Skip to Main Content
The Official Site of the Pittsburgh Penguins

D'Orio has battled, and won, through adversity

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

The shot clock kept rising.

Acadie-Bathurst registered 15 shots against Saint John in the first period. It wasn't a particularly large amount, but certainly on the higher side for 20 minutes of action.

But as the second period ticked on between the two Quebec Major Junior Hockey League clubs, the Titan began to climb into the record books. Acadie-Bathurst posted 31 shots - a high number in a 60-minute game - in the second period alone. Another 20 pucks on net in the third period gave the Titan a franchise record 66 shots in the game.

The man under assault in the Saint John's net was goaltender Alex D'Orio, who turned aside 60 of those attempts. The Pens prospects took the workload in stride on that early March afternoon.

"That was crazy. That was a game that I'll remember in my lifetime," D'Orio said at last week's development camp. "To receive 31 shots in a period, I learned a lot in that game to never stop competing."

D'Orio knows a lot about competing. After he went undrafted in the 2017 NHL Draft, the Sherbrooke, Quebec native arrived at Pittsburgh's development camp as an unsigned attendee a week later.

D'Orio had one goal in mind, to show the Penguins that he belonged in the organization. He hoped that they would like his game enough to draft him the following summer. But he would get an early surprise.

That fall he posted a 2-0-1 record while stopping 74 of 82 shots during the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo. While there, Pens assistant general manager Bill Guerin pulled him aside.

"When I finished a game against Buffalo (Guerin) met with me," D'Orio recalled. "He told me, 'we don't want you (back) in the draft. We're going to offer you a contract.' It was amazing.

"When I came to Pittsburgh I wanted to show them what I'm able to do. (I thought) the best thing would be getting drafted in the next draft. To get a contract with them was amazing."

A major reason that D'Orio went undrafted is that during his eligibility year he spent the season as a backup to Callum Booth. Regardless, D'Orio went 19-2-1-1 in his 28 appearances for a powerhouse Saint John team. The Sea Dogs went on to win the QMJHL championship that season.

D'Orio took over as the club's starter in 2017-18. Unfortunately many of the team's best players moved on and the Sea Dogs were in the midst of a rebuild. Thus, D'Orio would be under a lot of pressure, facing a high volume of shots with an inexperienced team.

"Two years ago I was the backup. I learned how to be a winner and go into the Final and win," D'Orio said. "This year I learned how to be a starter and receive shots and everything.

"Never stop competing. That's a big thing. When you're a young team you're usually playing against older teams. You can never stop competing."

But going through struggles as a team are a great way to build character and resilience. And D'Orio's never quit attitude has impressed the Penguins' brass.

"You learn a lot about his battle level and his mentality and how he fights through adversity," said Pens director of player development Scott Young. "One of the things with Alex is that he played so many minutes and that's tough, but it's actually great for a goaltender as far as the shots that he sees.

"It says a lot about him, and we're really high on him."

After Saint John's season ended, D'Orio joined Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for their stretch run of the season and playoffs. Being around the pro game was a great experience for the goaltending neophyte.

"I learned a lot with Tom Kostopolous and all the older guys," D'Orio said. "How to be a pro on and off the ice. (Strength coach) Mike Joyce taught me how to be a pro."

D'Orio will be heading back Saint John next season, but one day he'll be spending the bulk of his time in northeastern Pennsylvania. And it all started by earning his contract last season. He accomplished that feat with his own personal philosophy.

"Have fun. That's what I did last year. I had fun all the time," D'Orio said. "To be on a team like the Pittsburgh Penguins, it's such an amazing organization.

"To be at the main camp with all of those names that when you were young you were watching on TV. I just had fun at all the camps."

View More