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Grimaldi Looks To Be An Inspiration

Panthers second round pick (33rd overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft Rocco Grimaldi looks to succeed at all levels on the ice despite his lack of size.

Wednesday, 07.27.2011 / 3:35 PM ET / News
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Grimaldi Looks To Be An Inspiration
Rocco Grimaldi skates recently in a practice at Panthers Development Camp (Glenn Odebralski)
By Olivia Moffett for floridapanthers.com

Yes, he’s 5’6”. (“It’s the height I’m supposed to be and I like it.”)

No, it doesn’t bother him. (“I can’t change it.”)

Yes, he feels like he has something to prove. (“I like to prove people wrong and make them say ‘wow’”)

With the obligatory questions to Rocco Grimaldi out of the way, focus can be placed on his more statuesque qualities: he is a truly well-spoken young man whose speed and aggressiveness on the ice is equally as impressive as his polite demeanor off the ice. He was the clear man of the hour during this year’s Panthers Development Camp, a fact made obvious by the swarm of reporters who buzzed around him in the locker room.

None of it phases the Panther’s second round pick (33rd overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, however, who seems well beyond his 18 years as he relays his path to the NHL.

His hockey career began 14 years ago in California, when Grimaldi’s sister took him to watch one of her friends play hockey.
 
“I was four years old and I tagged along. I fell in love with it right away,” says Grimaldi, who immediately convinced his parents to put him into roller hockey.

His aggressiveness resulted in a promotion of sorts for Grimaldi - he was moved up four years and played with kids much older than him. From there he began ice hockey where he excelled as well. At age 12, Grimaldi made the move to Michigan to take advantage of the area’s competitive youth programs.

“It was one of the best decisions of my life. It was very nerve-wracking, being a 12 year old and moving away from everything that you know," said Grimaldi. "But I’m happy I did it.”

Grimaldi’s parents, both retired police officers, accompanied him, where they continued to support his dream.

“I’m a good kid because of them,” quips Grimaldi over his parents' profession.

At age 16 he helped the Little Caesar’s Midget Major team win the 2009 USA Hockey Youth Tier I 18 & Under National Championship and then went on to spend two years with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor. There he split time between two teams and led both of them (the U.S. National Under-18 Team (3-15—18) and the U.S. National Under-17 Team (7-15—22)) in scoring against international opponents in 2009. In 2010 he aided the U.S. National Under-18 Team to a first-place finish at the 2010 Men’s Under-18 Four Nations Cup in Sundsvall, Sweden and was even named the tournament’s top forward after totaling six points in three games.

“I got a lot stronger and a lot faster there and it did wonders for me,” raved Grimaldi about playing for the US Development Program. “I had relationships with those guys for two years and I’m going to have them the rest of my life.”

Grimaldi still keeps in touch with best friend and teammate Adam Reid, a forward also from California.

“He’s back in Ann Arbor. That’s where I’m moving this summer," said Grimaldi. "We still work out together so it’s fun to see him around.”
 
Grimaldi will also bond with a new team when he begins college at North Dakota this year.

“I believe in their program,” said Grimaldi. “I think they run it like an NHL program and not your standard college program.”

He is excited about the coaches and the facility as well.

“I think it’s a great atmosphere for me to develop and get better,” said Grimaldi.

In addition to the guidance he’s received from parents and coaches, Grimaldi is well known for being open about his faith, so much so that he’s garnered comparisons to his hero, Tim Tebow.

“That’s pretty cool if I can do what he’s doing,” said Grimaldi. “He’s such an inspiration for me and I want to be an inspiration for someone else too. Especially with me being smaller, the smaller guys look up to me and I think that’s great.”

Grimaldi’s size has never deterred him and he looks forward to bringing that confidence to the Panthers one day.

“[I have] speed, work ethic, determination and a winning attitude," said Grimaldi. "Wherever I go, I want to win and to push the limits to be better.”

In regards to a timeline for when he’ll play, Grimaldi says he doesn’t have one.

“Whenever I can play, I’m going to play," said Grimaldi. “It’s been my dream my whole life and I’m just working to achieve it.”

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - WSH 82 56 18 8 252 193 120
2 x - PIT 82 48 26 8 245 203 104
3 y - FLA 82 47 26 9 239 203 103
4 x - NYR 82 46 27 9 236 217 101
5 x - NYI 82 45 27 10 232 216 100
6 x - TBL 82 46 31 5 227 201 97
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8 x - DET 82 41 30 11 211 224 93
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10 CAR 82 35 31 16 198 226 86
11 OTT 82 38 35 9 236 247 85
12 NJD 82 38 36 8 184 208 84
13 MTL 82 38 38 6 221 236 82
14 BUF 82 35 36 11 201 222 81
15 CBJ 82 34 40 8 219 252 76
16 TOR 82 29 42 11 198 246 69

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Jagr 79 27 39 23 66
J. Jokinen 81 18 42 25 60
A. Barkov 66 28 31 18 59
J. Huberdeau 76 20 39 17 59
V. Trocheck 76 25 28 15 53
R. Smith 82 25 25 19 50
A. Ekblad 78 15 21 18 36
N. Bjugstad 67 15 19 -8 34
B. Campbell 82 6 25 31 31
B. Pirri 52 11 13 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 35 19 6 .922 2.35
A. Montoya 12 7 3 .919 2.18

 
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