Former Red Wing selected by Tampa Bay in NHL draft
Cristiano DiGiacinto knew something was up when the phones of his two agents began ringing late in the fourth round.
The 18-year-old former Hamilton Red Wing, who joined the OHL Windsor Spitfires partway through the season last year, was drafted in the sixth round, 170th overall on Saturday by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I’m still kind of in shock right now,” said DiGiacinto, who along with his family drove to the Wells Fargo Centre in Philadelphia late last week so he could be on hand for the NHL draft. He is slated to attend a Lightning development camp in Tampa Bay later this week. “It’s not going to really hit me until I get there.”
DiGiacinto, whose only concern about 13 months ago was winning a roster spot with the Junior A Red Wings, said he spoke with Tampa Bay vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman after being picked.
He said Yzerman told him the Lightning is hoping he can add some toughness to their lineup in a couple of seasons.
“It was an amazing complement for me,” said the Sherwood graduate, who does not shy away from rough stuff.
Along with 17 goals and 11 assists in 50 games as a rookie with the Spitfires he added 101 penalty minutes.
“DiGiacinto is a player with high energy and compete level with good skills,” said Al Murray, the Lightning’s director of amateur scouting. “He has most of his success by going to the dirty areas of the rink and refusing to be outworked. He is very physical, you never have to go looking for him, he finds you every shift.”
Murrayadded the young forward needs to work on his skating and get quicker.
“But we have time on our side as he has two more years left at a very good program in Windsor,”Murray said.
DiGiacinto joined Windsor as a free agent last October after scoring eight goals and three assists in nine games with the Red Wings.
He credits former Red Wings head coach John McDonald for helping him get to the OHL following an unsuccessful tryout with Erie last summer.
“Without him I wouldn’t have been able to pick up the speed and develop my way into the OHL and I have him to thank,” said DiGiacinto, who noted McDonald pushed him in practice and encouraged him to shoot the puck at every opportunity. “Those nine games and practicing here…it really helped me get that extra boost I needed.”
McDonald said the Red Wings coaches were lucky to have the Hamilton Huskies graduate in the line-up even if only for a short time.
“When we watched him in midget we could see he was a hard-working kid, tough with the ability to score,” McDonald said. “You never had to tell him to go hard.”
Following the development camp that wraps up on Sunday, DiGiacinto said he plans to take a brief vacation and then start getting ready for another season in Windsor.
Prior to the NHL draft his routine included going to the gym every morning and then off to the Mohawk 4 Ice Centre to play four-on-four hockey or work on his skating skills.
He’s also been refereeing some Steel City Hockey summer league games at the Gateway Ice Centre in Stoney Creek.
After transferring to a Windsor high school last October, he transferred back to Sherwood in April after the Spitfires season ended to complete his Grade 12 and graduate with his friends last week.
“It’s been a crazy year,” said DiGiacinto who is now a step closer to his dream of playing in the NHL.
A dream that gets more real each time he walks into the Dave Andreychuk-Mountain Arena.
“Walking in here, I saw that picture of Dave Andreychuk,” he said. “Some day that could be me.”