Amherstburg’s DiPietro drafted by the Vancouver Canucks

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Canuck it Up! Festival doesn’t come to Amherstburg until August but Michael DiPietro decided to “Canuck it up” a little early.

DiPietro, the Amherstburg native who helped backstop the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires to a Memorial Cup title, was selected in the third round of last weekend’s NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks. DiPietro was selected 64th overall, appropriate because he wears #64 with the Spitfires.

Michael DiPietro of Amherstburg was drafted last Saturday by the Vancouver Canucks. (Special to the RTT)

Michael DiPietro of Amherstburg was drafted last Saturday by the Vancouver Canucks. (Special to the RTT)

The 18-year-old netminder was happy to be drafted and also pointed out he was happy to go to a Canadian team.

“It’s a great feeling, especially going to an organization that truly believes in you,” said DiPietro. “There’s nothing like playing in Canada. I can’t wait to get started.”

DiPietro said he was nervous after the second round concluded, as he thought he had a chance of being selected in the latter half of that round. His name was finally called two picks into the third round, noting he heard “Windsor” then his stepmother Assunta scream.

“It was definitely a great feeling,” he said. “It doesn’t hit you until you pull that jersey over your head.”

His selection at number 64 wasn’t lost on him either.

“My mom was watching from above,” he said. “I’m a big believer in that.”

DiPietro’s mother Becky passed away when he was a child.

Michael DiPietro heads to the draft floor after having his name called 64th overall in the June 23-24 NHL Draft. The Windsor Spitfires' goalie was the second pick of the third round.

Michael DiPietro heads to the draft floor after having his name called 64th overall in the June 23-24 NHL Draft. The Windsor Spitfires’ goalie was the second pick of the third round. (Special to the RTT)

A emotional twist at the NHL Draft came via Michael’s wardrobe. He surprised his father Vic by wearing a tie that Vic had received from Becky years ago with Vic surprising Michael with cuff links that included diamonds that came from the earrings his mother used to wear. Credited with the idea regarding the diamonds was Assunta.

The Canucks hold goalies in high regard, he said, so he is happy to be chosen by the Pacific Division club. He heads west Thursday and will go to Whistler with other prospects and will skate in Vancouver next week at a development camp. DiPietro met with Canucks officials at the draft, including president Trevor Linden, general manager Jim Benning and goalie coach Dan Cloutier, and was told he and fellow goalie prospect Thatcher Demko are seen as the future for the team in goal.

“That’s nice to hear,” said DiPietro.

After being selected, he went to the Canucks’ table on the draft floor and met the team’s executives. He met with the media for about 30-35 minutes and also did an interview with TSN Vancouver radio. Photos, signings and a number of other obligations kept him busy most of the day Saturday with that also including heading to Vancouver’s suite in Chicago’s United Center where he met even more team officials.

“All in all, it’s a day I’ll never forget,” he said.

The career trajectory for DiPietro is likely another year or two in the OHL and some time in the American Hockey League (AHL) before making the NHL, but he’s hoping to make the NHL as soon as he can.

Vancouver was a team he spoke with at the recent NHL draft combine in Buffalo.

Michael DiPietro shows cufflinks his father Vic gave to him. The cufflinks feature diamonds that  originally were part of his mother’s earrings. Michael surprised his dad by wearing a tie his mother originally gave his dad.

Michael DiPietro shows cufflinks his father Vic gave to him. The cufflinks feature diamonds that originally were part of his mother’s earrings. Michael surprised his dad by wearing a tie his mother originally gave his dad. (Special to the RTT)

“We had a really good conversation at the combine,” he said, noting he also met with Benning and Linden at that point as well. “Things kind of snowballed from there.”

Thus far, DiPietro plans on sticking with his usual training regimen, including working with goalie coach Brian Spearing and trainer Rob Maggio.

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he said.

The last few weeks have been busy yet exciting for DiPietro, as the Spitfires won the Memorial Cup May 28 and he was drafted less than a month later.

“It’s probably been the best month of my life,” he said.

A group of Stella Maris students were walking back to school Monday afternoon when they came across the new NHL draftee and had their photo taken with him.

A group of Stella Maris students were walking back to school Monday afternoon when they came across the new NHL draftee and had their photo taken with him. (Special to the RTT)

The 6’0”, 202 lbs. goalie knows he isn’t the biggest netminder around, but he said he is confident in his ability. His ability to stop pucks will also lead him to a World Junior camp in July.

Roughly 30-35 friends and family went to Chicago for the draft to support him and DiPietro said he is thankful to everyone for the support. He said it was special to share the experience with everyone.

DiPietro had a 2.35 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and a franchise record six shutouts in the 2016-17 regular season in Windsor, where his record was 30-12-6.

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