Most promising NHL prospects have certain characteristics in common with each other to aid in their bids to make their dream of playing pro hockey a reality.
Some have athletic genes passed down from a parent or other family member, some have impressive physical size to build upon, many have local trainers and hockey programs at their finger tips from a very early age in and most potential NHL prospects come from a demographic where hockey is a way of life.
For 2011 NHL Entry Draft hopeful Rocco Grimaldi, these blessings were not available to him like they were to so many of his current teammates with the United States Development Program in Ann Arbor, MI.
Ironically, Grimaldi is a big underdog. Ironically because it may be the only time he’s referred to as big.
Raised in the community of Rossmoor (Orange County) in southern California, Grimaldi did not live in an area where hockey was seen as a prime sport both professionally and as a youth activity. A warm weather year round locale, the main youth activities are typically soccer, baseball, football, basketball and volleyball with niche sports like roller hockey, ice hockey and lacrosse not as prevelant.
Couple that with his lack of size at just five-foot six and the fact that at 17 he is already taller than his parents and the rest of his family, you can take it to the bank that he will not grow into the prototypical six-foot plus frame many top NHL prospects take for granted.
With these hurdles standing in his way, Grimaldi does have one thing that has helped overcome all of it; heart and plenty of it.
Always the hardest worker on every team he has played on since he first laced up his skates in both roller and ice hockey at the age of four, Grimaldi knows that work ethic, along with his impressive offensive talent, is what will ultimatly get him to where he wants to be.
“I work hard every time I hit the ice and try to get my team going with how hard I work,” he said.
Hard work and faith, Grimaldi, a Christian, admits.
“Hockey is a great way for me to share my faith as I have had many opportunities to share with teammates, coaches, roommates at camps, etcetera.”
Teens and young kids can be picked on when they choose to walk a different road than their peers but the Auburn Hills, MI. native says it is all part of living for God.
“I do get made fun of here and there but its just good and fun. (My Teammates) respect me because of it; they dont understand how I can (live for God), stay clean, pure and everything,” said Grimaldi, who aspires to be a pastor upon completion of his hockey career. “When they need help or prayer they always come to me for it. I think its great because I have the answer: Christ.”
Grimaldi has had plenty of support from his family both spiritually and in his love for the game over the years. Grimaldi was able to remain with his supportive family while making moves to elite hockey programs that helped his development, a rare situation in the hockey world which often sees young teen boys leaving home and staying with billet familes to further their chance at a proffesonal career in the sport.
When Grimaldi was 12 his mother Sue, father Rocco Sr. along with his sister Niccole picked up and moved to Michigan to help their son’s chances of playing competative hockey.
“My parents made the move with me and be there for me so the transition was smooth. Moving to Michigan was the second greatest decision in my life after accepting Christ,” Says Grimaldi.
Grimaldi played his Bantam and Midget hockey with Detroit Little Casers before joining the United States Development Program and the Under-17 squad last year where he played big minutes and a leading role in multiple international tournaments and against United States Hockey League competition.
The future University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux forward has enjoyed many on-ice successes throughout his young career but really enjoyed his breakout performance at last years World Under-17 Challenge in Timmins, ON. in front of an arena full of NHL scouts. Grimaldi led all scorers in that tournament with 14 points in six contests in helping his American squad take home the gold medal against all the best players in his age group.
This season Grimaldi is again with the USDP and the Under-18 squad where he hopes to enjoy just as much success as last season before moving on to the University of North Dakota.
And under Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol, this underdog will continue the fight.
Dan Stewart is the scouting director of Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!