The Pens signed forward Thomas DiPauli to a two-year, entry-level contract on Friday. DiPauli was originally drafted by the Washington Capitals in the fourth round (100th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. He became a free agent earlier this week. Here’s a few things to know about the 23-year-old.
1. He grew up in Italy
Di Pauli was born in northern Italy and lived there until he was 12 years old. Interestingly, the main language in the town he grew up, Caldaro, in was actually German, so he spoke mostly that. And with his mother Christina being from the U.S., Di Pauli would speak English with her. “I grew up speaking three languages,” Di Pauli said.
2. He followed his brother
Di Pauli’s brother Theo, who is one year older, got scouted by a Chicago Mission coach to play AAA hockey while they were living overseas. Thomas accompanied him to the U.S. to try and make a younger team with the organization, and they both ended up making the same one. So the two of them, along with their mother and sister Sandra, moved to the States so that they could play while their father Alexander remained in Italy and traveled back and forth to see them when he could. “You hear of people moving to a different state, but you don’t hear of people moving to a different country,” Di Pauli said. “I’m really thankful for my parents making that sacrifice and my sister making that sacrifice too. It definitely means a lot.” Now, the family is mostly based out of Chicago.
3. He played college hockey at Notre Dame – with a familiar face
Theo ended up playing college hockey at Union College – where he won an NCAA championship with Pens prospect Jeff Taylor – while Thomas chose Notre Dame, where he spent two years with Pens forward Bryan Rust. The two of them remain close friends. “We were similar players in college, put up similar amounts of points, are both fast players, pretty gritty forwards,” said Di Pauli, who measures 5-foot-11 and 197 pounds. When I asked Di Pauli if there was anyone in the NHL he could compare his game to, he responded with a laugh, “I would say Bryan Rust, actually. I don’t want to pump his tires too much, but that’s a good example.” Di Pauli said watching what Rust was able to accomplish last year in the NHL after also using all four years of his NCAA eligibility was inspiring. “He fit in perfectly with Pittsburgh, so that was kind of eye opening for me,” Di Pauli said. “I kind of want to follow in his footsteps a little bit.”
4. He’s always been a Pens fan
Di Pauli admitted he’s always been a big Pens fan. “Ever since (Sidney) Crosby went to Pittsburgh, they’ve been my favorite team,” he said. “I wore No. 87 growing up, so, I was one of those kids.” Though he was drafted by Washington in the fourth round (100th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center – where he actually got booed when his name was called because of the team who had chosen him – he and his agent thought it would be a good idea to give free agency a shot after a terrific senior year. Di Pauli played in all 37 games with the University of Notre Dame, scoring a career-high 14 goals and 18 assists for a career-high 32 points while serving as alternate captain for the Fighting Irish. He also finished the season with a plus-13, was named an Honorable Mention Hockey East All-Star and was also voted the team’s Offensive MVP. “Pittsburgh is a good fit,” he said. “Their type of play is a good fit for my type of play, and it’s always been my favorite team.” He added that Rust told him a lot of good things about the organization. “Just the way they treat their players, the way they make their players better. Me and him are a similar type of player and he’s had a lot of success so far. I just think it’s going to be a good fit for me as well.”
5. His style fits
Di Pauli’s speed and style – he’s gritty on the forecheck, gritty around the net, has a little bit of a scoring touch and can kill penalties – fits into the way Pittsburgh wants to play. “They’re a puck possession type of team,” he said. “They hunt down the opposing defensemen and strip pucks and that’s kind of what my style of game is too. So, throughout the whole playoffs, that was in the back of my mind.”