Don Fulton tracked down Alex Pietrangelo, who has been out of commission recently because of a bout with mononucleosis. But Don tracked down yet another defensive prospect who might end up in the Kings organization in June…
The 18-year-old King City, Ontario native recently completed a highly successful OHL season with the Niagara IceDogs, netting 13 goals and assisting on 40 others, but his post season was cut short when he was diagnosed with a case of mononucleosis early in the second round of the playoffs against the Oshawa Generals.
Before the ailment sent him off for a hospital stay, Pietrangelo had tallied five goals and four assists in only six post season games. Without its star defenseman, the IceDogs fell to the powerful Generals in six games.
Pietrangelo, 6-4, 210-lbs is now home recovering from his bout with mono, and aside from the occasional tired spell is feeling much better. He took a few minutes away from his classes to discuss the illness, his thoughts on the development of his game and why even though he is a Maple Leafs fan, he wouldn’t mind playing in Los Angeles.
Q&A with Alex Pietrangelo
Question: Let’s start with the most pressing matter: How you made a full recovery from the mono?
Pietrangelo: Not just yet, we’re still in the early stages. It’s probably going to be a good couple of weeks until I am 100%.
Question: Tell me about the initial diagnosis and just how lousy you felt.
Pietrangelo: It actually hit me during one of the games. I was feeling a pain in my shoulder, but then I went back out and then a fight started so I headed back to the bench, then I started getting stomach pains and the pains were so unbearable that I went into the dressing room and the therapist came in and a pain doctor. They said I should just go to the hospital just to be safe. We took a blood test and it just turned out that I had mono, so they kept me hospitalized four days.
Question: Sounds pretty scary.
Pietrangelo: At first I was scared, especially when I didn’t know what it was. That was the scariest part. I guess when I found out what it was it just made sense that I was feeling the way I was feeling.
Question: How did your folks hold up during all of this?
Pietrangelo: Not bad actually, surprisingly not bad at all. They stayed down in St. Catharines for a couple of days just to make sure I was okay, so it was good thing to have them around.
Question: How are you feeling today?
Pietrangelo: Good. I get the odd tired spell, but other than that I’m functioning pretty well.
Question: How difficult was it for you to watch your team finish out the post season without you?
Pietrangelo: I went to all of the games that I was able to. I got out for game four, and then I watched that at home, and then game five and game six I think it was. It was tough to watch just because you know you can’t do anything to help them, but it was certainly fun to watch. I guess I became the team’s biggest fan, so it was certainly an interesting way to end the year.
Question: Nothing wrong with being a fan of your own team. I have to think that speaks to your character as a team leader?
Pietrangelo: Everyone on the team is a leader, but to watch them going through what they went through was exciting. I started to wear the jersey during some of the games because it was the closest I could get to playing, so I was certainly missing being out there.
Question: You must have been itching to get out there….
Pietrangelo: Oh yeah, I was yelling pretty loud from the press box (laughs).
Question: Tell me a little bit about the development of your game this past year.
Pietrangelo: Coming from last year, being a rookie, there were a lot of things I identified that I needed to work on, so one of the biggest things was the physical play and being able to use my size and this year I think I addressed that. And not that the penalty minutes showed it, but I became more aggressive this year and offensively we had good talent up front and in the back end for us and they helped me get my stats up. Mostly for me it was about using my size and the biggest thing was learning to play on the defensive side of the puck and learning how to play both ends of the ice.
Question: Let’s talk a little more about the physical side of the game for you. The biggest knock on your game is that you are just not physical enough. I know you worked on that part of the game, but do you necessarily agree with that assessment?
Pietrangelo: I think a lot of people just look at my size and say that I should be able to dominate with my size a bit more, and I think that is true at times. I think over the year I was able to progress in that sense about using size, and I got better as the year went on. And from here on in it will only get better for me in that aspect of my game as I get older and my body matures.
Question: For those who have never seen you play, can you compare your style to a current NHL defenseman?
Pietrangelo: A lot of the guys this year were comparing me to (Chris) Pronger. Not that I do that, but I try and play both ends of the ice and trying and add an offensive aspect to the game, but I just try and be one of those guys that can play all around and in all situations.
Question: Speaking of playing in all situations, they had you playing on both the power play and the penalty kill, right?
Pietrangelo: Yes they did. Plenty of ice time this year.
Question: So do you prefer the glory of the power play or the grittiness of the kill?
Pietrangelo: I think everyone you ask will say that the power play will be a bit more fun, but for me they are both important and you really need to be able to do both of them.
Question: Are you NHL-ready come draft day?
Pietrangelo: You know what, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. If I get to the summer and I get to where I want to be size-wise and strength-wise, then hopefully I get with the team that picks me – and maybe if that is Los Angeles – hopefully they give me the chance to try that. I think smarts-wise that I can definitely play at the next level, but it is such a different game up there.
Question: If you had to pick one area of your game that you feel you need to work the hardest to get you to the next level, what would it be?
Pietrangelo: There is always something you can work on. Nobody is perfect. I think for me it is the skating and the speed because when you get to the next level everything happens a bit quicker. I think for me, being a big guy, to adapt to the speed I’m going to need that foot speed to be able to keep up.
Question: How have the meet and greets gone with the scouts this year?
Pietrangelo: For me a lot of the times it really just is a casual meet and greet. They really want to get to know the kid and know what they are all about. They like to know what the individual is all about.
Question: What goes through your mind when you start thinking about the draft?
Pietrangelo: Now that the season is over, now more than ever I think about it because during the season you don’t want to lose your focus. Now the topic comes up more than ever and you try not to think about it too much, but there are always the thoughts running through your mind.
Question: So if you had to pick your dream team to draft you, who would it be?
Pietrangelo: Well that’s a tough question (laughs). A lot of people have been asking me that, and I can’t really pick and choose, but honestly any team that I could play for would be a privilege. I really don’t really have any preference, but somewhere…..anywhere would be nice.
Question: What is your favorite team?
Pietrangelo: I’ve always been a Toronto fan.
Question: So the thought of playing for the Leafs has crossed your mind once or twice?
Pietrangelo: Oh yeah absolutely, absolutely, absolutely (laughs). I can’t argue that one.
Question: You see the Kings are picking second and have some holes to fill defensively. Has the thought crossed your mind of playing in Los Angeles?
Pietrangelo: I realize that is a possibility come draft day, but when I think about it I have to address the fact that there’s a good five or six d-men that could go into that spot where L.A. is picking, so there is a good crop of defense here, but it would certainly be nice to get picked up by them. They are certainly headed in the right direction with some good defensemen out there and you look at the forwards and they are all young guys. They have a bright future ahead of them.