Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images
Francesco Pinelli is a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect, who hails from Hamilton, Ontario. Pinelli plays for the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, but spent this season playing Slovenia for HDD Jesenice since the OHL did not return to play.
Pinelli played youth hockey for the Toronto Red Wings and in the year of his OHL Draft eligibility, he managed to total 114 points (49 goals and 65 assists) in 71 games of GTHL U16 play. His production in the GTHL led to him being selected in the first round of the 2019 OHL Priority Draft by the Kitchener Rangers.
In his OHL debut season (2019-2020), he tallied 18 goals and 23 assists in 59 games played. He had the second highest point totals for a 2021 NHL Draft eligible prospect in the OHL.
As mentioned above, for this past season, Pinelli played overseas in Slovenia. His parents, Daniela and Frank Pinelli spoke to Emily Kaplan of ESPN on the decision to send their son to Slovenia and mentioned some of the obstacles that Francesco had faced. It’s an excellent read and I highly recommend that you check it out. For Pinelli to travel halfway across the globe to play hockey in a foreign country speaks a lot about his character. He had to get used to living by himself and not knowing one word of Slovenian.
Pinelli was not the only CHLer that played hockey overseas this season. Brandt Clarke, Brett Harrison, Mason McTavish, Brennan Othmann, Chase Stillman, Carson Lambos and Ethan Cardwell all played in Europe this year due to the situation in Canada with COVID-19.
While he didn’t play in that many games in Slovenia, he did record five goals and six assists in 13 games.
Pinelli is part of Canada’s U18 squad for the 2021 U18 World Championships in Plano, Texas and Frisco, Texas. The tournament begins today (April 26th) and lasts through May 6th. He will be part of a stellar forward group that includes Othmann, McTavish, Harrison, Shane Wright (2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect) and Connor Bedard (2023 NHL Draft eligible prospect).
D.O.B – April 11, 2003
Nationality – Canada
Draft Eligibility – 2021
Weight –176 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Left
Pinelli’s Style Of Play
If you like fun and flashy hockey players, you will appreciate Francesco Pinelli. Pinelli has shown throughout his time with the Kitchener Rangers and HDD Jesenice that he can be a dominant force in all three zones. He is a defensively responsible forward with a quality shot in medium danger.
Stick-handling is one attribute of Pinelli’s game that lacks consistency. For instance, we will see Pinelli stick-handle one-handed around an attacker and score a blocker side goal. But, then in some instances, we will see Pinelli struggle to stick-handle around attackers.
While there are a few examples of Pinelli stick-handling one-handed to get around attackers, when he stick-handling in a non-flashy manner we see him struggle. He will have difficulty going from backhand to forehand in an attempt to swing the puck around the defender.
There are also many instances where Pinelli tries to be overly flashy with the puck and that seems to burn him.
Ultimately, consistency is an issue for Pinelli. It’s awesome to see him use his non-dominant hand to stick-handle around opponents, but stick-handling is more than that.
Pinelli is a straight-line skater and has good ankle flexion. His knees are constantly above his toes when in full stride, which is right where you want them to be. Aside from his ankle flexion, Pinelli gets excellent acceleration from his crossovers and two power strides. It just takes two power extensions for Pinelli to get the speed that he desires. The only slight adjustment that I would want to see Pinelli make is when he is skating from the defensive zone to the offensive zone without stopping. Pinelli will use two power strides in the defensive zone, which generates plenty of acceleration, but he needs to do the same in the offensive zone to keep pace. If Pinelli can adjust how he skates from the defensive zone to the offensive zone, he will be a pain for opponents.
While there are many positives around Pinelli’s skating, there are some areas that need attention. His edges seem to be rather inconsistent. There are moments where you will see Pinelli complete intricate edge work and complete lovely turns. However, there are also moments where you will see Pinelli struggle with his inside edges. You will see Pinelli’s skate toe facing the ice and without the blade to land on, he will fall. In addition, sometimes when trying to complete a tight turn, he will look to utilize his outside edges. Unfortunately, that will sometimes lead to Pinelli losing his balance. Instead, I would like to see him use tight crossovers to facilitate the tight turn.
Pinelli’s offensive play is where he truly shines. He’s got the ultimate offensive package. On the forecheck, he’s aggressive. You can fully expect him to use the body and lay down some dominant checks along the boards.
Not only will he be aggressive on the forecheck, but he will also play an insurance role at times and wait for the right moment in which his wingers are aggressively looking to secure possession of the puck. When the puck breaks free, Pinelli will jump on it like a hot potato.
He also has an active stick, which can be used to psychologically trap attackers. It’s mind control. By waving his stick, he can deceptively control where the puck goes even though he doesn’t have control of the puck himself. In addition, he will also use his active stick to intercept outlet passes in the offensive zone.
Speaking of deceptive play in the offensive zone, there are multiple instances in which Pinelli will look dead on at the attackers while he is on the move and at the same time complete a lateral pass to a teammate. He will also utilize t-stops on 2-on-1s to fool the defender into thinking that he will be passing to his teammate.
When it comes to creating scoring chances, there is a lot to like about Pinelli. He has proven that he can be a dynamic playmaker as he will find tight lanes to utilize when passing. It reminds me of Mavrik Bourque‘s (Dallas Stars prospect) ability to feather passes through tight lanes. From a shooting perspective, Pinelli is outstanding in medium danger and can fire home wrist shots and snap shots for goals with ease. He loves going blocker side on his wrist shots. Pinelli doesn’t have a big wind-up and he doesn’t need it. His wrists are powerful and he uses that to his advantage consistently.
When you look at Pinelli’s defensive play, you realize how smart he is at reading situations and adapting on the fly. He will drop back for his out of position defensemen and will pick up defensive recoveries when supervising play in an insurance role. Speaking of defensive recoveries, Pinelli will turn on the jets and pick up acceleration for loose pucks in the defensive zone.
From a positioning perspective, he plays very much like your typical center. He tries to maintain a presence all over the defensive zone. He will maintain a presence along the boards and will use a similar active stick to the one that he uses in the offensive zone to control puck movement. Pinelli will implement quality gap control to keep opponents in low danger and struggling to find open ice. He has also shown that he will drop back behind the red line to lend a hand on the back-check. Additionally, Pinelli has a physical gritty edge (similar to his physical play in the offensive zone) and will lay down body checks at open ice and along the boards.
While there is a lot to like about Pinelli, sometimes I find myself questioning his decision making. He will misread routes/trajectories that the attacker will be on and he will skate right to the attacker with the puck. As we mentioned before, given some of his issues when stick-handling, skating towards the attacker isn’t the best strategy.
In addition, there are instances in which Pinelli struggles under pressure. He will draw an attacker in and either not pivot out or pass the puck right to the attacker.
With all of this being said, if you watch fellow 2021 NHL Draft eligible, Matthew Beniers, he is quite similar to Pinelli. But, Pinelli doesn’t have the problem solver instincts that Beniers has. I would love for Pinelli to be a problem solver. But, he seems to struggle with identifying solutions to overcome problems that arise.
Pinelli is incredibly effective in transition. He maintains a good presence in the neutral zone from a defensive transitional standpoint. Pinelli doesn’t play too tight to the boards but keeps a watchful eye on them from center ice. You can also expect Pinelli to utilize his active stick when he is defending in transition. He will play his stick further out to shut down play and secure the puck or to trap attackers on the rush. His active stick is incredible, but what I truly like in Pinelli’s game is his desire to drop back and take over for a defender who was caught up in the upper neutral zone and has left his team vulnerable.
A combination of Johnny Gaudreau, Left Wing, Calgary Flames and Joe Pavelski, Center, San Jose Sharks.
If you are fans of Johnny Gaudreau and Joe Pavelski, you will notice that Pinelli possesses a very similar game to both of them. With Gaudreau, you will notice that Pinelli has a similar shot in medium danger situations and sometimes struggles with consistency when it comes to stick-handling and decision-making. When you compare Pinelli to Pavelski, you will see how both forwards have an excellent active stick and can be very deceptive when in control of the puck.
Top 6 Center, but could potentially be utilized on the wing as well (NHL).
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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