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NHL Draft

2017 Draft: Keith Petruzzelli starring as USHL rookie

Rated No. 1 among North American goalies in NHL Central Scouting midterm rankings

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

Every Thursday, will look ahead to the 2017 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.

As a younger brother, Keith Petruzzelli really had no choice but to strap on the goalie pads anytime there was hockey to be played.

But those sessions did give him a chance to uncover a hidden talent. He realized he was a better-than-average goaltender.

"My brother [D.J. Petruzzelli] needed someone to shoot against and that's how I got into goaltending," Keith Petruzzelli said. "I remember trying it on the ice and loving it, so I stuck with it."

Now in his first season with Muskegon of the United States Hockey League, Petruzzelli has developed into NHL Central Scouting's No. 1-ranked North American goaltender in its midterm rankings.

"With goalies, the hardest thing to admit is you're going to get scored on. But it's part of the trade," Muskegon general manager and former NHL goalie John Vanbiesbrouck said. "But he truly understands the game and his reads, and he's on time on how he reacts to plays. That combined with the fact he has a big frame (6-foot-5, 180 pounds), it shapes up for a lot of success."

In 22 games, Petruzzelli is 13-7-0 with a 2.56 goals-against average, two shutouts and a .910 save percentage.

"He has shown steady improvement since the beginning of the season and has turned into an excellent NHL goalie prospect," Al Jensen of Central Scouting said. "His style resembles the way [Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender] Matt Murray plays. He's good on his angles, is square to the shots. He's tough to beat low as he seals the ice and five-hole with his leg extensions. He has good rebound control with the soft pads and he absorbs the higher shots well into his body."

Jensen has charted closely the steady improvement Petruzzelli has shown since starring for Cathedral High School in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Boston Under-16 Jr. Bruins in 2013-14. He has risen to the challenge at every level.

"He wants to be in tough situations, whether breakaways, shootouts or odd-man situations," Muskegon coach John LaFontaine said. "You got to love a goalie who is like, 'Bring it on and I'll bail us out.'"

Petruzzelli will join his older brother at Quinnipiac University in 2017-18.

"Quinnipiac was a great place and I just had a great feel about it," he said. "They were the first school to reach out to me, and that means a lot knowing they want you."

Petruzzelli said he's worked this season at perfecting his mental approach to the game.

"I think the mental part is huge because you have to stay consistent," he said. "That's probably the biggest part of goaltending, staying consistent every night. You kind of find out what works for you, find what you do before games, and get into a rhythm so you're on top of things every night."

Vanbiesbrouck said he's been impressed by Petruzzelli's mental approach on a daily basis.

"I think he's prototypical in the way he analyzes, and I think the biggest part of his advancement in his game is his mental approach," he said. "He's very set in what he does, has a really good approach to the game and can be loose about it in a good way. He's able to put things behind him pretty well.

"He's able to analyze himself rather than having someone else explain to him where he may be deficient."

Petruzzelli stopped all 21 shots faced during 27:15 of ice time at the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game on Jan. 10 and was named the most valuable player for Team East. It marked the first time a goalie won an MVP award in five USHL/NHL Top Prospect Games.

"It was no surprise that he played so well at the USHL Top Prospects Game," LaFontaine said. "For him, the bigger the game or better the team we're playing, the more prepared and confident he is."

Last season with the Selects Academy Under-18 Team at South Kent (Conn.) School, going 21-1-0 with a 1.13 GAA, nine shutouts, and .936 save percentage in 22 games.

One area Vanbiesbrouck stressed to Petruzzelli when he joined Muskegon was the need to compete and battle in order to remain sharp.

"From a compete standpoint it was more about using his size to gap out and not sit back, because if you sit back [in the USHL] you're going to get toasted pretty good," Vanbiesbrouck said. "He's a good heads-up goalie and played on a really good Selects Team last year. He's very calm in the net."

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