GREGORY BENNETT WRITES — Hockey, in Japan? Never heard of it. Until now, the sports scene in Japan has been mainly dominated by baseball and soccer.  Yet with the possibility of an NHL star being drafted to the top junior league in the United States, ice hockey in Japan is beginning to take form.

Aito Iguchi, a sixteen- year- old Japanese hockey player, caught the attention of some of the biggest names in the NHL.  With the help of Pavel Barber, a hockey training specialist who helps make famous some of the best players in the world, videos of Iguchi’s puck handling skills and fluency in the game intrigued top NHL scouts, including Rob Pulford.  This man has scouted some of the most talented NHL players today, such as Jonny Gaudreau and Clayton Keller.  He places Iguchi in the top level of prospects.  “He’s got soft hands, a quick stick, he can really dazzle you with his puck skills,” Pulford claims.

With Iguchi’s hockey skills being hyped by some of the most influential figures in hockey, his start in the United States Hockey League will put these statements to the test.

Some of the best players from all over the world come to the United States in the attempt to make it to the big league. Iguchi must now make a major decision: whether to try and achieve this goal, thus leaving his teams in Japan, or play in North America so as to accumulate the skills of an NHL caliber player.

The USHL (United States Hockey League), which is the top junior hockey league in America, drafted Iguchi 104th overall, which now gives him the opportunity to develop his already advanced hockey skills.  If he decides to make this move to the States, he will be playing against those who are up to 4 years older than he is. Iguchi is not a very burly hockey player but his speed and agility make up for his smaller size and allow him to move around the ice much more quickly than most players.

As his time is quickly approaching to join the USHL for the 2021 season, Iguchi is not the only one with big hopes; hockey fans are excited about him becoming the next NHL sensation and, best of all, bringing forth a surge of interest for the sport in Japan.


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