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Red Wings Prospect Petruzzelli Adjusting To NCAA Hockey

Red Wings Prospect Petruzzelli Adjusting To NCAA Hockey

Moving up to the next highest level in any sport is a tough adjustment for any athlete. For hockey goaltenders, the task is even more daunting. The speed of the players increases an incredible amount at each step.

Detroit Red Wings draft pick Keith Petruzzelli has been making these adjustments look easy for the last few years, jumping from high school hockey, to a U18 academy, to the USHL, and now to NCAA division I in only four years

“It was a big jump going from U18 hockey to the USHL,” Petruzzelli told InGoal Magazine in a recent interview. “The depth on each team is a lot stronger. Everyone can shoot and everyone can make plays. Getting used to the pace and speed of things was tough at the beginning, but I thought I adjusted well.”

Specifically, Petruzzelli felt that even with his 6-foot-5 frame – managing his depth was the biggest key.

“I had to push myself with my depth management. I knew in U18 I could just sit back and rely on my size because most players would just hit me with their shots. In the USHL I always had to have my toes at the top of the crease, which really pushed my skating ability.”

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The adjustment from U18 to USHL may pale in comparison to his next challenge: NCAA Division I hockey with the Quinnipiac Bobcats.

As the game speeds up around you at higher levels, most goaltenders have the habit of sliding around their crease more frequently. Mentally, it feels like there isn’t enough time to get set for a shot.

The problem with sliding more frequently is that if the puck goes back in the other direction, the goaltender has to load their leg in order to push back. Goalies are now taught to stay on their feet as long as they can, because this allows them to have access to edges on both of their skates.

This can be a real test for goaltenders that do not have excellent skating ability, and that’s something Petruzzelli would like to work on.

“If you beat the pass on your feet, you’re able to get set early,” Petruzzelli explained. “It gives you confidence because you aren’t moving. If I’m already in position and square, I have a much better chance of making the save than if I was moving into the shot.”

“I want to continue working on my skating. Being set makes such a huge difference for me, with my size. If I can continue working on my skating, getting more explosive, and faster, I think that would be a huge thing for me.”

The knowledge and understanding of the position is something that bodes well for Petruzzelli’s future. His continued work with Quinnipiac goaltending coach Jared Waimon will ensure that he doesn’t fall into the trap of being down early on passing plays against some very tough NCAA division I opponents.

Puck-tracking is something he states that he also wants to focus on with Waimon as the year goes on. Being able to project over top of pucks and cut them off is a main key for any large goaltender, and that’s something he wants to get better at.

“I want to stay over pucks more, especially while following plays. It’s huge for me. I got a bit lazy in U18, especially when my D had the puck in our own zone. I always have to be ready now, because you never know where guys can rip it from.”

Being able to adapt through many different circumstances is a required skill for any goaltender that is going to have a long professional career. The Red Wings are certainly banking on him being able to progress into an NHL goaltender, as they took him 88th overall in this year’s entry draft.

Petruzzelli was the top-ranked North American goaltender at the mid-term ranking from the International Scouting Service, eventually losing that position to Boston University’s Jake Oettinger – who was selected by the Dallas Stars as the first goalie taken in the draft.

Although he wasn’t expecting to be nervous, sitting and waiting for his name to be called turned out to be a lot more difficult than first thought.

“It was tough [sitting there]. My advisor told me that it would be brutal until you hear your name called, and I said ‘Yeah, it won’t be that bad. Who cares when I go?’ but the actual waiting part was really tough.”

The fact that it was the Detroit Red Wings who selected him was also a bit of a surprise.

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“I didn’t think Detroit was going to be the team. I talked to them at the combine, but they weren’t a team that gave me an impression that they wanted to take me. I was not expecting them to take me at all. It’s a great spot, and their goalie situation is good. It’s really exciting.”

“I didn’t think Detroit was going to be the team. I talked to them at the combine, but they weren’t a team that gave me an impression that they wanted to take me. I was not expecting them to take me at all. It’s a great spot, and their goalie situation is good. It’s really exciting.”

After the draft, he was quickly sent to the Traverse City rookie tournament where he got to wear the Red Wings crest for the first time in full gear.

“I think Detroit does a great job of developing goalies,” Petruzzelli said, raving about his new team. “So far from what I’ve seen, they’ve done a really good job with me. I’m really just looking forward to working with the organization more.”

As for the “slow and steady” approach that the Red Wings like to take with their goalies? That doesn’t bother him at all. It worked for Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard, after all.

“I understand that the jump from college hockey to professional hockey is huge, especially for goalies. Getting adjusted to the pace of play takes time, and a couple of years in the minors definitely wouldn’t hurt.”

Aside from having a great start to his collegiate career, Petruzzelli also has his eye on another big gig: The World Juniors. Having spent significant time with USA Hockey skill developers like Kevin Reiter at the Warren Strelow National Goaltending Mentor Program, he is certainly on the radar – if not for this year, then next year.

“I want that job next year for the World Junior team,” Petruzzelli said excitedly. “I’d love to be there this year as well, but I definitely have my sights set on next year. USA Hockey has done a great job with hockey development. They’ve been focusing on developing younger goalies, and it’s showing. USA is producing a lot of great goalies, and I think it’s only going to continue.”

For now, he’ll focus on taking another stride with his development while getting an education at Quinnipiac. Don’t expect him to take another huge jump next season. He’s quite content with taking the slow approach now as he works on the finer details of his game.

Alongside Chase Perry, Joren van Pottelberghe, and Filip Larsson – the future of the Detroit Red Wings goaltending looks to be in good hands.

About The Author

Greg Balloch

Greg Balloch is a Vancouver-based writer for InGoal Magazine, broadcaster for Sportsnet 650, and goaltending coach. His career began in Hamilton, Ontario with the Junior 'A' Hamilton Red Wings, before moving to Vancouver to cover the Canucks on the radio and work with the Surrey Eagles of the BCHL. A lifelong goaltender, he has been teaching the position for over a decade.

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