Francesco Pinelli is indeed a ‘player to watch’.
Equally adept at setting up teammates as he is at finding the back of the net himself, Pinelli had a successful freshman showing with the Rangers last season in which he finished with 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points through 59 appearances, placing him fourth in scoring among league-wide rookies.
Originally chosen 13th overall in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, Pinelli is back on the draft radar this year as he continues to approach the pro ranks. One of 52 OHL players included in NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list for January, Pinelli was also one of just four of his league brethren to earn an ‘A’ rating, indicating a potential first-round selection in the coming NHL Draft.
Pinelli reflected on his rookie season, how he is preparing for draft day, and more in the latest edition of the CHL Sunday Spotlight presented by WINMAR:
How do you evaluate your rookie season with the Rangers?
My rookie year went well. I had great teammates. The veterans treated me very well, made me comfortable, and I felt like I was at home so to have them was really good and special to me. Overall, I think it went really well and I was really happy with our team last year.
What are your best strengths as a player?
My best strengths as a hockey player are my hockey IQ and my vision. I process the play at a high speed. I developed these skills by usually watching my video of my games and also watching the NHL, watching as many clips, and learning and studying the game as much as I can.
What is it like to be considered a potential first-round pick for the coming NHL Draft?
To be recognized as a top player by NHL Central Scouting means a lot and is a true honour. But, at the end of the day, I try not to worry about those lists and try to work on my craft as much as I can, to stay focused, and to get ready for this upcoming season.
What was the biggest adjustment going from minor hockey to the OHL?
The biggest adjustment from minor hockey to the OHL was probably the speed of the game. The guys are a lot older and a lot more experienced so the speed of the game was probably the biggest thing in translating from minor hockey to the OHL.
What style of player are you and which NHL player do you model your game after?
A player I model my game after in the NHL is a guy like Evgeni Malkin. I think he is a well-rounded, two-way centre. He can play the wing as well. He has high hockey IQ. He brings leadership. He has a great shot and his passing abilities are off the charts. I think he is well-rounded overall so he is a guy I look up to.