Thursday, March 31, 2011

NHL 2011 Draft Prospect Rocco Grimaldi: Size Doesn't Matter

Prospect Pursuit: Rocco Grimaldi

Rocco Grimaldi {Photo: Sara Melikian/Flickr}

Who says size doesn't matter?  Did you say that?  Did I say that?  Wrong on both counts.  Rocco Grimaldi of the U.S. National Development Team says that.  Easily one of the smallest players hoping to be selected in the upcoming draft, Grimaldi is making a name for himself and other smaller draft hopefuls.

You'd think, watching him play, that Grimaldi was at least 6'2", so it does seem a little shocking that a player of his capabilities is only an inch taller than Nathan Gerbe.  His height gives him an advantage on skates with explosive acceleration and short, quick strides that makes it easy to beat defenders.  His shots are deceptively quick, as well as accurate.  Give him time to windup for a slapshot and he will make any goalie pay.  With his height limitations, Grimaldi's stickwork is key because a taller defender means a longer reach.  Grimaldi's hockey smarts have been able to kick in to make moves before the opposing player knows what hit him.  Take into account his low center of gravity, and you have a complete player who is very difficult to knock off the puck.  So is size really that big a problem?

Well for starters, the majority of players in the NHL have an average height of about 6 foot, maybe 6'1".  Tack on that many scouts, although they may like Grimaldi's game, may not give him the time of day just because size is too big a factor for them.  Except here is the knock on those philosophies.  Take guys like Danny Briere or Marty St. Louis and look at how their play has gone to the next level in recent years.  Before the lockout, there weren't too many spots available for the prototypical "small" player, with the exception of a few.  After the NHL implemented its new rules, it has become a league built for Grimaldi's style of play and accommodates his game that much more.  Look no further than Jeff Skinner or fellow American, Brian Gionta, to see just how far a player of Grimaldi's height and skill can take him.

In the past couple months, Grimaldi's name has slowly been rising higher and higher on most mock drafts and he has started to get some serious recognition.  His numbers are pretty impressive with 25 points in 23 games in the USHL.  He is currently leading the team in points, which will give more doubt as to why he isn't a lock for a top 15 pick.  Tyler Biggs, another US Development Team draft hopeful has been thrown around as a possible top ten pick, and fellow teammates Robbie Russo and JT Miller have also been talked about as going before Grimaldi in the draft.

Don't fret Grimaldi fans.  This California-bred talent is going to make a big name for himself.  Bigger than all the nay-sayers ever thought he could.  Bigger than his 5'6" frame allows.  On draft day, no one should be surprised to hear Grimaldi's name being called in the top 15, or even the top 10, for that matter.  It only takes one team to like Grimaldi more than another prospect to get selected at a higher position.  Oh!  And another thought...

Not sure if many of you hockey fans remember a former 5'6" player who had all the skills that Grimaldi possesses, but his size was his biggest concern.  A player who tore up juniors with 3 consecutive 100+ point seasons.  In the 1987 NHL draft, round by round passed and he didn't hear his name called.  That was  until the 8th round of the draft when Calgary decided to flip the script and take a stab at him.  Any guesses as to who it might be?...

That's right.  Theoren Fleury.  So just remember, Rocco Grimaldi has a lot to look forward to in his NHL career and will be a treat to watch for all hockey fans.

Prospect Pursuit is a series of articles and interviews written by Shawn Reznik.


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