After having just completed his fourth of 12 team interviews in his initial day at the NHL Scouting Combine, Rocco Grimaldi had a satisfied look on his face.
Despite being listed as the smallest player invited to the Combine at 5-foot-6, 163 pounds, Grimaldi has certainly earned the reputation as a big-game performer. Why else would all 30 NHL teams request an interview with the leading scorer for the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2010-11.
"It's great to always be the underdog and have people doubt you," Grimaldi told NHL.com. "But I think I could also be a role model for kids my size, not even in hockey, but in general. I could be a really good example for them on how I go about my business, not caring about what people say, and how I live my life. I'm always thinking about the next generation under me and trying to help them out as well."
Grimaldi was asked if those scouts from the Tampa Bay Lightning referred to Martin St. Louis at some point during their discussion.
"They said one of their best players is St. Louis, he's the leader of that group and we don't care about size," Grimaldi said. "Our best player is the smallest guy on the ice and we love small guys and that was a cool thing to hear. That motivates me because playing in the NHL has always been my dream. So whatever it takes to achieve it ..."
Grimaldi is certainly on that path after striking for a team-leading 34 goals, 62 points, 13 power-play goals, and five game-winners in 50 games for the USNTDP this season.
"He's definitely a character kid and great guy," USNTDP goalie John Gibson said. "He's small, but probably has the biggest heart on the team."
"He was a dynamic guy, an outstanding skater, quick and around the puck all the time," Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com. "He wasn't scared to get involved in battles and go to the net."
Grimaldi played a big part of the gold medal-winning Team USA in the 2010 Under-18 World Championship in Belarus, tying for the team lead with 10 points in seven games. He'd connect for 2 goals, 8 points and a plus-5 rating in another gold-medal winning effort at the 2011 U-18 World Championship in Germany.
"The game has changed since the lockout; it's more of a high-end skilled game and smaller guys are making names for themselves in the League with St. Louis and Nathan Gerbe," Grimaldi said. "That's great to see those guys having an impact. It's really good for me, being a small guy, and seeing how others are able to make an impact right away.
Grimaldi, committed to the University of North Dakota, atones for his small frame with exceptional speed and shiftiness.
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