Every Thursday, NHL.com will look ahead to the 2017 NHL Draft with an in-depth profile on one of its top prospects.
Windsor goaltender Michael DiPietro might well be the most athletically gifted player at his position for the 2017 NHL Draft.
He also might be among the hardest-working. That's because DiPietro, No. 4 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American goaltenders for the 2017 draft, understands he might have to do more than some other goaltenders because of his size.
At 6-foot, he's the shortest among the top 20 players on Central Scouting's list.
"I'm not naive to the fact I'm not the largest goalie up for this year's draft," said DiPietro, who is listed at 200 pounds. "But I can only control what I can control and that's how I play. I take pride in being the hardest-working player on the ice. My flexibility plays a part in that too. I think there are times when I'll make a stop where the opponent will have to look twice at it and say, 'Did he actually make that save?'"
DiPietro was tied for first in the Ontario Hockey League in shutouts (six), was second in goals-against average (2.35), third in save percentage (.917), and fifth in wins (30, in 51 regular-season games).
Jim Bedard, who was Windsor's goalie coach this season after 19 seasons in the same capacity with the Detroit Red Wings, was impressed by DiPietro's work ethic.
"He practices like a pro, and I've worked with all the guys over the years in Detroit," Bedard said. "I've never seen a kid in junior practice with greater focus or a never-give-up-on-the-puck attitude. At the same time he doesn't get himself into a spot where he's his own worst enemy. He never gets frustrated."
Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting compared DiPietro to Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.
"He's very focused and quick to react," Jensen said. "He has excellent leg strength for lateral ability and recovery skills, and is quick and efficient on post-to-post play. He reminds me of Jonathan Quick because of his excellent flexibility. He consistently comes up with the outstanding save that can turn a game around or keep his team in the lead."
Bedard said the Quick comparison is an apt one.
"That's a good comparison," Bedard said. "He never gives up on the puck and plays every game and every puck like it will be the last time he will have that opportunity."
In the OHL playoffs DiPietro had a 2.48 GAA and .917 save percentage in seven games in a first-round loss to London, but still impressed NHL scouts.
"[Former NHL goaltender Chris Osgood] saw DiPietro play three times and he said what he noticed when watching [DiPietro] from behind the goal was how wide he was," Bedard said. "He's got very long arms and he actually seems a lot bigger than 6-foot.
"DiPietro plays to his strength and has tremendous foot speed, positioning and patience and he lets the play come to him. He makes big saves because he waits to make the last move."
Windsor coach Rocky Thompson said there were a number of games during the season that DiPietro was the team's best player.
"There were a lot of nights where we were depleted by injury and DiPietro had to bail the team out," Thompson said. "Jim Bedard is an outstanding coach, but Mike is an outstanding student. He's learned how to prepare for pressure situations; [Bedard] has helped him handle those moments."
DiPietro is playing a big role for Windsor during the Memorial Cup, which Windsor is hosting at WFCU Centre. As the host team, they received an invitation to participate against the champions from the Ontario Hockey League (Erie), Western Hockey League (Seattle) and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (Saint John). He won Windsor's first three games, making a combined 77 saves on 82 shots (.939 save percentage).
"I watched [Windsor] win back-to-back Memorial Cups (2009-10) and now to have the opportunity to win one in my backyard; that's motivating," said DiPietro, who was born in Windsor. "I'm the type of goalie who never gives up on the puck and I'm calm in the net. If someone tells me it cannot be done, I'll ask 'Why not?' I play with that mentality every day."
Bedard said he doesn't believe it's a good idea for a goaltender to be a team captain but might make an exception if DiPietro was one of the players being considered.
"He's genuine," Bedard said. "He gives his heart and soul at practice and has a smile on his face. People want to meet him because he's got that type of personality that makes you feel better after you do so. He's hard-working and yet very humble."