houses their training in the back rooms of his warehouse.

Having a father with his own training gym would seem to be an advantage for a kid trying to move up the athletic ladder, but as Zach points out, it had its drawbacks.

Think about it.

If you mess up, and your father has an arsenal of professional punchers at his disposal, you wouldn’t need to be be reminded twice about your mistake. Zach admits he trains in the gym occasionally, but with a regular temperature north of 100 degrees, it doesn’t provide optimal conditions for an athlete looking to add bulk rather than slim down for a weigh-in.

Zach climbed the hockey pyramid through AAA programs in Las Vegas, crediting his father for pledging countless hours driving to practices and games, which many times were in California. He began his high school career as a two-sport athlete, making the cut for the varsity basketball team as a freshman. But when a dense winter schedule proved to be too taxing, a decision had to be made. He chose hockey, and circle gets the square.

His parents' dedication, accompanied by his unwavering work ethic and drive, eventually led to the realization of his lifelong dream. Despite leaving St. Louis before he had the chance to experience it, the city’s sports teams traveled with him. He remained a Blues, Cardinals and Rams fan. He remembers watching the “Greatest Show on Turf” and the Blues’ 2000 Presidents’ Trophy-winning club, which featured his favorite player, Chris Pronger.

In 2013, Zach came home when the Blues selected him in the fourth round (No. 112 overall). On that day, he became a walking, breathing example that dreams can come true. And, in his case, prove to exceed fantasy.

The Sin City native is not a lucky gamble. He's worked his way to this point by emerging from a region that isn’t exactly known as an assembly line for cold-weather athletes. He is hockey’s version of a gym rat, using local connections in Vegas to find ice time whenever he can. To his point, his hard work has landed him with Prince George of the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Last season, he produced a 27-goal, 66-point performance, a substantial hike from a 15-goal, 39-point rookie campaign. The 6-foot-2, 165-pound forward, known as “Stretch” by his teammates and “Vegas” by the prospects as this year’s Development Camp, also made his East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) debut with the Blues’ affiliate in Kalamazoo last season. While his physical specs wouldn’t suggest it, Zach’s lunch money isn’t an easy grab. He’s racked up 228 penalty minutes over the past two seasons in the WHL, five of which came in a “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” one night, an occasion he recalls as his most memorable hockey moment.

Zach likens himself to a jack-of-all-trades on the ice. Scoring, hitting, fighting, killing penalties, power play, and if you can think of anything else, he’s game for that, too. His effective style was on display for the Blues’ brass at the 2013 Traverse City Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan...a competition that saw Zach evolve from a role player at its start and into a leader by its conclusion. After watching his play, the Blues scouting staff left Michigan with a strong sense of validation. His value was unmistakable.

As for his future, Zach doesn’t just want to make the NHL roster. He wants to lead it.

Back in 2013, that door cracked open. Soon, Blues fans might just see him step through that door and contradict the notion that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

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