2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 32 Rocco Grimaldi

In the last few years, we have seen an abundance of United States-born players being drafted into the NHL in early rounds of the annual Entry Draft. This June will be no different – there will be plenty of American talent to go around. Forward Rocco Grimaldi is one of those guys who the U.S. should be proud of when critiquing their rising Developmental Team.

In what would become one of the shortest players in the NHL, Grimaldi (5-foot-6, 160 pounds) has been solid for the United States National Developmental Team Program. After scoring 11 goals and 20 points in 32 games for the team last season, he had a better showing as a sophomore in the program, posting a five-point increase in nine less games. In just 23 games this season, he managed a plus-10 rating, better than the minus-19 he experienced in his rookie campaign.

“I think that just raised my game up another level,” Grimaldi said in an interview with AnnArbor.com. “You have to be quick. Obviously, you’re not going to be going in the corners trying to out-muscle some 6-foot-3, 220-pound guy that has 60 pounds on you. So you have to out-smart them. You have to be really quick in the corners and use your speed and get out of there.”

While Grimaldi may be small, the U.S. NTDP already graduated an even shorter alumni, who has been having great success in the NHL – Buffalo Sabres forward Nathan Gerbe. But that means nothing to Grimaldi, who understands he needs to pave his own path to the pros.

“I can’t compare myself to someone who’s already done that and done this, and I haven’t done anything yet,” Grimaldi said in an interview with USA Hockey Magazine. “I don’t think there’s anyone who plays the exact same style of game as I do.”

Aside from his size, scouts are crazy about his game. His skating is among the best in the continent, in what ESPN.com describes as “explosive.” His puck skills are incredible, while his hockey sense further helps his cause. His two-way play was an issue last season, but over the summer and throughout this year, he worked extensively on that area of his game, and has impressed those who watch him often. Scouts also love his leadership and desire to succeed in whatever task he is undertaking.

“The Tim Tebows and the Colt McCoys – those are the guys that I look up to and I respect what they’re doing,” Grimaldi said, citing the young NFL quarterbacks. “They’re living out their faith, and when you’re on that pedestal, everyone’s going to be watching you. That’s just an even easier way to spread my faith and talk to people.”

Committed to attend the University of North Dakota next season, Grimaldi is prepared to amp his game to the next level, no matter what it takes.

“Obviously moving on to a new level is going to mean (playing against) bigger and faster and stronger guys and you’ve got to accept that,” Grimaldi said. “This gives me a heads up to see what you’re in for and hopefully this gets me not only physically ready, but mentally ready because there’s definitely a different aspect to that as well. But hopefully, I will be ready as fast as I can.”

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

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