By now most of you have heard of the mini-dynamo named Rocco Grimaldi, but for those who haven't, he's the best NHL draft prospect to look like Brian Gionta since...well, Brian Gionta (can you believe it's been 13 years since New Jersey took a chance on the current Montreal captain?).
The Southern California kid is a veteran of the U.S. NTDP and decided to take his high-end offensive game to the University of North Dakota next season. The prediction here is that he's going to shoot the lights out in the WCHA. Maybe not right away, but it won't take him long.
Grimaldi is explosive, lightning-fast and extremely balanced and strong on his skates. Think of Jeff Skinner, only with breakaway speed, and you start to get the picture of what this kid can do on his edges and with his very powerful lower trunk. Grimaldi has drive, a love for the game and very good vision and offensive hockey sense. A very quick stick, rapid-fire release and impressive power that he generates on a big, heavy shot that belies his size are all factors that make him one of the most dangerous scorers to come out of the U.S. NTDP in a few years. His ability to control the tempo of a game all speak very well for him.
Now, for the bad news: Grimaldi is small. As in tiny. As in, that 5-6, 160-pound listing may be generous. There is definitely a place in the NHL these days for the highly-skilled small man, and Grimaldi is just that. At the same time, expecting him to be drafted where his pure talent and potential should land him is probably a bridge too far.
Where will he be drafted in June? This blog has no idea. It's all going to come down to a team who a. believes in him completely and has no doubt he can take on the challenge of the NHL, and b. one who has enough picks in this draft that spending one on a higher-risk/reward pick like Grimaldi won't set them back. But, be sure to keep an eye on this kid, because he's pretty special. If nothing else, he's going to be one hell of an exciting player in the NCAA. Beyond that, we'll all have to wait and see.
Here's a nice goal video at last April's Under-18s courtesy of Jerome at the NHLDraftVideo blog:
Caryn Switaj of USA Hockey was nice enough to provide a link to an article and video she did on Rocco earlier this season. Worth checking out.