|Alex Pietrangelo finished his 2007-08 OHL season with a plus-29 rating.
The question scouts have asked is can Pietrangelo match Pronger's ability to use his size in a successfully nasty way. The answer could decide where Pietrangelo is chosen when the 30 NHL teams meet in Ottawa for the 2008 Entry Draft, June 20-21.
"He's a big guy that really moves well," said Chris Edwards, who scouts the Ontario Hockey League for NHL Central Scouting. "He handles the puck well, he's got good puck skills, his first pass is excellent. The one thing you would knock on him is he's too casual at times. He's a big guy that could use his size more."
That's something Pietrangelo agrees with, but at the same time, he insists he is not going to run around looking for a big hit. He finds it more advantageous to play smart hockey and let the play come to him.
"The style I play is calm and I don't panic too much," Pietrangelo told NHL.com. "Everyone has their own style and mine isn't to run around. I play my position and I think I play it well."
He played it well enough to have finished seventh among OHL defensemen with 53 points (13 goals, 40 assists), and he was sixth among the league's defensemen with a plus-29 rating. In the playoffs, he was leading defensemen in scoring with nine points (five goals, four assists) when his season was ended after six games due to mononucleosis.
The illness will slow his training heading into the Scouting Combine in late May, but certainly won't jeopardize his draft standing. He was ranked fifth among North American skaters in Central Scouting's midseason rankings, and finished at No. 6 in the final ratings, issued last month.
"When I see him, he's a healthy mix of size, skill and smarts, which makes him a top-10 pick," said E.J. McGuire, the Central Scouting director.
Adds Edwards: "The upside on Alex Pietrangelo is he's going to be a very good pro. He's got all the potential that you want in a guy."
That opinion is not universal, however. The calm, assured play that appeals to many can be misconstrued and seen as a turn-off to others.
"One of the things that people talked about with him was his lack of intensity and apparent indifference; someone mentioned casual," said Gary Eggleston of Central Scouting. "At first blush you might say he's playing like a kid who's already been drafted, so he doesn't have anything to gain. That's not a good knock to put on a kid."
"He fools you some nights because he is so big and he skates so well that he can appear to be lazy at times, but that's not the case," Edwards said. "A lot of big guys that move so well, and he's so fluid, they look like they're not working hard but they are and he's in that category. … His body language when he goes off the ice, he projects some things that make him look lazy; but he's casual. He's a big, easy-going kid. He needs to use his size more."
That's a point Pietrangelo agrees with.
At the next level they're a lot of quick players, and I need to use all my advantages and use my size to my advantage. Hopefully, I get a little bit bigger and can use it more. - Alex Pietrangelo"I think when I sit down with my coaches, they say the same thing, that I can use that to my advantage," he said. "At the next level they're a lot of quick players, and I need to use all my advantages and use my size to my advantage. Hopefully, I get a little bit bigger and can use it more.
"I think throughout the year I progressed that way. I'm getting older so my body's maturing, and I'll get bigger. You want to make guys aware you're on the ice; (but) it's a matter of knowing when to use the size."
And, in Pietrangelo's thinking, that doesn't include breathing fire and racing out of position just to deliver a hit.
"If you ask the guys on the team, they'll say I'm one of the more intense guys," Pietrangelo said. "The style I play is calm and I don't panic too much. I don't like to lose, that makes me intense. I like to do my job, there's no reason to run around. Just stay calm through the whole game."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org.