Friday, August 31, 2012

Meet Patrick Grasso: UNH's Newest Recruit

Every few years, a diminutive dynamo with blazing speed, quickness and offensive creativity joins the UNH Hockey Program. Hobey Baker Finalist Steve Saviano, point-scoring machine Jacob Micflikier, leading goal scorer Stevie Moses - all barely taller than 5'6" and around 170 pounds. Next year, it will be Tyler Kelleher - the 5'6", 147 lbs. leading scorer for the US National Team Development Program - who is on track to arrive in Durham. Next in line could be 16-year-old Patrick Grasso, a 5'5", 137 lbs. forward from Ankeny, Iowa who has just committed to play for UNH.

Patrick Grasso (DOB: 5-29-1996) has played all of his youth hockey, from pee wee to midget minor, for the NPI Leafs AAA Hockey Program. The NPI Leafs are sponsored by NPI Security Services and are based in Urbandale, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines. Patrick's dad, Michael, has been his coach throughout. During a brief career with the old Wisconsin Capitals of the USHL, Michael Grasso played at 5'10", 170 lbs. - a size Patrick can aspire to.

Last season, Patrick Grasso played for the NPI Leafs Midget Minor AAA 96's. The Leafs played other AAA teams throughout the midwest plus a number of showcase events all over North America. Late in the season, the Amateur Hockey Report scouting service provided this assessment of Patrick:
A seamless and quick skater that is smooth with the puck. Great hands and has a lot of jump. Small but elusive. Able to dictate the play from behind the net or from along the half-boards while on the power play. Disruptive and has a knack for positioning himself to intercept the puck.
In recent years, elite college programs, including UNH, have increasingly scouted young American-born players who are in their middle teenage years. The top American prospects are almost always selected to participate in the Player Development Camps run by USA Hockey every summer. All of the American-born recruits who have committed to play for UNH over the next few years have extensive experience in the USA Hockey Select Camps. Patrick Grasso is no exception. In 2011, Grasso earned a slot at the Select Camp through competition in the Central District of USA Hockey. At the 2011 Select 15 Camp held in July 2011 in Rochester, NY, Grasso scored a goal and added 4 assists in 5 scrimmage games. Of course, the number of points scored is one of several indicators of a player's performance. The scoring stats don't reflect how the player performed in key areas such as defense, skating, and endurance. However, using points as a gauge, Grasso's play was comparable to New Hampshire native Joey Dudek who recently committed to Boston College.

This year, Patrick Grasso earned a slot at the 2012 Select 16 Player Development Camp held in early July. Patrick posted 2 assists in 5 games. In their extensive coverage of the Select Camp, U.S. Hockey Report ranked Grasso as #23 among the nearly 120 forwards who participated in the camp.

The breakout performance that solidified Patrick Grasso's status as a top 1996-born prospect came at the Des Moines Buccaneers Tryout Camp in June. Patrick was not drafted by any team in the United States Hockey League but he was invited by the Buccaneers to their tryout. Over 100 players vied for slots on Des Moines' active roster for the 2012-13 season as well as spots on the team's affiliate list. Right from Day 1, Patrick got noticed. He scored a goal in his first game and went on to score a total of 4 goals in the 5 scrimmage games. On the strength of that performance, Patrick Grasso was selected to play in the Buccaneers Tryout Camp All-Star Game. Patrick scored a goal in the game as his team won 7-2. As he explains in my interview with him (see below), Patrick was offered a spot on the Des Moines Buccaneers roster. He plans to start out the regular season playing for the Omaha AAA U16 Lancers. The Lancers, based in Omaha, Nebraska, are members of the North American Prospects Hockey League.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Congratulations on your commitment to play for the University of New Hampshire. What are the main reasons you chose UNH?
Patrick Grasso: Thank you. I love the campus and the town. From the academic standpoint, UNH is a very good school. UNH is obviously one of the top hockey programs in the country. The tradition and atmosphere that surrounds the school is outstanding. I loved the coaches, and the winning history at UNH was a huge impact on my decision.

Mike Lowry ("C-H-C"): Have you and the UNH coaches agreed on a target date for you to enroll as a freshman at UNH and join the team?
Patrick Grasso: We haven't really talked about it that much but it will be between 2015 and 2016.

Lowry:  What other college programs were recruiting you?
Grasso: Minnesota State, Harvard, Yale, Colorado College, RPI, St. Cloud State, Penn State, and Princeton.

Lowry: At this stage in your hockey development, what are the strengths of your game? What areas do you plan on improving this season?
Grasso: My quickness and speed are two of my strongest assets. I have good vision of the ice and good hands. I play both ends of the ice. I look to improve my shot.

Lowry: Can you confirm that you will be playing for the Omaha AAA U16 team this year? How will your life change (e.g., living away from home; attending a new school; etc.) as you take the next step in your hockey career?
Grasso: I'm playing for Omaha AAA. It's been a little change so far but I'm attending a fairly small school which is like my school back in Des Moines. I'm living with a few of my teammates from last year so that has made things a lot easier for me.

Lowry: Will you be attending the Des Moines Buccaneers upcoming training camp? What are the prospects for you making the active roster or affiliate list of the Buccaneers?
Grasso: I attended the (tryout)camp in June and they offered me a spot on the roster, but I feel I still need a little time to mature physically. My family and I talked it over with the coaching staff and agreed that I'll be playing (for the Buccaneers) in the preseason tournament (2012 USHL Fall Classic) in Sioux City along with a few regular season games.

Lowry: What school grade are you in and what are your academic strengths?
Grasso: I'm currently in 11th grade and I have a 4.0 GPA. I think I would like to major in some kind of business or sports management.


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