Prospect Pulse: Santini a package deal
by Kirk Luedeke/NYHJ Writer
In this month's Prospect Pulse, Kirk Luedeke profiles defenseman Steve Santini, a standout with the U.S. National Team Development Program who's projected to be a first-round pick in the NHL Draft this summer.
THE STEVEN SANTINI FILE
Born: March 7, 1995
Size: 6-foot-2, 208 pounds
Hometown: Mahopac, N.Y.
Family: Parents Steven and Sandra Santini; three sisters
Current team: U.S. NTDP Under-18 (USHL)
Minor hockey teams: North Westchester, Westchester Express, New York Apple Core (EJHL)
2013 Central Scouting mid-term rank: 47 NA
Draft outlook: First round, between No. 20 and No. 30
Scouting report: Hard-nosed, right-shooting defender is a smooth skater with fine footwork and the ability to change direction quickly. Has fine vision and natural instincts to play the position effectively. Superb gap control and aware of his positioning; makes open-ice hits and tough to beat along the walls. Intimidating presence who competes hard but is not dirty. Plays with his head up and makes on-target outlet passes in transition. Offensive game is a question mark; does not score many points and tends to be conservative. Has a powerful point shot, but needs to work on getting it off faster and improving the accuracy. Stellar character and leadership traits.
“Patrols the slot area and makes opposing forwards pay for every inch of real estate. Plays with good defensive awareness and an active stick. …Can contribute offensively with a heavy shot …” — Red Line Report, November 2012
IN HIS OWN WORDS
Strengths: “I’m a big, physical defenseman who can move the puck pretty well. I’m not flashy, but I’ve always had an edge to my game. As a person, I think that I bring good character as someone who supports his teammates and works hard in every situation.”
Weaknesses: “I need to keep improving my hockey skills and points. (I’m) working on my playmaking. I don’t think you can ever be completely satisfied with your game, even the things you do well, but for me, it’s about finding ways to chip in more offensively.”
DEFENSEMAN'S SIZE, STEADINESS HAS SCOUTS' ATTENTION
Sometimes a succinct evaluation from a scout is a good thing. “Santini is a player,” is how one NHL Western Conference scout recently labeled Steven Santini.
Raised in Mahopac, N.Y., the son of former University of Maine and Yonkers, N.Y.-born forward Steve Santini, the younger Santini grew up in myriad rinks across the Northeast, including the one his father owned and managed in Brewster, N.Y.
“I guess you could call me a typical rink rat,” Santini told New York Hockey Journal. “My father had a big influence on me and supported me every step of the way. He coached me a lot when I was younger, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without his help.”
Santini is in his second year with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., after skating for the EJHL’s New York Apple Core in 2010-11. The mobile and hard-hitting rearguard does not play a flashy style but came to Team USA as one of the squad’s more polished prospects.
“It was definitely a big jump going from the ‘EJ’ to the USHL, but I think that gave me an advantage when I first got out here,” said Santini. “As a younger kid playing in the EJHL against older guys, it taught me that I had to compete hard every night.”
Growing up near the border of New York State and Connecticut meant that Santini pledged his hockey allegiance to the New York Rangers as a youngster, but his favorite current NHL player is Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf.
“He’s definitely a player I try to model my own game after,” Santini said. “He’s got size, skates well, has that big shot and plays a physical game. Those are all elements I try to bring to my team each and every night.”
Although the Boston College recruit might not bring the dynamic offensive elements of other defensemen in the draft class, his well-rounded game and superior character should earn him an early call on draft day in Newark on June 30.
“He’s a horse,” that Western Conference scout added. “He skates well and uses his size the way you want without taking bad penalties in the process. I think the only real question with him is what his ultimate upside is. But, every team in the league is looking for the kind of gritty competitor he is.”
N.Y./N.J. 2013 NHL Draft Prospects
Top Five for February
1. Steven Santini
D, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 6-foot-2, 208 pounds (Mahopac, N.Y.)
2. Justin Bailey
RW, Kitchener (OHL), 6-4, 187 (Williamsville, N.Y.)
With his pure athletic ability and NFL bloodlines, Central Scouting’s 37th-ranked midseason skater is a project pick but could pay off large down the road.
3. Brett Pesce
D, University of New Hampshire (Hockey East), 6-2, 180 (Tarrytown, N.Y.)
Looks and plays like a veteran; future captain of UNH gets the job done without a lot of fanfare. Ranked 36th among North American skaters.
4. Sean Malone
C, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 5-11, 185 (West Seneca, N.Y.)
The speedy waterbug has taken some hits this year but looks like a nice draft option with hockey sense and drive. Graded 98 of 214 skaters by Central Scouting.
5. Connor Clifton
D, U.S. NTDP (USHL), 5-11, 175 (Matawan, N.J.)
Nobody is really talking about this mobile defender, but Central’s 73rd North American skater looks like a solid mid-rounder this June in his home state.
Other ’95 notables
- Nick Hutchinson, C, Avon Old Farms (HS-Conn.), 6-2, 185 (Hicksville, N.Y.)
- Chad Otterman, LW, New Jersey Hitmen (EJHL), 6-2, 190 (Harding, N.J.)
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of New York Hockey Journal.