One attribute most good hockey players have is the ability to make the most of a less-than-ideal situation.
For Barrie Colts goalie Peter Di Salvo
, the 2007-08 season fit that bill; but he still certainly did enough in the eyes of scouts to earn him the No. 5 ranking among Ontario Hockey League goaltenders on NHL Central Scouting's preliminary rankings for the 2009 Entry Draft.
And if he keeps playing as well as he has through the first quarter of this OHL season, more than scouts will be paying attention.
After a rough patch in mid-October, Di Salvo has won three of his last five starts, putting him at 7-6-1-0 through 14 games, with a 2.74 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, the sixth-best mark in the league. If you take out the three rough games, when he allowed 11 goals on 95 shots, his GAA drops to 2.35.
Not bad for a Colts team that has allowed two more goals than it's scored this season.
Things haven't always gone this well for Di Salvo. He started the 2007-08 season with the Sarnia Sting, where he played just seven games while backing up Tomi Karhunen. In December, he was dealt to Barrie, where he received slightly more playing time.
In 13 games with the Colts, he went 4-7 with a 3.03 GAA and .907 save percentage while splitting time with Michael Hutchinson.
"It was a tough experience," Di Salvo told NHL.com, "(but) you have to learn that going through your career. You're going to be a back-up goalie but you're going to get your chances."
Di Salvo’s big chance came in the 2008 OHL playoffs. The Colts pulled a surprising first-round upset of the Brampton Battalion with Hutchinson in goal, but with the Colts down 2-0 in the second round against the Belleville Bulls, coach Marty Williamson started Di Salvo in Game 3. He stopped 32 of 34 shots, but the Colts fell, 2-1, and lost the series in four games with Hutchinson playing in Game 4. Despite the final outcome, Williamson said Di Salvo did yeoman's work in Game 3.
"For me, the big turning point was the playoff game I had put him in for," said Williamson. "Against Belleville in Game 3 we lost 2-1 but he was excellent for us. I couldn't be prouder of how he played. He gave us a chance to win that game."
That ability to battle has become a hallmark of Di Salvo's game. He might not be the most technically sound netminder, but he never gives up on a play, which scouts and teammates love.
"He's a good goalie," said Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting. "He definitely is somebody to consider. … He's not the athletic type; he has a get-your-body-in-front-of-the-puck style."
"He's a big battler," added Williamson. "He's not as technical as Hutchinson, but he battles, never gives up on anything. Sometimes it's a little unorthodox, but he gets it done."
Di Salvo spends extra time working not only on the technical aspects of his game with Colts goalie coach Piero Greco, but on his mental approach.
"I expect to be a No. 1 goalie at the end of the season and for the playoffs and help the team get to the Memorial Cup." -- Peter Di Salvo
"I just remember all the things my goalie coach tells me," said Di Salvo. "He always tells me stay relaxed, stay calm, so I can keep my confidence up. I always listen to his advice because it's good advice."
It's certainly worked so far, but Di Salvo knows he'll have to keep playing as well as he has to continue seeing ice time. Hutchinson was at the Boston Bruins
training camp and missed the Colts' first few games, but in 16 games he's 5-8-0-1 with a 3.07 GAA and .912 save percentage. Williamson said he will continue splitting playing time about evenly.
"I really think it's 1A and 1B," said Williamson. "Their playing time will be pretty even."
At least it will until playoff time, when Williamson said the rotation will stop and someone will seize the top job. And Di Salvo plans on it being him.
"When I get my chance, I've got to do my thing to show Marty I'm better than (Hutchinson)," said Di Salvo. "I expect to be a No. 1 goalie at the end of the season and for the playoffs and help the team get to the Memorial Cup."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.