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Farinacci impresses with poise, maturity on road to 2019 NHL Draft

Prep school center earned respect by actions in heat of loss at Hlinka-Gretzky Cup semifinal

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

John Farinacci had a decision to make during the final seconds of the third period in the semifinal of the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup between the United States and Canada at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Aug. 10, 2018.

Dylan Cozens scored for Canada to tie the game 5-5 but replay showed the puck had gone in after time expired. Tournament rules, though, precluded referees from using video replay, and after a discussion they allowed the goal to count.

As U.S. captain, Farinacci was the only player permitted to speak to the referees. Rather than lose his temper, television cameras showed him calmly speaking with the officials. 

 

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That approach resonated with teammates and NHL scouts.

"You've got to be respectful in that situation," Farinacci said. "You're within your right (to scream) but I'm not that type of kid, I'm not that type of person. It was pretty easy for me to keep my cool and being that captain and a leader for that team, if you're losing your mind out there then you're wondering what everybody else is going to do. So you have to keep your cool in that situation."

That cerebral approach is one reason Farinacci, a center who played at Dexter School in Massachusetts, is No. 35 and the top prep school player on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking for the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The first round is June 21 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN TVAS). Rounds 2-7 are June 22 (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

Farinacci had five points (two goals, three assists) in five games at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, but it was his actions in those few minutes late in the semifinal, an eventual 6-5 overtime loss, that stood out.

"I went down to the dressing room (after the game) and I told the coach, Cory Laylin, I know the team is upset, but you make sure you tell John Farinacci what he did and the way he handled himself and the way he carried himself was one of the most impressive things I've ever seen," said TSN head scout Craig Button, who was doing analysis on the TV broadcast. "That to me is a test. They say let's see how he responds to adversity and that was unbelievable."

Farinacci also was captain at Dexter, but a bone contusion below the patella in his right knee, sustained Dec. 5 in the second game of the season, sidelined him for six weeks and affected him even after he returned.

"I could skate, but I don't think I worked out for two or three months after the injury," Farinacci said. "I could skate and take contact and stuff, but it was the plyometric stuff and the sprinting and stuff like that. … I didn't have that jump or that explosiveness that I usually have."

Farinacci had 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 16 games with Dexter but plans to play against higher-level competition with Muskegon of the United States Hockey League were put on hold because of the injury. He got into two USHL games and played two games with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program Under-18 team.

"It was a nice thing seeing him play with the NTDP," Central Scouting's David Gregory said. "That's a thing where you jump into a group that plays with a high pace at a very good level, and to see him over the course of a game adjust and let his skill be able to contribute to the game suggests to me that he'll be able to adapt as he goes from level to level."

The next level for Farinacci is Harvard University, where he'll start in the fall and play for his uncle, coach Ted Donato.

"I grew up around that rink," Farinacci said. "Ever since I was 5, 6 years old I was running around that rink, I've experienced that, so it's been a childhood dream of mine. As I got older, more the academic and business side of it, the social life, it was really a no-brainer for me to go there."

He'll have family in the area as well. His brother Anthony, 21, plays Division III hockey at Tufts University in nearby Medford, Massachusetts, and his sister Emma, 20, attends Boston University.

"It'll be a tremendous fit especially knowing what they do for their systems," said Dexter coach Dan Donato, Ted's brother. "It's really the right fit for him. … Harvard plays a skating game. I think it's a fun style of play because they have guys that can make plays at high levels."

Farinacci is unsure whether he'll play center or on the wing at Harvard, but he'll have the same approach at either position. It's one that is patterned after another Boston athlete regarded for his cerebral approach and leadership abilities.

"My biggest strength is my hockey IQ, I think I read the game really well," he said. "I like to compare myself or emulate a Patrice Bergeron, somebody who plays up and down the ice, that good 200-foot game, kind of reliable in the defensive zone but can put up points and score goals for you. That's a guy I try to go after."

 

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