For now, Alex Pietrangelo
is honored just to have the attention.
The standout defenseman from the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs is one of the gems in a deep 2008 NHL Entry Draft class and is touted as a franchise-type player for whichever National Hockey League team snaps him up in June.
But right now, the humble giant is enjoying the praise.
“It’s an honor to be named with the guys like (Drew) Doughty, (Zach) Bogosian and (Michael) Del Zotto,” said Pietrangelo, who was rated fifth in the mid-term rankings of draft-eligible players released by NHL Central Scouting last month. “They are all great players and everybody knows that any team that gets one of the top D (is) going to get a fine player.”
There is a lot to like with Pietrangelo.
He is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, has great mobility, plays a solid game at both ends of the ice and displays a nasty streak that keeps opposing forwards honest.
“This kid eventually one day will be like Chris Pronger,” IceDogs coach Mario Cicchillo told The Score in November. “Guys say he is not as tough as Chris Pronger, but he is still a young man and when he becomes 21, look at the potential in the kid.”
Pietrangelo totaled seven goals and 52 points as an OHL rookie last year, but his most impressive stat was his gaudy plus-40 plus/minus rating. Despite his young age, Pietrangelo was a major piece in the IceDogs scoring a league-high 326 goals last season.
For his efforts, Pietrangelo was named to the OHL’s all-rookie team, which also included current NHL rookies Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks and Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers – teammates with the London Knights – and Toronto Maple Leafs freshman Jiri Tlusty, who played for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
This year, Pietrangelo has 10 goals and 37 points to go along with a plus-21 rating.
“Personally, I’m just trying to play both ends of the rink,” said the native of King City, Ont. “Take care of the defensive end and the offense will come with it.”
Pietrangelo, who turned 18 on Jan. 18, enjoyed his tremendous rookie season despite playing for a team with a fuzzy future. The IceDogs knew they were moving from Mississauga, but didn’t find out their new home would be St. Catharines in the Niagara region until late in the season.
Pietrangelo said the adjustment to the new surroundings has been a smooth one.
“We’ve had some ups and downs and moving to Niagara has been a bit of a change, but I’ve been able to adapt and the team’s been able to adapt,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s so different coming from Mississauga. It’s a small rink, so it gets pretty loud sometimes.”
Pietrangelo was one of 40 players that suited up in the Home Hardware CHL-NHL Top Prospects Game last month in Edmonton. He said the event was a valuable experience and he enjoyed the opportunity to meet many of the other top prospects for the first time.
“It was pretty good to get to know some of the guys,” Pietrangelo said. “It’s kind of an eye-opener to see all the talent that’s here. It’s always nice to find someone that you can relate to. It was nice to get to hang out with them a bit and see them going through the same thing that I am.”
One of the first things that comes up when you talk to a scout about Pietrangelo is his competitiveness. He loves to win and takes his team’s success – and failures – personally.
Team-wise we still have to find our stride. We just got a great No. 1 goalie, and once we start rolling, we’ll be ready for the playoffs. - Alex Pietrangelo
“Once the team starts doing well, I’ll do well,” Pietrangelo said. “Team-wise we still have to find our stride. We just got a great No. 1 goalie, and once we start rolling, we’ll be ready for the playoffs. I think we’re going to focus a little bit more on getting some wins. We’ve got a good team, and once everyone gets back from injury, we’ll open a few more eyes.”
Pietrangelo missed six games earlier this season with an injury. He said now that he is back in the lineup, and with Blue Jackets prospect Stefan Legein nearly ready to return as well, the team is looking forward to a big finish in the regular season. It also wants to make some noise when the playoffs roll around in March.
“When the team is hot, I get hot,” said Pietrangelo, who started the season with 12 points in a six-game streak. “Personally, I can’t really complain. Everybody goes through injuries. I’m having a lot of fun this year, that’s for sure.”
Pietrangelo is one of six defensemen rated in the top eight among North American prospects in the mid-term draft rankings. He was rated behind only Sarnia Sting forward Steven Stamkos, Doughty of the Guelph Storm, Bogosian of the Peterborough Petes and Everett Silvertips forward Kyle Beach.
He slipped a couple of spots from the preliminary rankings, but said he isn’t worrying much about where he sits on the list right now.
“I try not to pay too much attention to it,” Pietrangelo said. “Obviously when it came out, I was aware of where I was ranked and where everybody else is ranked. I look at them and see where everybody is. But it’s a long year and you can’t really put too much emphasis on one ranking. The one that matters is the one in June when draft day comes.
“Obviously everybody wants to be ranked No. 1, and the only think I can do is look forward to going up.”