Young SoCal talents finding benefits to playing at TPHA
A pair of Southern Californians are making themselves at home quickly at Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy (TPHA).
Tyler McNeil and Leon Biller both made the jump from playing for the Valencia Jr. Flyers last year to joining TPHA this season, and the pair of 16-year-old junior forwards have already established themselves as integral members of the school’s prep team playing in the North American Prospects Hockey League’s (NAPHL) 18U division.
Both left wings, McNeil is from Santa Clarita and Biller was born in Sweden but raised in Valencia. They each had their own reasons for making the switch to studying and playing hockey in Tahoe, and their decisions had a lot to do with putting their development as players on the fast track.
“I wanted to advance my career and do bigger and better things,” explained McNeil, who played for the Jr. Flyers and Anaheim Jr. Ducks previously and was the top scorer at the 16U AA level in CAHA last season. “My dream right now is to play Division I college hockey – I want to go to Boston University.”
McNeil has come to love the environment at TPHA, noting that he now has more time for academics than when he was playing travel hockey and that he’s getting more time on the ice to improve his skills than he ever has in his youth hockey career. Even with five days a week scheduled on the ice, he routinely stops by the rink on off days to work on his shot or do other drills.
“I hate even missing a couple days,” he said. “I always want to get on the ice.”
Scott McNeil, Tyler’s father, said that their family made the decision to attend Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy without ever having set foot on the campus. Of course, when they finally made it there and saw the facilities, they knew they had made the right decision.
“Tyler is one of the most competitive, driven people I know, and he is passionate about the sport,” he said. “Attending Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy was something he wanted to do.
“Travel hockey can be hard on academics. When he was traveling with the Ducks, he missed so much school. At TPHA, he is getting the benefit of the social skills from going to his face-to-face classes as well as the flexibility to develop. Mom and Dad get their dream of preparing him for college while he gets to pursue his dream on the ice.”
Biller was also among the top scorers at the 16U AA level in CAHA last year, totaling 53 goals and 45 assists in just 47 games. After experiencing so much success, he felt he needed to challenge himself even more if he wanted to continue improving.
“Coming to Tahoe was another step on the ladder for me,” he said. “We go to some really big tournaments and get a lot of exposure. My goal is to play pro hockey, but right now I really want to make it to college and I really want to play at Boston University.”
Biller’s father, Curt, played Division I hockey in Sweden and has exposed his son to some of the same top hockey camps that he attended as a youth in his native country. He said that when it came time to decide if Leon would attend TPHA, there were plenty of positives, both in terms of hockey and academics.
“I liked the focus on development in all areas,” Curt Biller said. “The kids practice hockey in the morning, then go to school, do some training in the afternoon, and then they’re done. They have time to study without having to go late into the night.”
While it’s still early in the 2018-19 season, McNeil and Biller have already combined for five points in just three NAPHL games.
— Greg Ball
(Nov. 12, 2018)