Grimaldi pitches college hockey


College Hockey Inc., held a showcase for prospective players in southern California on Thursday, and Rocco Grimaldi stopped by to give his thoughts on playing college hockey.

He also told a little-known story.

Grimaldi said he almost left the NTDP early to go play major juniors.

“It didn’t work out and I’m glad it didn’t,” he said. “Going to North Dakota was one of the best things that’s happened in my life.”

Grimaldi touted not only the thrills on the ice, but also how much he enjoyed off the ice stuff as well. He noted that he met his fiance at UND and that the groomsmen who will be standing next to him at the wedding are people he met at UND as well.

“I went to North Dakota and I believe it’s the best school in the world and I’m always going to try to sell the program,” he said.

But Grimaldi also sold college hockey as a whole. He said that once you go to a school, you are always part of that school.

“For me, I’m a Fighting Sioux alum,” he said. “I’ll always be a Fighting Sioux. You are always welcomed back. I’ve been to North Dakota three times already this summer to visit guys.

“You build relationships with friends, teammates and students, wherever you go to school. You have a family there with all the different people you meet, especially the guys you play with and the freshmen you go in with. You guys go in together and you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re not the smartest guys. I was lucky to go in with a great class. There were 10 of us. I made special bonds with everybody, but those 10 guys in particular. I’ll always be alumni there.”

Grimaldi was at UND for three years, but took full-time online classes to graduate from UND in the spring. He returned to college to walk for his graduation ceremony.

He said the hockey was second-to-none, too.

“A lot of major junior guys tell me today that they wish they would have gone to college,” Grimaldi said. “You’ll never get that atmosphere again.

“You’ll never be able to play in front of students like college. It’s the greatest atmosphere you’ll ever play at.”

At the end of Grimaldi’s presentation, he asked the players if they had any questions. One asked about travel.

Grimaldi laughed.

“At North Dakota, we’re spoiled. We had charters everywhere, and when you get on the plane, there is a basket on your seat with a meal in it.”

Grimaldi scores first NHL goal

Rocco Grimaldi scored his first NHL goal on Saturday night for the Florida Panthers against the Nashville Predators.

Grimaldi’s goal came against Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.

On the play, a shot from the wall hit traffic in front and popped out to Grimaldi, who one-timed it past Rinne to make it 2-1 Nashville. A few seconds later, the Panthers tied the game and stole a point.

Grimaldi has played seven games with the Panthers. The goal was his first NHL point.

Grimaldi plays two games in one day

Former UND forward Rocco Grimaldi pulled off a very rare feat Tuesday — he played in an AHL game and in an NHL game in the same day.

Grimaldi started the day by playing a 2 p.m. game in San Antonio. After the second period, he was called off the ice. Because of an illness, he needed to fly to Los Angeles to play for the Florida Panthers that night.

It ended up being extra special for Grimaldi, who is from the Los Angeles area.

Grimaldi had three shots on goal during the first two periods of the AHL game. His team won 4-3.

In the nightcap, Grimaldi played 10:36 for the Florida Panthers, registering two shots, a hit and a penalty.

After the game, he told L.A. Kings Insider what the day was like.

Grimaldi makes NHL debut

Former UND forward Rocco Grimaldi made his NHL debut Saturday night for the Florida Panthers against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Grimaldi wore his favorite number — No. 23 — while skating at center between Tomas Fleischmann and Jussi Jokinen.

Grimaldi played 6:11, all at even strength, registering one shot on goal and one hit. His first NHL shift was 16 seconds, according to the Miami Herald’s George Richards.

The Panthers, who were without five regulars up front (Jonathan Huberdeau, Brandon Pirri, Dave Bolland, Sean Bergenheim, Aleksander Barkov), won the game 2-1.

Earlier this season, Grimaldi played 8 AHL games for San Antonio, registering three goals and one assist.

More on the Grimaldi signing

UND sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi signed a three-year deal with the Florida Panthers on Wednesday, giving up his final two years of college eligibility.

What does that mean for UND next season?

I think it means that UND, once again, isn’t going to blow anyone away with its skill level up front and it will rely on offense by committee, just as it did this season. Look at the lineup of forwards and there really isn’t a potential Hobey guy up there.

(Side note: I see fans comment sometimes asking, ‘When are we going to have a sniper or a goal-scorer? We never do!’ Prior to this season, UND had the leading goal scorer in the WCHA for three consecutive seasons — Danny Kristo, Brock Nelson and Matt Frattin — so those fans have a short memory….)

Next year, there won’t be a guy on the roster who has tallied more than 13 goals in a college season.

I think fans can expect Michael Parks and Mark MacMillan to have bigger point totals as long as they are healthy. Their production was significantly different in the second half of the season when they were healthy (although Parks clearly wasn’t fully healthy because he wouldn’t shake hands with his right hand).

We’ve all seen some of the high-end things that Drake Caggiula can do. As he gets older, he’s starting to become more consistent. He’s a guy that UND will look to continue adding to that consistency.

Nick Schmaltz is a guy who has potential to produce offense right away. I’ve only seen him play two games, but he was more of a setup man in those games, which could come in handy on the power play.

And it will also be very important to keep getting production from the junkyard dogs. Stephane Pattyn and Connor Gaarder came up huge for UND at the end of the season. They may not be the most skilled players, but they are relentless and get everything out of their abilities.

Pattyn and Gaarder became the faces of this year’s team. The team took on their mentality at the end of the season and will need to do that again next season. I also think Pattyn can continue practicing tips in front of the net — he sparked the power play at the end of the season and I think he’ll be at net front again next season.

Back to Grimaldi, UND loses its most explosive and dynamic player. Does it hurt? Yes. Is it a loss UND can overcome? Yes. With or without Grimaldi, UND’s strength next season was going to be on the back end and in goal. That doesn’t change. The only thing that changes is UND’s skill level up front.

I’ve certainly never covered a player like Grimaldi in my time on the beat. He was unique.

He had the ability to create a highlight reel play at any time. Look at the goal he scored in the second period against Wisconsin: He picked off a pass in the neutral zone, used his elite speed to gain separation from the defenseman, then backhanded one home. I don’t know if there’s another guy on the team who could score a goal like that.

If he came in the zone on a one-on-one rush, he would get the crowd out of their seats, because they had no idea what was going to happen next. He could go wide, he could go inside, he could put the puck through the defender, he could pull up and let traffic build in front or he could stop on a dime, let the D go by and shoot.

He could spark his team and the crowd with an energetic shift, and he almost always set the pace at which the team played.

Then, there were the three stats that I’ll never be able to figure out.

Grimaldi scored a power-play goal in each game against Vermont. Then, he had one power-play goal in the last 40 games of the year and none in the final 33. He was in a setup role on the halfwall often, but even so, it’s strange that he became more proficient at scoring shorthanded than on the power play.

It was also strange that, until burying two empty-netters in the regional against Wisconsin, he never had a two-goal game at UND.

The other thing I’ve never seen before is a player produce at the same rate no matter who he had on his line. Grimaldi played with Kristo and Knight for a while last season and put up pretty much the same numbers that he did when he was mixed-and-matched with Pattyn, Bryn Chyzyk and Colten St. Clair.

Add all that up and it tells you why there are so many differing opinions on how he will do in the pros.

The truth is that none of us really know what the next level holds for Grimaldi and we’ll all be following curiously along to see the results. Before hanging up with him on the phone today, I told Grimaldi that we’ll keep in touch as we follow him through the pros.

“I’m in the Fighting Sioux family now,” he said. “I know the people here will always support me and I will support this team forever.”

Grimaldi signs with Florida

UND sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi has signed with the Florida Panthers, giving up his final two years of college eligibility.

It is a three-year deal with the Panthers, who drafted him in the second round in 2011.

Here’s a quick file story on the Herald’s site, including a couple of quotes from Grimaldi.

Grimaldi is the seventh NCHC player to turn pro early this offseason.

NCHC early signings

Colorado College (1)
Gustav Olofsson, fr, d, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Duluth (1)
Caleb Herbert, jr, f, Washington Capitals

Nebraska Omaha (2)
Josh Archibald, jr, f, Pittsburgh Penguins
Jaycob Megna, jr, d, Anaheim Ducks

North Dakota (1)
Rocco Grimaldi, so, f, Florida Panthers

St. Cloud State (1)
Ryan Faragher, jr, g, Anaheim Ducks

Western Michigan (1)
Jordan Oesterle, jr, d, Edmonton Oilers

Grimaldi decision coming soon

UND will soon know whether its leading scorer is coming back for next season.

Sophomore forward Rocco Grimaldi says he wants to decide before the end of the school year whether he will return for his junior year or if he will sign with the Florida Panthers.

UND’s spring session ends in two-and-a-half weeks.

Grimaldi led UND in both goals (17) and points (39) this season, scoring five more goals than anyone else on the team and registering nine more points than anyone. He was named the MVP of the Midwest Regional.

If he returns, it would give UND’s skill level a big boost for next season. But Florida is likely trying to get him signed, because if he returns for another year, he could have the option of becoming a free agent in the future.

UND has already received pledges to return from Jordan Schmaltz, Zane Gothberg and Michael Parks.

The last time UND had an offseason where nobody turned pro early was 2010. Since 1999, there have only been two offseasons where no UND player turned pro early — 2009 and 2010.

Grimaldi injury not believed serious

UND coach Dave Hakstol said that he doesn’t believe Rocco Grimaldi’s injury will be anything longterm, but the team will do a more in-depth evaluation after 24 hours.

Grimaldi went down with a leg injury early in the third period and didn’t return. He struggled to get off the ice and was examined by trainer Mark Poolman on the bench for a couple of minutes before he hobbled down the tunnel and to the locker room.

Grimaldi was walking on his own power after the game.

Any absence of Grimaldi, the team’s leading scorer, would hurt as this team isn’t the most potent team in the NCHC.

UND hosts Colorado College this upcoming weekend.

Grimaldi stars as U.S. wins gold

Trailing 1-0 in the second period, Rocco Grimaldi scored back-to-back goals and linemate Vince Trocheck added an empty netter as the U.S. beat Sweden 3-1 to win the gold medal at the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.

Grimaldi was named the U.S. player of the game.

After hitting both posts on a first-period shot, Grimaldi scored from a bad angle and tipped a Jacob Trouba shot to lead the American comeback.

Grimaldi is the 12th UND player to win a gold medal at the event and the fifth American. For more, see the Herald’s site.