The Blue Jackets have proven to be pretty solid when it comes to finding players in the mid-late rounds of the NHL Draft. The latest in their line of potential gems mined from those rounds: Ottawa 67's forward Luca Pinelli.
Truthfully, it seems like this player went a full round too low at the NHL Draft. Pinelli was ranked somewhere between the late second round and mid-third round by most scouting services, but the Jackets were able to nab him in the fourth round (pick #114 overall).
When you have a player who is only 5'9" and around 170 pounds falling in the draft like Pinelli did, it's natural that the first thing you think about is their size. That reasoning can often motivate these players to work harder, and if the first half of this season is any indication, it's obvious: Luca Pinelli is on a mission.
Through 44 OHL games, Pinelli has 30 goals and 50 points. As an 18 year old, he was named captain of his team and has been dominant all season thus far. Currently, he's third in the league in goal scoring, and is leading his team in overall scoring by 10 points.
A tireless worker, Pinelli plays the game all-in, each and every shift. He uses his speed and tenacity to get underneath players and win puck battles. Then, he's often quick to dish a pass and get himself into a prime scoring area, where has a variety of tools in his belt to finish off the play.
He can shoot and score from a distance, or in tight with a quick snapshot; and he combines that shot with slick hands that make him lethal from anywhere in the offensive zone. Whether shooting or deking, Pinelli is a very exciting player to watch. He's a dynamic goal scorer at the junior level, who buzzes all over the ice.
There are some areas for him to improve upon, which is to be expected of any mid-round pick. But, Pinelli is another player that I think would benefit from an earlier start in the AHL. As it stands, he's slated to head back to junior next year, where I'm sure he will absolutely dominate offensively.
That isn't entirely a bad thing. He should be allowed to play with confidence while working on rounding out the other areas of his game. It's just too bad he can't do it against grown men sooner.
I think Luca could develop into a very good bottom-six forward in the NHL; one who plays in all situations and chips in some secondary offense. I can't believe the Jackets landed him in the fourth round. He looks like a steal.