|Michael D’Orazio has been a standout player for the Owen Sound Attack.
Michael D’Orazio feels like he has something to prove.
The sophomore defenseman with the Owen Sound Attack in the Ontario Hockey League has been a standout on his own team, but with a glut of talented defensemen at the top of the charts for the 2008 NHL Entry Draft rankings, D’Orazio feels a little left behind.
The 17-year-old native of the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill was No. 90 among North American prospects in the Central Scouting mid-term rankings that were released last week. He was excited to be recognized, but plans to work hard through the balance of the season to improve his stock.
“I keep it in the back of my head,” D’Orazio said. “It’s always in the back of your head. It’s been a goal for me for this year but you’ve got to play team-first. You can’t worry about that stuff. If you play a team game, that stuff will take care of itself.”
D’Orazio has great mobility and plays a hard-nosed game in his own end and has a heavy, accurate shot in the offensive end.
“He definitely has the disposition to play at the next level,” one scout said after watching him play this year. “He plays with a lot of confidence.”
The Attack traded captain Scott Tregunna and Los Angeles Kings’ prospect Wayne Simmonds in a rebuilding effort this season after the graduation of Bobby Ryan and Trevor Lewis last year. New York Rangers’ first rounder Bobby Sanguinetti was moved to the Brampton Battalion in the off-season and D’Orazio immediately felt the pressure to make a big contribution on the blue line despite just beginning his second OHL season.
“This year I have more of a leadership role,” said D’Orazio, named an alternate captain by first year coach Mark Reeds earlier this year. “I’m taking on more leadership and I’m just trying to help out a young team with the experience that I got last year with all the older guys like Bobby Ryan, Trevor Lewis and Theo Peckham. I’m just trying to bring that this year and help out.”
D’Orazio was the eighth overall pick in the 2006 OHL draft from the Toronto Junior Canadiens. He was touted as a solid contributor in all three zones and established himself as a rookie on a talented club last season.
He scored three goals and 13 points and racked up 71 penalty minutes in 58 games. He also helped Ontario win a gold medal at the Canada Winter Games last January and represented Canada at the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament. He looked forward to contributing even more to the Attack this season.
In 43 games, he has one goal and 15 points to go along with 91 minutes in penalties in 43 games. He logs more minutes than last year and has become one of his coach’s most dependable defensemen.
“I think he’s had to take over a tremendous amount of ice time and a huge role for our hockey club this year,” said Reeds, who played seven seasons with the St. Louis Blues after graduating from the Peterborough Petes. Reeds won three OHL championships and the Memorial Cup while playing for the Petes and took over the Attack this year after a 10-year career as a minor pro coach.
“We have put a lot of responsibility on him,” said Reeds, who guided the Kalamazoo Wings to the United Hockey League title in 2006. “I think he’s done a great job in handling that. He’s a key contributor on our power play and our penalty killing. He brings a physical presence and his ability to make the first pass and to read the play defensively are definitely his strong points. He’s maturing as a player and he’s only going to continue to get better.”
D’Orazio said that Reeds’ influence has been positive with the Attack this year and despite his young age, D’Orazio already understands that helping his team have success will benefit his own career and help his draft stock rise.
“We’re a really young team,” said D’Orazio, one of four 17-year-olds on the Attack blue line. “Our coach tells us to keep it simple and just do all of the little things right and we’ll win hockey games.
“We’re a pretty good team and our goal is to make the playoffs this year.”