As a three-year old growing up in Naples, FL, Zach Solow was first exposed to hockey watching games on TV with his dad. This sparked a desire to play the game and a life-long passion was born.
“My cousin Jeff Solow is two years older than me and he wanted to learn how to play as well. We learned how to skate by going to free skate with our older siblings and playing tag. Playing hockey has been the greatest decision of my life. I’m always having fun and playing with a smile.”
While Florida would provide a start, Zach understood that to grow as a player he would need to seek opportunities out of his home state and landed in St. Louis playing at the U16 level for the St. Louis Blues AAA, a team filled with superstars who have since matriculated to the NAHL, USHL and NCAA. Several of his former teammates were drafted in this summer’s NHL Draft.
“Playing with those guys in St. Louis was a blessing. They are great players and pushed me to be better. Also, they are good kids and I had a blast coming to the rink with them. I came to the Blues because I knew from playing against them that they are the real deal and if I want to be successful I need to play with guys like them.”
Zach’s development is unique having played in both the NAHL and USHL leaving Janesville after a couple of seasons for Dubuque. Solow describes the experience in Janesville as an important one, especially considering he was only sixteen when he started his junior career.
“Playing in Janesville was so good for me. I needed the time to develop and I got to play with really good players who are doing big things now. My first year was dream-like. Even though I wasn’t in the lineup all the time I loved every second of it. Coach Dibble and Coach Largen were patient with me and, being a younger guy, I needed that. They taught me the true way to play hockey. My second year in Janesville was great as well. I played more and got put into situations that every player wants to be in. I earned Coach Dibbles’ trust and he rewarded me.”
The move to Dubuque was not intended to be a permanent move, but like those first days of learn to skate, it was an opportunity Zach took advantage of. “When I originally went to Dubuque I was only supposed to be there for a couple weeks to fill in for some guys. The guys there were respectful and I really liked how Coach Lammers welcomed me with open arms. He was extremely professional with me and I wanted to play for him. When asked to compare the experiences, Solow shared:
“Both leagues are very good. High speed, good skill and they teach you how to be a complete player. Both leagues really keep you honest. No more cherry picking like the Pee-Wee days!”
With his success in Dubuque, Solow caught the eye of D1 scouts and fielded offers from top programs including Northeastern, UMass Amherst, and Ohio State. The choice was not an easy one and Zach understood the need to evaluate his options.
“There are so many factors that play into making the right decision. You have to weigh everything out and talk with your parents. Discussing the different places and cultures within the program made it very difficult to choose because all three schools were high end… I have a high level of respect for all three coaching staffs. It was a difficult choice.”
He also recognizes how fortunate he has been to have options and opportunities and credits all of his past teams and coaches.
“I could have never guessed three years ago I would be in this position as a potential D1 hockey player. Luckily, I got to play for some good coaches and with some good players.”
Zach ultimately chose Northeastern because of the level of comfort he felt on campus and with the coaching staff, and just as scouts recognized his upside and potential, so too is the same for Zach’s assessment of his future school.
“The school is on the rise and the program is surging. Its in Boston, they play in the Beanpot, and most importantly they want to win. The coaches are really excited about their previous seasons and what is more to come. They have a bright future and I want to be a part of that.”
Solow shares that now that his college choice has been made he is ready to focus on playing in Dubuque with the hope of winning the Clark Cup. And while his NHL Draft year looms, he isn’t getting ahead of himself as he prepares for the coming year.
“My goal next year is to win. Win as many games as possible and make a deep playoff push as well as, prepare for college. Getting better everyday and see where it takes me. Its a dream to hear your name called at the NHL Draft, but it starts in Dubuque and having a successful season.”
He remains focused on improving his game- understanding both areas of strength and areas he plans to improve in preparation for his debut in Matthews Arena.
“I am a two-way forward. I take pride in defense and am willing to block shots. I have a pass first mentality. Coach says I pass too much, but I enjoy setting my teammates up to score. I can grind down low in the corners and I am going to do my best to improve my grinding offensively and defensively before my freshman year. I will try to clean up my face-offs and try to become more explosive with my skating.”
Zach’s goals for next year mirror how he plays the game- like he has something to prove. Maybe this attitude can be attributed to his size, as a smaller forward feeling he needs to work a little harder, yet it is this work ethic and skill have allowed him to find success in some of North America’s best leagues.
“Being a smaller guy I have to add anything to my game. I have to be wiling to try new things to get into the lineup every night. Anything to help the team win and raising the compete level as much as possible. Having a good attitude and being a good teammate will take you far.”
And what advice would he give to the next kid in Florida hoping to play the game?
“Hard work pays off. Character is extremely important as well. If you work hard and are a joy to be around, players will want to play with you and coaches will want to coach you. Listen to the older guys who have been in your shoes before and learn from them. Pay your dues and keep a smile the whole time.”
Solow is the tenth commit to Northeastern for the 2017 Recruiting Class which propels the Huskies into a Top 10 Recruiting Class Ranking for that year. Our scouting staff refered to Solow last season as “one of the most underrated 98’s in the country.”
Picture Provided by Aaron Westendorf, Director of Communication in the USHL.