Los Angeles Kings General Manager Rob Blake seems to have hit a home run during the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. With his first-round pick, he selected right-handed defenseman Brandt Clarke, who looks like he could be the second coming of Cale Makar. And with his second-round pick, 42nd overall, he selected Francesco Pinelli, a center out of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.
A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Francesco Pinelli played for the Toronto Red Wings before his OHL eligibility took effect. In his U16 season, as a Toronto Red Wing, he scored 74 goals and 83 assists for 157 points in just 103 games. That averages out to be 1.5 points per game. A volcanic season for the Ontario native caught the attention of the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers.
In the 2019 OHL Draft, Kitchener drafted Francesco Pinelli 13th overall, nine spots behind fellow Kings’ draft pick Brandt Clarke. He played 59 games for the Rangers during the 2019-2020 season, in which he scored 18 goals and 23 assists for 41 points. But, the OHL’s season was cut short due to COVID. So, he was loaned to HDD Jesenice, a member of the Alps Hockey League in Slovenia.
Kings Fun Fact: Anze Kopitar is a native of Jesenice, Slovenia, and the only remaining active player in the NHL from Slovenia.
While in Anze Kopitar’s hometown, Pinelli played in 13 games, totaling five goals and six assists. He returned to Ontario to resume his tenure with the Kitchener Rangers in the 2021-2022 season, following his NHL Draft selection in the second round by the Los Angeles Kings.
Francesco Pinelli is projected to be a Top Six forward and draws some impressive NHL comparisons.
The Hockey Writers’ Scouting Report for Pinelli does not include many weaknesses:
"“Pinelli is the definition of a complete player. He has a great shot and a solid hockey IQ. He makes the right decisions, and he is also willing to drive to the net. In addition to his offensive skills, he also gets back and plays a solid defensive game. There aren’t many areas where Pinelli is lacking. Some have pointed out the need for some slight improvement in his stickhandling and skating, but there aren’t any significant issues in his game.There is no doubt that Pinelli could end up as a top-six forward if he continues to develop as he has been. With the logjam at center on the Kings, we could see him move to the wing. As far as an NHL comparison goes, his play most resembles that of Ryan O’Reilly and Phillip Danault, players who are defensively responsible while still possessing the ability to contribute offensively.”"
Last Word on Sports provides more of a complete Scouting Report:
"“Pinelli shows some good stickhandling skills and can carry the puck through the neutral zone as well as control play in the offensive boards on the cycle game. However, he sometimes needs to move the puck a little quicker. There are times he holds the puck too long and makes one too many moves, skating into bad areas and losing the puck.[Francesco] Pinelli has an accurate wrist shot with a quick release. He can score goals if he can get his shot off in the home plate area. However, his shot does not have the power to score from further out right now. This may come with additional strength added to his frame. He also does a good job of scoring goals in tight to the net with the ability to pounce on rebounds, get deflections, and one-time passes on the net. Pinelli is not afraid to play in the dirty areas of the ice. He battles hard in front of the net and on the boards. Pinelli does a good job of getting in quick on the forecheck and creating turnovers.Pinelli is a solid defensive player. He brings his aggressive style in all three zones, bringing a physical game to battle on the boards and contain his opponent in the cycle. His positioning is very good and he keeps himself between his man and the front of the net. He forces attackers wide and into poor scoring areas. Pinelli supports the defence down low as well as providing effective backpressure in transition. Once turnovers are created, he is good at quickly transitioning up the ice and creating scoring chances. He needs a bit more work in the faceoff circle, but that should come over the next couple of years.”"
The future is very bright for Francesco Pinelli and the Los Angeles Kings. He will be a great piece for the future of this team as he could help bolster the center position, or is versatile enough to stretch out to the wing position. With the up-and-coming prospects like Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte, among others, it would make sense for him to potentially become a winger once he reaches the NHL level.
Last season in Kitchener, he recorded 41 goals and 49 assists for a total of 90 points, his best season by far in the OHL up to this point. That stellar performance followed his contract signing with the Los Angeles Kings on April 11, 2022, for three years, worth $2.775 million dollars.
Now, with the completion of the Los Angeles Kings season and the Kitchener Rangers season, it will be exciting to see how he fits into the lineup with the Ontario Reign or even the Los Angeles Kings next season. He is an exciting prospect to keep an eye on.
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