Rocco Grimaldi, C U.S. NTDP (USHL)
Born: February 8, 1993 in Rossmoor, California
Strengths: Top athlete with pure power, quickness and strength. Strong for his size- a dedicated gym rat who understands that pound-for-pound, he must be one of the most powerful players to compensate for the lack of height/weight. Dynamic, explosive skater with elite speed, edge control and balance. Low center of gravity allows him to get under bigger players and stay on his skates when body contract occurs. Never stops moving his feet or hustling- a whirling dervish of perpetual motion. Ultra-fast stick and elite puck skills. Sniper with flash-fire release, pinpoint accuracy and the mindset to finish at any level. Genius hockey IQ- can play in any zone, but is an especially lethal threat when he has the puck. Tremendous passer who can find open teammates through a maze of sticks and feet. Right up there with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as the top two pure offensive talents in the 2011 draft class. Can do just about anything he wants with the puck, but plays well away from it, too. Very good on faceoffs when it comes to beating his opponent cleanly with a fast stick. Tenacious in his own end- uses his superb hand-eye coordination to steal pucks away from opponents and interdict passing lanes. Aggressive on the PK- uses his game-breaking speed and smarts to intercept passes and turn them into scoring chances. Huge heart- never stops working to prove critics wrong. Unselfish teammate who is willing to sacrifice individual numbers and accolades in the name of winning. A winner. Devout in his faith and convictions- Grimaldi uses his beliefs and values system as a powerful motivational force to always brings his best.
Weaknesses: Tiny; well below average size and that will give any team picking 10-30 a lot to debate between now and June 24. There isn't much more room on his small frame, so pretty much what you see is what you get from Grimaldi in terms of his physical stature. Durability is another concern with him- willingly gives and takes hits, but the sledding will only get tougher as he moves up in level (going to University of North Dakota next season). Size is the only thing holding Grimaldi back- and if his life is any sign of things to come, it won't prevent him from becoming an impact player at the highest level.
Rocco Grimaldi shootout goal (NHLDraftVideo)
Rocco Grimaldi combine interview (B2011DW video)
Style compares to: Martin St. Louis (but more Theoren Fleury based on his grittiness and fearless style)
Draft prediction: Grimaldi's draft position will be the subject of endless debate until we finally reach June 24th and learn which NHL team is willing to take a chance on him. On pure skill alone, Grimaldi is a top-three pick, but the size concerns will drop him. The question that remains is: how far. B2011DW would take him in the top-10, but we have the benefit of not having a job on the line and can make such a call without factoring organizational needs and building philosophy. We also acknowledge the fact that Grimaldi brings a sizeable risk because of his physical limitations and durability concerns, but he's taken such relish in smashing the obstacles in his path that he's worth rolling the dice on. He's going to go lower on draft day than we have him, but when he's scoring goals in the NHL in a few years and drawing raves, there won't be any surprise from these circles.
Projection: Has top-line skill, and projects as a top-nine forward even if he doesn't reach his high ceiling. Some may be concerned about his outspoken religious beliefs being an issue in the dressing room, but he's mature and smart enough to tone it down when he needs to. We have yet to find a teammate on the U.S. U-18 team who's been willing to go on the record to say it's an issue, so unless we hear otherwise, we consider it a strength- a source of inspiration and supreme confidence.
Background: Parents are Rocco and Susie Grimaldi. Sister, Niccole, was a standout scholarship soccer player at Oklahoma State University. Family moved to Auburn Hills, Michigan from Southern California so he could play elite level hockey with Detroit Little Caesars midget major organization (38 goals, and 84 points in 58 games in '08-09 before reporting to U.S NTDP). Led his team to the USA Hockey Tier I 18 & Under National Championship in '09. Split the '09-10 seasons between the Under-17 and Under-18 teams- won gold medals in both '10 and '11 at the World Under-18 Championships. Scored 34 goals and 62 points in 50 games with the Under-18 team this season.
If Grimaldi had his own soundtrack it would be: "Stop The Rock"- Apollo 440
"With his size, everyone always questions his ability to play at each stage. He's proven everybody dead wrong by constantly playing up against players that are bigger, faster and have more skill at that level. But he's a player that already had the professionalism of preparing himself and being very focused and knowing what he wants. It's hard to find somebody as so young of an age that's so focused and determined to make a living in the game."- Ron Rolston to Ann Arbor.com; Oct. 2010 (see link to full story in the Scoop section below)
"He's definitely a character kid and great guy. He's small, but probably has the biggest heart on the team."- U.S. NTDP G John Gibson to NHL.com; May, 2011 (see link to full story in the Scoop section below)
"He was a dynamic guy, an outstanding skater, quick and around the puck all the time. He wasn't scared to get involved in battles and go to the net."- Central Scouting's Chris Edwards to NHL.com (see link to full story in the Scoop section below)
"To me what he did in Europe is not a big surprise," Giese said of Grimaldi. "That's where he thrives- on the wider ice surface, playing other skill teams like Sweden and Russia. When you're scouting him, you're not projecting him as an international player, but in the NHL, so the questions you have to answer are: will he find a way in the NHL?"
"To me what he did in Europe is not a big surprise. That's where he thrives- on the wider ice surface, playing other skill teams like Sweden and Russia. When you're scouting him, you're not projecting him as an international player, but in the NHL, so the questions you have to answer are: will he find a way in the NHL?"- Red Line Report scout Max Giese to B2011DW; March 26, 2011
>Jeff Arnold feature on Rocco Grimaldi for Ann Arbor.com
USA Hockey Magazine feature on Grimaldi by Caryn Switaj (Go Eagles!)
Rocco Grimaldi a 'huge' threat for Team USA by Mike G. Morreale