You can't fake chemistry - but you sure can compile it.
Coquitlam Express head coach Jon Calvano is well aware of the challenges of bringing top-flight talent together from various locales. Among the many teams and programs he's managed over the past decade, that chemistry factor has been a huge piece to the puzzle.
With his most recent signings, Calvano has added some serious skill to the ranks, and gotten some instant chemistry as a side benefit.
The Express announced the signing of St. Catharines, Ont., native Zack Pryzbek recently, joining former teammates and previously announced Marc Biega and Cal Hofford to the roster for the 2012-13 season.
Pryzbek, an 18-year-old left winger, is eager to bring his game out west and play with his two former teammates. What he'll bring to the rink is a big, six-foot-three presence along the boards who can bury the puck.
"I'd have to say a power forward who's not afraid to go to the dirty areas and grind it out," Pryzbek said when asked to describe his game. "I also play with a mean streak, as well, and play both ends of the ice."
Last season he scored seven times and set up 10 others in 26 games with the prep squad, which came second in the New England championships. He ended up accepting a scholarship to Brown University for 2013-14 - where he'll join former Express sniper Massimo Lamacchia.
Pryzbek says the main reason he picked Coquitlam, despite having multiple offers from junior clubs in Canada and the U.S., was in the approach.
"I'd have to say coach Jon Calvano. He knew (Hill Academy coach) Lindsay Hofford and I learned so much from Lindsay... He obviously passed that on to coach Calvano," said Pryzbek.
The Niagara Lakes product was recruited by the senior Hofford to play midget rep in Mississauga in 2009, and followed him to Hill Academy, a private program in Vaughan, Ont., as a 16-year-old. Helping him make the transition away from home was the coach's son, Cal Hofford, a five-foot-10 defenceman who committed to the Express for the upcoming season.
At Salisbury, Pryzbek played with Biega, was the captain of the Connecticut prep team.
"What a great guy - a first class guy. Not only is Marc a great hockey player but a great person all around," said the soft-spoken Pryzbek. "Cal's the exact same way. When I came to Toronto I didn't know that many people and Cal made me feel right at home."
Making the move to a new city, new team and away from home is perhaps the toughest challenge - and both players anticipate a smooth transition.
"There's always an adjustment phase when you move away from home," noted Cal, who has inked a scholarship with Northern Michigan for 2013-14. "I had a small inkling that Zack was coming. I've known [Calvano] for a while and know what the BCHL is all about. It was an opportunity that I couldn't pass up."
Lindsay Hofford is happy to see two of his players find a good fit for the upcoming season. A former major junior head coach with the London Knights and Lethbridge Hurricanes, the senior Hofford has known Calvano for a number of years - Calvano was a scout for him during his time in Lethbridge.
He's confident that both players will make a smooth transition to junior A and that both will be major assets to the Express.
"I think the guys I've sent will be fine, they are all legitimate junior players," said the senior Hofford.
"Obviously they already have Division 1 commitments so they are looking to come here and first and foremost contribute to the team, after that get their feet wet in junior hockey. [To] live away from home for a year is real important in their transition for college hockey."
The younger Hofford said he's excited about the new challenge ahead. Having once skated with Rick Nash when the disgruntled Columbus Bluejacket played in London for his dad, Hofford is eager for camp to open up in five weeks.
"For me being small, I have to be good with the puck and good defensively," said the fivefoot-10 blueliner. "I've really worked on my shot and learned how to use my shot in better situations to create scoring opportunities.
When I can do that it makes my game a lot better."
Adding Pryzbek to the offseason haul - one that includes Coquitlam natives Adam Rockwood and Daniel Urbani - is another score for the program, according to Calvano.
"Zach brings a lot of different elements to the ice that all teams covet," the Express coach said. "His size, puck sense, maturity - we think he will complement well the players we've got returning."
Training camp is slated to open in five weeks.
EXPRESS NOTES: The club announced it has dealt second-year winger Cody Michelle to Okotoks of the Alberta junior league.
"We felt the opportunity for Cody [was] greater in Alberta," said Calvano. "He went through a tough time last season with injury and battled back to be a great leader through the playoffs."
Calvano also announced that centre Mitch Nardi has accepted a scholarship with Lake Superior University for 2013-14. Nardi produced 14 goals and 30 assists over 56 games, and is expected to take on a large veteran role with this year's Express roster.
The BCHL also released its schedule for the upcoming season, which begins with a twogame tournament in Chilliwack. Coquitlam launches the 56-game schedule with two matches Sept. 7 and 9 at Chilliwack's Prospera Centre against Victoria and Cowichan Valley.
Their first regular season game at the Poirier Sports Centre is Sept. 14, 7 p.m. against the Langley Rivermen.