By RYAN D. MURRAY
Hendricken hockey ’21 forwards, Drew Haxton, from Wakefield, and Harry Giuliano, from North Providence, were invited to the USA Hockey Select 15 National Development Camp in Buffalo, New York last month which ran from July 15 through July 20.
Every year, the New England District, which consists of Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine send a team of its players to the National Development Camp in Buffalo. The camp consists of the top players in the country from all 12 districts within the USA Hockey organization. For the Select 15 Camp, players with the birth year 2003 were eligible for selection.
In total, the New England District selected 3 forwards from Rhode Island to attend the camp in Buffalo. Drew, Harry and incoming La Salle freshman forward Ethan Cordiero were the representatives from Rhode Island.
Once there, the participants are mixed in with the rest of the best athletes from around the country and receive appropriate on-and-off ice training and coaching from elite-level instructors.
“We spent the whole week there and the talent level was off the charts,” Drew’s father, Robert Haxton, said. “But these guys fit right in there with them and they both received great reports from the scouts at the development camp.”
Robert has always told his son that hard work pays off and Harry’s father, Jim Giuliano, believes that both kids are a prime example of what hard work can bring.
“They’ve always both been underdog kids,” Jim Giuliano explained. “They’ve always had to work hard. And it’s unbelievable to see these kids come into their own at this point here and raise their game at every level they need to. It’s quite an achievement.”
At the developmental camp, there were 12 teams consisting of about 18 players each. There, Haxton roomed with three players; one each from Minnesota, Michigan and Connecticut. Giuliano’s roommates hailed from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.
During the camp, both Haxton and Giuliano played in four games each and each participated in a 3-on-3 contest. Giuliano scored two goals in the four meetings.
Drew was on the gold team and Harry, the white, and both players donned the same number, 12.
“My Hendricken Hawks number is 12,” Giuliano said. “I went to this little tournament called ‘Hockey Night’ in Boston and my number was 12 and then I went to the Regional camp and my number was 12, and then, I went to the National camp, and my number was 12, so I found that pretty funny.”
Haxton found the coincidence a bit comical too.
“It was kind of funny because we’re both from Rhode Island,” Haxton chuckled. “And, also my first number ever playing hockey was 12, so it was kind of cool to be 12 again.”
The first step of the selection process occurs in March when the five New England states hold their Yankee Conference tryouts. Each state chooses a team and sends them to the Regionals in Keene, New Hampshire for a four-day camp. Tryouts to make the Rhode Island team were held in Burrillville this year.
During the regionals, which were held in June, Giuliano tallied two goals and Haxton had a goal and two assists.
There, a board blends the kids together and has them go head-to-head in game action. Then on the fourth day, there are three games played at night. After each game, the board chooses players that it wants to see back in that night’s All-Star game. The players anxiously await after their game to see if their name is chosen.
Following the All-Star game, the players travel back home, hoping to get an invite back to the National Development Camp. The players learn their fate when USA Hockey posts its roster online about a week later.
Drew believes that once you hit the ice, you must take matters into your own hands.
“I think it’s all about hard work and just putting the time in to get to the level that you need to, so that you can compete at a steady pace,” Haxton explained. “And, I think that if you compete hard enough you have to make them take you.”
Giuliano said his favorite thing about the camp was the way that he was treated by his team.
“My team put me on a diet for everything,” Giuliano said. “They put all the players on a diet plan and they told you all about nutritional value. And it kind of paid off in the end. So, that’s one big thing that I learned there, is nutritionally, it can help a lot with your game.”
Haxton found great pleasure in being around the best competitors in the sport while proudly donning his USA jersey.
“I liked being surrounded by great players and wearing the USA jersey,” Haxton said. “Also, like Harry, I enjoyed being surrounded by people who are professionals on diets and professional coaches in colleges. It was just an amazing experience.”
According to Robert Haxton, and Jim Giuliano, there were an abundance of scouts from Division I colleges all over the country on hand watching as the kids battled on the ice.
“There were literally 150-200 scouts there each game watching,” Robert Haxton said. “The best kids in the nation were there, so that’s why they all show up. But, it was impressive.”
Drew and Harry hope to take the next step which is to be invited back to the Development Camp for a second straight year. This time, the boys would be trying out for one of the junior USA teams.
The Select 15 is only a developmental camp, so that the scouts can evaluate the players that they pull in. They hold a total of three camps, the other two being the Select 16, and Select 17. Therefore, Drew and Harry hope to be invited back over the next two seasons.
The Select 16 camp invites back 46 players from the previous year’s camp and if a player makes that team, they move to Michigan to be a part of the USA Development team.
Following that, the kids could play at the World Junior games for the USA U17 and U18 teams against teams such as Russia and Canada.
All that sounds good to Harry and Drew.
“I care a lot about getting back there,” Giuliano said. “It’s a make or break for your career, so, obviously you want to make it there and you want to get noticed. Also, if you can get a scholarship out of it, that’s awesome, and if you can make the team, that’s even more awesome.”
“It’s a surreal experience being surrounded by people who have been there before and coached at a high level,” Haxton added. “It was just amazing. I would love to go back there if I could.”
Since they began, in 1977, USA Hockey’s National Player Development Camps have been a springboard for many future Olympians and professional players.
“It starts with the US National Team Development Program,” Giuliano said. “That’s where all the minor age kids play. And then, once they reach a certain age, if they are good enough, they can be eligible to play for the Olympics and the NHL.”