He may be soft spoken off the ice, but his game on it speaks loud and clear to the type of player and competitor Giovanni Vallati is.
The sophomore rearguard from Ottawa, ON enters his second Ontario Hockey League season with an even greater drive and desire to succeed than he did before entering his rookie campaign with the Kitchener Rangers just over a year ago.
That says a lot, considering his work ethic, motivation, and goals have always been high. But this season, he’s got a year under his belt, and a lot more to prove.
Entering his NHL Draft eligibility year, various pro scouts are already familiar with what Vallati brings to the table. All the compliments are certainly well deserved, but what’s even more intriguing is what he has yet to show.
The ceiling is high.
Last season Vallati was thrust into a greater role with the team following injuries to elder statesmen Connor Hall and former Ranger Doug Blaisdell. As a 16-year-old, making the adjustment from a Midget player can already be daunting no matter your skill level coming in, but playing in front of the thralls of Rangers Nation at home for half a season, well, it could get into the mind of any player.
But not Giovanni Vallati. Not only did he welcome the idea of added ice time, he embraced it and, in turn, excelled with it. Praised by head coach Jay McKee following the campaign as one of – if not – the most improved player on the 2016-17 squad, Vallati seized the chance to make an impact.
“Last year was just all about being a rookie in this league and learning as much as you can,” stated Vallati. “Coming into your second year, it’s kind of the same thing. You just want to keep getting better as a player and improving every single time you’re on the ice, in practices and in games.”
Improved he has, which says a lot considering the rearguard already has a World U-17 Championship silver medal under his belt from last year with Team Canada Black.
But past accomplishments are never enough for Vallati, who continues to strive for bigger and better from himself.
To maximize his growth, he employed the services of strength coach Tony Greco, founder of Greco Fitness Boutiques, in the offseason back home in Ottawa. Vallati credits Greco for preparing him both mentally and physically for how different his second season would be.
“He did a lot for me,” said Vallati. “He helped me a lot over the summer and really taught me it’s all about how hard you work; not just during the season, but in the offseason too.
“He pushed me really hard and got me ready for this year.”
Still, he’s always watching and listening, eager to soak up anything that can help both he and the team succeed. He acted as a sponge around veteran defencemen Frank Hora and Dylan Di Perna last season, and this year also does his best to impart that knowledge on his teammates, such as fellow first rounder and now rookie defenceman Grayson Ladd.
“Definitely, last year Dips and Frank were big for me,” Vallati credits. “They taught me a lot, personally and development wise.
“For the younger guys coming in, like Grayson, I know playing as much as you possibly can will help a guy out a lot. It helps you gain that experience. I want to be able to give that back like it was given to me.”
With so many apparent pressures and expectations surrounding him this season, Vallati maintains that cool, quiet and steady demeanor. He insists that his success won’t be based on the NHL Draft, but instead measured by the success that he and his Rangers brothers achieve together.
“This season will be a success for me if I continue to improve individually, get better overall everyday, and just do my part to help the team win.”
The next Kitchener Rangers SPOTLIGHT will feature forward and Mississauga, ON native Riley Damiani.