When the season ends and the summer begins, the training regimen continues for players preparing and hoping to hear their names called in the NHL Entry Draft. Kitchener Rangers defenceman Giovanni Vallati is one of those players, but there’s one intriguing caveat;
He isn’t even eligible for the NHL Draft until June of next year.
The 17-year-old, Ottawa, Ontario native trained throughout his rookie Ontario Hockey League season with Rangers’ strength and conditioning coach, Brandon Merli, and his adjustment from minor midget to major junior was a successful one.
The 6’01”, 181 lb rearguard potted 21 points in 59 regular season games with the Rangers and was one of three skaters on the squad to finish the season on the positive side of the plus/minus category (with a minimum of 34 games played). Back in October and November, he skated for Team Canada Black at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario helping the squad earn a silver medal in the tournament.
Praised by the Rangers coaching staff as one of the most improved players on the team as the 2016-17 season progressed, Vallati’s hunger and commitment to continue to improve his game boiled over into the summer months.
As he returned back home to Ottawa he dedicated even more time, sweat and effort into getting a leg-up on the competition, enlisting the services of Tony Greco, founder of Greco Fitness Boutiques.
As per its mission statement, Greco Fitness Boutiques sets out to transform bodies, lift spirits and strengthen minds. Vallati is in some pretty impressive company as a client of the high-end studio, which also trains NHLer’s Claude Giroux and Mike Fisher, as well as country music superstar Carrie Underwood, to name a few.
Greco has taken Vallati through the paces over the course of the summer to say the least, as evidenced by videos the trainer posts on social media of the intense regimens. From work inside the studio, to flipping oversized tires filled with rainwater and running steep inclines up hills on hot summer days, Greco has been nothing short of impressed by the battle from the budding youngster.
“The work ethic of Giovanni is unbelievable,” says Greco. “He’s always in ten minutes early for our session, he’s eager to work and learn, and he never complains or asks how many reps he’s got left.”
Greco’s training techniques include incorporating a common range of functions and mobility used by hockey players during the course of a game, thus maximizing the benefit of the offseason drills and better allowing the ability for continuous improvement when it comes time to get back on the ice.
“Some of the techniques we’re using with Giovanni are a combination of periodization training in the form of strength over specific phases,” said Greco. “We develop a specialized circuit that raises the athlete’s fitness to a different level.
“We mimic a lot of the techniques used in hockey,” Greco added. “For instance, in hockey if you’re in the corner and you need to get out of the corner fast, we simulate that directional change during training. We combine a strength phase with a plyometric where we deaccelerate and accelerate, and the results have shown with Giovanni; he’s fast, he’s quick and he’s explosive.”
As integral as physical strength is in achieving the goals Vallati has set for himself, Greco says what lies under the surface may very well be an even greater and integral attribute for the blueliner.
While the body is the tool used to achieve the sought-after success, it’s the durability and stamina of the mind which is pushing professional athletes to new limits and allowing them to achieve greater longevity in their respective sports.
And the mental side is something Greco says Vallati has in spades.
“The mental element of the game is more prevalent today than it’s ever been,” said Greco. “Think of it this way; your body is the vehicle that brings you to accomplishing your goals, but a healthy thought process is what drives the car in the right direction and gets you there.
“To be able to turn off all outside distractions and just focus on the game – or exercise – at hand, that’s the sign of a true winner and Giovanni has that quality. He has the ability that not everyone has to overcome the obstacles that hinder positive growth. That’s the kind of competitor he is.
“He is one of those people that looks for the light at the end of the tunnel, but who isn’t afraid to go through the tunnel to get to the light.”
While Vallati is far from the end of the tunnel, he’ll work at basking in more and more light the further ahead he gets. That will seemingly start with securing a spot with Canada’s National Under-18 Men’s team after receiving an invite to the team’s Summer Showcase last month along with Rangers’ teammate Riley Damiani.
With that in mind, Vallati will continue to lift weights and raise expectations with Greco in preparation of a statement sophomore campaign with the Rangers in 2017-18.
NHL scouts are expecting it. The fans are expecting it. And maybe more than anyone, Vallati expects it of himself.
It’s pretty easy to believe in a guy who uses the following as his inspirational quote:
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands at moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and adversity.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.