Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day our LWOS Prospects Writers will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2023 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow Ben Kerr, Kyle Pereira and Frederik Frandson on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! Today we bring you our Luca Pinelli Scouting Report.
Once the NHL draft reaches the late first round or second round, many teams are faced with a difficult choice. Do they go for a homerun swing where the reward is a potential superstar, but the risk is that they might never play in the NHL? Or do they go safer and take the player with a solid foundation but limited superstar potential? For those teams looking to find the safer option in the draft, an option would be Luca Pinelli.
The winger has had a good season with the stacked Ottawa 67’s with 63 points in 67 games. This production came despite not having a lot of consistency in terms of his linemates throughout the season. Regardless of who he was on the ice with Pinelli kept performing at a high level. While there are concerns of his ceiling his two-game should prove to be very intriguing for most NHL teams in the upcoming draft.
2023 NHL Draft #50: Luca Pinelli
One of the few areas of Luca Pinelli’s game that are below average is his skating. His acceleration especially leaves a lot to be desired. Mechanically it’s far too stiff and lacks the power and explosiveness in order to be effective. It has been good enough to find success in the OHL, however, it will need a lot of improvements overall if Pinelli is to find success in the NHL.
Pinelli’s lack of explosiveness is also something that hampers his overall quickness. He doesn’t have that extra gear in a foot race to get open from his defender. This, combined with his smaller frame, does make it easier for a defender to nullify a potential rush attempt.
Despite his limitations, there are some things to like about Pinelli’s skating as well. His edges are smooth, and his balance is great as well. This also comes with brilliant puck handling and control of the puck, both when in full strides and when he needs to change speed. This means that while defenders might catch up to him due to Pinelli’s lack of quickness and size, he can be incredibly difficult to knock off the puck. It also allows for some great moments both on and off the puck to create offence or be a nice outlet pass for a breakout. Especially off the puck his high hockey IQ shows as he can scan the ice to get open or cover the right man defensively.
Luca Pinelli’s greatest weapon is his high hockey IQ. He is an extremely intelligent player, who sees and reads the game at a high level. On the offensive side, his great mind allows him to keep possession of the puck for his team while being creative and dynamic enough to know where and when to strike to get the best possible chance. His playmaking ability is great and he will swiftly exploit any opening with a brilliant pass.
His shot isn’t necessarily elite or at an NHL level yet, but it’s improved a lot over the season. It’s a lot quicker and far more accurate than earlier. He also started using it more, which did affect the number of assists he got later in the season but saw him double his previous season’s goal tally. These improvements need to continue to become a success in the NHL.
The last noteworthy element of Luca Pinelli’s offensive game is how tenacious and hard-working he is. He will give it everything he has in every single shift in order to win the puck and change the look of the game. He works hard in the forecheck where he is often the first guy in and isn’t afraid to play the body. Along the boards, he is also able to use his creativity to create a chance out of pretty much nothing.
Another great strength of Luca Pinelli has to be his 200-foot game. As good as he is offensively, he is defensively as well. His high work rate and ferocious mentality to win the puck are evident in his own zone as well. He is courageous and willing to battle at the boards and be a disruptive winger to the puck handler, while also being willing to block a shot from the point if needed.
His brilliant hockey IQ also comes into play in his own zone. Often, he is able to get his body or stick in the way of a pass or a shot due to the fact he has seen the play develop faster than anyone else on the ice. He understands the movements of the forwards and can prevent chances from happening by taking away the offensive lane.
Pinelli also offers a great breakout pass for defenders to alleviate pressure from them when facing a high forecheck. He is quick to scan the ice and get open for a teammate, while also being able to make a clever pass to an open player when facing the forecheck himself. Just like in the offensive zone, his decision-making with the puck in his own zone is great.
Comparable and Prediction:
Overall, there is a lot to like about Luca Pinelli’s game. His playmaking and intelligence are great assets, and he works harder than most to win the puck and keep possession. Although his shot needs fine-tuning, it is good for his level. His defensive game is strong and makes him an asset in all areas of the ice. If he can continue to improve his shot and his skating, while refining his overall tools he could be a very interesting top 6 winger in the NHL.
The worries are that his skillset, while good, won’t ever translate into being excellent. This a valid concern, but even without top-end tools, he does have a game that is similar to Anthony Cirelli. He is a key player for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s success, as he possesses many good tools, although none are elite, and a strong defensive game. The Lightning has shown exactly how valuable a player like Luca Pinelli can be in the NHL.
Main Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports