OTTAWA -- Shane Pinto is aware that he needs to get faster. The pace of the game is only getting quicker, and it won't wait for him to catch up.
"I think the biggest thing is my skating," Pinto said at Ottawa Senators development camp in late June. "That's the biggest thing. That's all I do every day. If you watch the game now, it's so fast. You've got to be able to skate if you want to play in the NHL."
Selected by Ottawa in the second round (No. 32) of the 2019 NHL Draft, Pinto is recognized by the organization as one day providing precious depth at center. Citing "the little things," like winning face-offs and providing a fearless net-front presence, Pinto said he simply tries to play the game the right way.
[RELATED: Complete Prospects coverage]
The Senators believe his abilities are far more wide-ranging than the 18-year-old leads on.
"I think he's a versatile player," Senators chief amateur scout Trent Mann said at the draft in Vancouver. "He brings a lot of different aspects to the game that help you win."
"We had him rated pretty high," Ottawa amateur scout Bob Janecyk said. "You can't go wrong with a good-sized, skilled [center]."
Splitting last season between Lincoln and Tri-City in the United States Hockey League, Pinto (6-foot-2, 188 pounds) had 59 points (28 goals, 31 assists) in 56 games, with nine points (four goals, five assists) in six playoff games.
Pinto will be honing his skating and all-around game this season at the University of North Dakota, which is considered by many to be the closest a college player can get to a professional hockey environment. UND head coach Brad Berry said they've been described as "the 32nd NHL team."
Video: Senators draft F Shane Pinto No. 32
"When we recruit, we look for guys with certain qualities, and he checked the boxes on a lot of the things we look for," Berry said. "He's an outstanding young man that just wants to get better every day, that listens to coaches and wants to play at the highest level.
"We identified him as having very high-end skill level, but kind of a blue-collar mentality approach to the game. Some of the terminology we use, that we like to have in our group, is not wasting a shift and making every shift count. When we watched him, he was a guy that was engaged all the time."
Pinto will get his first taste of the NCAA alongside fellow Senators prospects Jacob Bernard-Docker (No. 26 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft) and Jonathan Tychonick (No. 48 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft). Both have already spent a year at UND, and Pinto is looking forward to learning from two players he hopes to call teammates in Ottawa one day.
"They're awesome guys, first of all," Pinto said. "Once I met them, you could tell they had good personalities. We've been talking, I've been asking some questions about how the life is there and what kind of hockey that they play, and they just told me all good stuff."
Good stuff that will help Pinto progress as a top prospect with the Senators.