Zach Bookman Remains Undiscovered by Many. If he’s not moving the needle for some, then look at the needle again. He’s currently playing in the Junior A National Championship playing for the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL. This talented blueliner has tools, and he’s itching to get into the round-robin because he missed some time with a shoulder injury.
Bookman surpassed a 75-point season besting the former Brooks Bandits mark by Cale Makar and Dennis Cesana. He then went on to obliterate that record by getting 102 points in the 2022 regular season.
“I’m not into points at all, but I knew I had the potential to play well if I had the opportunities. I was behind Corson Ceulemans (Columbus) last year, so I wasn’t going to get the opportunity,” Bookman acknowledged. “I knew going into this year I could be the guy, a leader, that kind of role. Ever since I came back to camp, I was focused on trying to fill those shoes Corson did last year.”
Bookman then went into more of his deployment on the power play and 5-on-5. Even though he’s a right-handed shot. He had to adapt.
“It was mostly just second unit power play. I played with Corson sometimes, but we’re both righties, and that was hard to do sometimes. I Played some on the second pair as well. I played all on the left side last year., my other partner was a righty too. It has pros and cons. I learned to play that way. It’s not too much different, but you have to get your body up the ice. It’s hardest in the neutral zone. Just getting your feet up the ice. Other than that, it was a pretty easy transition.”
Playing two sports is very good for athletes. His other sport was baseball, and not only did he love it, but he came up with another positive besides not getting repetitive injuries that can occur by only playing one sport over and over again.
“I am not a Mets fan. I’m a Yankees fan,” the Syracuse native stated. “It’s mostly Yankees fans, but I see the odd Met fan in Syracuse. I played baseball in high school. I played either left field or second base. I liked second base better. I was in the action more. I didn’t mind catching flyballs too. I cut off baseball in my senior year in high school. I played for three years and then stopped when I went to Millbrook.
“Baseball was always a good escape. Hockey’s a great game but there’s some pressure. It’s intense. Then you go to baseball, and it’s the opposite. A good changeup, but I felt like they meshed. The hand-eye coordination helped me in hockey. With baseball, you don’t get as much opportunity. Maybe three or four at-bats. You always have to be focused and locked in and make the most of each chance.”
Bookman is still committed to playing college hockey in Merrimack.
“After 16U, I was turning 17 and about to go to prep school and was playing up in Rochester for a split season. Merrimack and a lot of hockey schools were there. They offered me that a few weeks into that, and I’m still loyal to them for giving me the opportunity back then,” Bookman explained.
Bookman is a terrific skater. He watches a lot of what Makar does but his coach, Ryan Papaioannou lets him have some extra freedom too.
“I was given the green light in the offensive zone as long as I was responsible defensively,” he revealed. “He gave me the access to be free. A lot of different face-off plays or me shooting down the wall for a play. My go-to shot is my wrister. My one-timer is a work in progress right now.”
At 5-10, 175, he’s no pushover out there.
“I won’t let bigger, stronger players bully me around,” Bookman said.
With the NHL Combine around the corner, I was curious if Bookman had been invited.
“I haven’t been invited to the Combine yet. I have done a couple of NHL Zoom calls so far.”
Bookman’s message about reaching your goals was on point.
“Everyone has a different path. I needed a few extra years to mature and then go to college. Just play hard. It doesn’t matter where you play,” Bookman stated.
The Bandits are on a run. Bookman is a big part of that, and before you know it his name should start showing up more in print as the 2022 NHL Draft gets closer.
For more hockey stories, look for my “Tales of the NHL Draft” stories on Kindle Vella