October 10, 2012

Juniors Journal: Kings' Piacentini proving doubters wrong

By Shawn Hutcheon

When describing what quite a few hockey teams look for in a prospect, former National Hockey League coach turned television analyst Barry Melrose once said, “The small player must prove he can play while the big player must prove he can’t.” 

Tyler Piacentini has scored eight goals in his first nine games this season. (Photo: South Shore Kings)

At 5-foot-5, Tyler Piacentini of the Eastern Junior Hockey League’s South Shore Kings is proving night in and night out that he can play.

Kings coach Scott Harlow believes his star forward has all the tools and talent to continue on to the highest level of college hockey.

“Tyler is playing great and I think he is a top player in the league,” the coach said. “He is attracting a lot of Division 3 interest at the moment. I think he is a Division 1 hockey player -- the size being the issue here. You can not measure hockey sense and heart.”

How does Piacentini feel when the critics bring up his “lack” of height?

“I really don’t listen to people when they say that stuff,” the Weymouth, Mass., native said. “I just play my game. I like to watch and play a similar style to (Minnesota Wild forward) Zach Parise. Like him, I use my size as an advantage. I’m a hard-working, grinding forward who likes to go to the net. I try to be quick and be first to the puck. I also like to stand in front of the (opponent’s) net and try to draw penalties when the defensemen cross check me in the back.”

Nine games into the season, Piacentini has scored eight goals and six assists to lead the EJHL in scoring with fourteen points. He has registered nine points in his last four games. It’s a streak he hopes to continue this weekend against the Portland Jr. Pirates and the Rochester Stars as his club looks to break its first place tie with the Jersey Hitmen in the league’s South Division.

The crafty center gives credit to his linemates for his early season success.

“I’ve been playing well and my linemates, Jonathan Mleczko (Dorchester, Mass.) and Chris Calnan (Norwell, Mass.), have been great,” Piacentini said. “We keep it simple and just throw pucks at the net.”

Piacentini has his sights set on continuing his hockey career after this season.

“I’m looking to play college hockey for either a Division 1 or 3 school,” he said. “I try to get noticed by the coaches.”

Piacentini has been getting noticed by coaches and players alike due to his smaller stature all his life. Now, he is garnering attention for his skill, grit and scoring ability. Those are things all coaches at all levels of hockey look for.  

Game of the Week:

Tri-Town Arena in Hooksett, N.H. is the place to be this week, as the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs will host a slate of EJHL games. The game all eyes will be on is Thursday’s matchup between the new North Division leader, the Boston Junior Bruins, and the second place club in the division, Valley Jr. Warriors. BJB will be led into this battle by goaltender Sean Lawrence. The Granite Bay, California native has a 7-1-0-0 record and a 2.25 goals against average, accompanied by a .917 save percentage.

Lawrence will need to be at the top of his game when he faces Valley’s leading scorer and Carolina Hurricanes draft pick Brendan Collier (Charlestown, Mass). Collier is seventh in league scoring with 10 points. He has scored five goals, with two of those markers coming on the power play and one while shorthanded. He also has one game-winning goal. Rookie Ryan Fitzgerald will return to the Warriors this week after spending last weekend with the USA Hockey U18 NTDP team, with whom, he played against the University of Wisconsin and Notre Dame.

New EnglandPower Rankings   

To read Shawn Hutcheon’s analysis of each team in the top 15, head over to our junior power rankings page.

1. Boston Junior Bruins (7-1-0-0) 
2. Valley Jr. Warriors (6-2-0-0)
3. Islanders Hockey Club (4-0-0-1) 
4. Northern Cyclones (7-0-0-1) 
5. South Shore Kings (4-3-0-2) 

6. Connecticut Wolfpack (7-0-0-1) 
7. Boston Jr. Rangers (5-0-2-0) 
8. Boston Bandits (4-5-0-0) 
9. Walpole Express (4-1-1-0) 
10. Bay State Breakers (4-5-0-0) 

11. New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs (3-4-0-0) 
12. Connecticut Oilers (3-4-0-1) 
13. Springfield Jr. Pics (3-4-0-0) 
14. Portland Jr. Pirates (1-6-0-1) 
15. Laconia Leafs (1-6-1-0) 

Shawn Hutcheon can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.