HAZELWOOD, Mo. - When he takes time to reflect, Blues prospect Zach Pochiro can think of exactly two moments in his life where he wanted to go unnoticed.
The first was during his freshman year in high school. At a scrawny 115 pounds, Pochiro was afraid to enroll in AAA hockey because he didn’t want scouts to see that he wasn’t big enough (or strong enough) to be taken seriously. By his junior year, Pochiro had grown to 6-foot-1 and 165 pounds, so he skipped AAA hockey all together in favor of competition in the North American Hockey League.
“I was a late developer, for sure,” he recalls.
The second time was Oct 27, 2011. Pochiro, a lifelong St. Louis sports fan, was watching Game 6 of the World Series with his billet family in Texas, where he was playing hockey for the Wichita Falls Wildcats. Surrounded by Texas Rangers fans and seeing his Cardinals trailing 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth, Pochiro left the family room to watch the rest of the game alone on a small TV in his bedroom.
“They were all rubbing it in my face and giving me a hard time. It was pretty hurtful,” Pochiro remembers. “I knew going to the rink the next day I was going to get it from the all the guys. It was down to the last pitch.”
THE BIG MOMENT
Zach Pochiro, a St. Louis native who was playing junior hockey in Texas, had to watch Game 6 of the 2011 World Series alone in his bedroom because he was living in a household of Texas Ranger fans. With the odds stacked, David Freese and the Cardinals showed you can never fully count them out. Pochiro is hoping to prove the same thing can be said about him.
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You know how this story ends. David Freese guaranteed extra innings with a two-run triple and later hit a walk-off solo homer to lift the Cardinals to a 10-9 win and eventually another title, proving that even when the odds are stacked, you can never fully count them out.
Pochiro, who grew up in Las Vegas, is hoping to prove you shouldn’t bet against him, either. His days of going unnoticed are about as long gone as that blast off Freese’s bat.
The 21-year-old forward is wrapping up his second consecutive summer of workouts in St. Louis in hopes of making a good impression at training camp. He has his work cut out for him, though. It’s hard to get noticed when you’re trying to crack a forward lineup that includes Tarasenko, Paul Stastny, David Backes, Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen, but you have to start somewhere.
“I really hope to make a good impression this year at the Traverse City (Prospects Tournament),” Pochiro said. “Then I want to make my mark with the Chicago Wolves because hopefully I’m playing there. I’d like to get a couple games in the NHL this year…and next summer, come with a whole new mindset of making the team versus just trying not to step on anyone’s toes.”
“I’m really going to make a run at this.”
He’s come a long way already. For a guy that considered himself too small for AAA hockey, Pochiro has put together a few solid seasons with Prince George Cougars (WHL), scoring 147 points (61 goals, 86 assists) in 169 games. Although he went undrafted in his first year of eligibility, Pochiro’s scrappiness, determination and grit were deciding factors when the Blues selected him in the fourth round (112th overall) at the 2013 NHL Draft.
Pochiro describes himself as a player that will do anything the team needs. Whether it’s take face-offs, block shots, kill penalties or drop the gloves, Pochiro is ready to answer when called upon.
“Whatever you need me to do,” he says. “Penalty kill, I don’t mind that at all. I don’t get mad if I have to be blocking shots out there or taking the shots. I’ll do whatever. I just need to find my niche here and see if I can take off from there. I know I’m not going to be the guy going out there and scoring goals and whatnot. We’ve got Vladimir Tarasenko for that.”
Regardless of where he ends up this season, Pochiro is enjoying his time in St. Louis right now. It’s home, actually. He was born in Creve Couer and his parents worked as poker dealers at the Casino Queen and often took him to Blues games at the Old Arena. When the family packed up and moved to Vegas, he packed his passion for Blues hockey and took it with him.
His favorite players included Al MacInnis, Pavol Demitra, Keith Tkachuk and Chris Pronger. And now, he can’t get over the fact that he’s part of the same organization that his childhood heroes once played for.
“Every day I see the Blue Note and I think man, I’m working out and skating with my favorite team,” Pochiro said. “Every day I come here and I want to be here and it’s awesome to put on a Blues shirt and go workout in the Blues gym.
“What more could I ask for? This is the dream.”