NHL Draft

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.

Memorial Cup down, NHL draft to go for DiPietro

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

“You’re at a loss for words at that point. I think you do so much throughout your whole career and you’re never guaranteed winning. Very few times do you have the privilege to win in a season and to be able to do that especially from around here is something special that I hold dear and that I never will take for granted.”

When Michael DiPietro started out on the ice as a young boy, he never imagined he’d go pro, but at the end of the week he will be in Chicago, waited to get drafted by an NHL team. The six-foot tall, 193 pound goalie is relying on his compete level, momentum, work ethic and ability to make the right save at the right time to get him through.

“I think going in with an open mind, a clear mind, you don’t want to get your hopes too high or too low,” said DiPietro, who made the Memorial Cup all-star team during the Spitfires’ recent triumph. “If I hear my name called in the first round I’ll be ecstatic, if I hear my name called in the second round I’ll be pumped, I do recognize goalie is a unique position and not everyone is going to draft a six foot goalie. I think the teams that do believe in me and know what I can do will fall in the right place.”

Peter Leardi, owner of 67 Richmond, dressed Michael DiPietro for his NHL draft. He has known DiPietro since he was in diapers, and said, “for Michael to come back and give me the honor of doing his suit for his NHL draft, it’s a big honor for me.”

Peter Leardi, owner of 67 Richmond, dressed Michael DiPietro for his NHL draft. He has known DiPietro since he was in diapers, and said, “for Michael to come back and give me the honor of doing his suit for his NHL draft, it’s a big honor for me.”

When it came to his OHL draft day, family and friends surrounded DiPietro. He said he had two TVs on in the house.

“It’s a feeling out process,” said DiPietro. “I had team Ontario where I won gold there during the Canadian Winter Games so I felt pretty confident going into the draft but anything can happen with trading picks and so on, so I knew Windsor had the first pick in the second but I really wasn’t sure coming into it. I kept an open mind.”

One of the obstacles DiPietro has had to overcome as a goalie is certainly his size, but he has adjusted his gameplay and often plays more aggressively outside of the paint and gets into spots where he can cut down the angle, especially in upper portions of the net the way taller goalies would. DiPietro explains he just has to move an extra couple inches and his speed, agility and quickness allow him to do just that.

During the NHL scouting combine May 29 through June 3 in Buffalo, DiPietro explained he met with 16 teams.
“I’m not naïve to the fact that, if a team I was talking to throughout the year didn’t want to interview me, it was because they already knew so much about me,” said DiPietro. “It was a time for teams who really didn’t know me to get to know me and have the opportunity to meet with me face to face. I went in with the approach that I only have one chance to make a good first impression and that was my mindset going into it. With the testing at the end, the teams were aware how long my season was, they weren’t really too worried about the testing aspect, but I told them I wanted to test and show them my work ethic.”

This past regular season, DiPietro had a .971 save percentage and 2.35 goals against average with the Windsor Spitfires. He showed similar numbers in their seven-game series against defending OHL champs, the London Knights, with a .917 save percentage and 2.48 goals against.

In DiPietro’s first year with the Windsor Spitfires, he played 29 games, which he said is pretty good for a rookie goalie and this allowed him to build his momentum and bring it forward into this season. He said while not every game goes the way you want it to, it’s all about the way you rebound and his rookie season allowed him to learn from his mistakes and continue improving.

Amherstburg native Michael DiPietro will be in Chicago this weekend for the NHL draft. The Windsor Spitfires goalie hopes to be selected by a National Hockey League team.

Amherstburg native Michael DiPietro will be in Chicago this weekend for the NHL draft. The Windsor Spitfires goalie hopes to be selected by a National Hockey League team.

“I think my consistency definitely changed, my whole overall lookout, the way you approach games day in and day out,” said DiPietro. “Your body is your number one priority throughout the season because if it’s feeling good then that translates onto the ice and I think that was the biggest change and allowed me to play the games I did this year and have the success I did.”

As he heads off to Chicago at the end of the week, dressed for success in a suit by Peter Leardi at 67 Richmond, DiPietro said even making it this far was something he had only hoped for, but it was a one in a million chance and never truly believed it would come true.

“I think back then you have a dream,” said DiPietro. “You want to play in the NHL, you want to be a part of an organization and to be honest I never really thought it would happen. You believe it, you hope one day, and that’s why you play the game and one day you hope to make a career out of it. But I don’t play the game because of a job, I play because it’s something I love to do.”