The Penguins have a plethora of talented defensemen in their organization. But one gifted blueliner that has flown under the radar is Nick D’Agostino.
D’Agostino, the Penguins’ seventh-round selection (210th overall) in the 2008 NHL Draft, finished his third collegiate season with Cornell in 2011-12. He was named All-Ivy Second-Team and All-ECAC Second-Team after leading the Big Red with six power-play goals and setting career highs in goals (8) and points (20).
“Our coach really stresses defensemen getting up in the play. Any opportunity I have to jump up and contribute on offense and support my forwards I’m there,” the smooth-skating defenseman said. “On the power play last year I scored a lot of goals in the first half. I was primarily a shooter. My teammates looked to me and found me in the right spots. I was lucky to put a few of them in the back of the net.”
D’Agostino, 22, was voted by his teammates as a Cornell tri-captain heading into his senior campaign because of his leadership capabilities.
“It’s a great honor to be selected by my peers to be tri-captain,” he said. “Since I’ve been there, looking at the captains that have gone through Cornell’s system, it’s great to be in that group of names.
“Letter or not we have a big senior class and we’re all leaders. We’re all really looking forward to next year. We have a great team, young team. Our goaltender is coming back. It will be a lot of hard work, but it will be excited.”
D’Agostino, a native of Missisauga, Ontario, was overlooked in the 2006 Ontario Hockey League Draft. Without the option of playing juniors, the 6-foot-2, 181-pound defenseman turned his attention to college athletics.
“Both my parents are educators. They’re both elementary school principals,” said D’Agostino, who is studying labor relations at Cornell. “They’ve always put a premium on education and using hockey to get an education. From the beginning the goal was to go to a good school. Anything extra that happens in hockey is a bonus.
“I visited a couple schools in 11th grade and fell in love with Cornell right away and never looked back. It’s an unbelievable campus. … I thought it was the best combination of schooling and athletics.”
Many of the Penguins’ brass believe D’Agostino, who attended Pittsburgh's recent development camp in mid-July, is a solid prospect with a bright future in hockey. But whenever he moves on from his hockey career, he’ll have his Ivy degree to fall back upon.
“The last couple of years I’ve been specializing in dispute resolution, mediation, arbitration, litigation,” he said. “It’s what I want to stay involved in after hockey is done. Hopefully, with a sports organization or sports league.”
Note: D’Agostino’s father, Paul, played professional soccer in the North American Soccer League (which is now Major League Soccer).
“It’s not hockey, but he knows the rigors that professional athletics offers,” Nick said. “He’s been a role model in my life and inspiration.”
Nick also played soccer into his late teens, and joked that his decision to pursue hockey was greeted with consternation from his father.
“I played really high-level soccer until I was 16, 17,” he said. “At that point I had to make a choice. I chose hockey to the dismay of my dad, but it’s worked out since.”