The 2011 draft is only 10 days away, and the Rangers scouting and front office staff is looking through many prospects to see who they want to select with the 15th overall selection. With the current state of the Rangers defense both at the NHL and prospect level one would expect that New York will look for offense in the first round of the draft hoping to find an impact scorer. There are a number of offensive prospects that could be available at 15. We have already looked at Mark Scheifele, Mark McNeill, Zack Phillips, Joel Armia, Sven Bartschi, Ty Rattie, Matt Peumpel and Vladislav Namestnikov for their potential fits for the Rangers.
Today it is time to look at Rocco Grimaldi who is a center from the USHL. Grimaldi is as skilled as just about any player in this draft class, but where he will be taken is a mystery right now. The reason for the differential is because of the concerns over Grimaldi’s size as he checks in at 5’ 6”, 163 pounds. Size has not been an issue to this point as this past season in just 23 games this year for US NTDP he scored 12 goals and added 13 assists.
Looking beyond his physical size you see a player who has tremendous skill, speed, quickness and is extremely strong for his stature. The level of athlete that Grimaldi is helps to overcome some of the issues with his size. The fact that more undersized players are succeeding in big ways should help Grimaldi in the draft, but he will likely still slip further than his skill should allow him to. He is definitely a risk because of the size, but in the mid-to-late first round the ability to get an top line type talent is something that will make someone take the chance and likely be rewarded down the road.
Grimaldi would certainly add tremendous talent to the Rangers system and they have shown they are not against drafting smaller players, so drafting Grimaldi is certainly a viable option for the Rangers at #15. You likely are not going to find a better pure talent in the middle of the first round, but there could be a better combination of size and talent for the Rangers on the board at that point.
Kirk Luedeke of Bruins Draft Watch:
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.
Easily one of the more skilled players available in the draft, Grimaldi has a proven track record of production at every level. Strong work ethic and dedication to the game have enabled him to develop skills in skating, passing, shooting and puck handling that could comprise a video on “How To….” All indications are that he’ll keep developing as he moves up the ladder. The only obvious knock is his size.
Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus:
The most common phrase I hear in reference to Rocco Grimaldi when I talk to scouts usually goes along the lines of, "If only he was 5'11", then he'd go first overall." He is one of the, if not the most gifted player in this draft class from a pure hockey skills perspective. Grimaldi's a true plus skater with well above-average acceleration and gets to a plus top speed after a handful of strides. He's agile standing still and in motion, and I've seen him out-skate a defender chasing him skating forward while he was merely side stepping. He possesses plus puck skills and in regards to when the puck is on his stick, there's really not a single area where there's an issue. His hand-eye coordination, stick-handling, passing, even to a degree his puck protection is all there and at a desirable level. Grimaldi's shot is also at a plus level, and he can score with his wrist shot or slapper from well beyond the crease area and he generates a large amount of power on all his shots. He thinks the game at a solid to above-average level, has notable vision with the puck that allows to him execute plus passes regularly, although I have at times seem him force plays here and there. He's solid defensively, and is effective at even-strength and on the penalty kill in that regard. Grimaldi's intangibles are off the charts; he simply flies up and down the ice and does whatever it takes to get the puck off players. Despite the 5'6" frame, he regularly challenges players much bigger than him and wins his fair share of battles although not enough to erase the liability. The frame will continue to hamper his absolute potential for his entire career, but if there was ever an ideal model of a player who could overcome being well below-average size-wise, that player would be Rocco Grimaldi.