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Red Wings 25 Under 25: Keith Petruzzelli stands tall at 17

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Jimmy and Bernier should keep the engine running for a few more years, but will Petro be ready for primetime by then?

Slapshotgoal

Vitals

Position: Goalie
Catches: Left
Born: Feb 9th, 1999 (age 19)
Birthplace: Wilbraham, MA
Height/Weight: 6’6” / 190 lbs
Drafted: 2017, 3rd Round, 88th Overall, Detroit Red Wings

After Jimmy Howard and our new friend Jonathan Bernier, Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson are probably the next best goalies in the Wings system above the age of 20 (Happy Birthday Filip Larsson!).

Hank and Riggy know a thing or two about minding nets.

Enter Keith Petruzzelli, #16 on our list last year and finds himself at 17 this year. At 6’6” and 190 lbs, he’s tall and lanky enough that if one more person asks him “do you play basketball?” he’s going to start hitting people with pool noodles.

But it’s only natural that he isn’t good at basketball, he should be focused on keeping objects out of nets, as is clearly his natural instinct.

He’s no match for Elite Ace Shooty Hooper Jiri Hudler anyway.

In any case, a lot of people are seeing a three-man race to the starters net in Detroit between Petro, Larsson, and Kaden Fulcher. None of them are ready now, but will any be ready when we enter the void that exists between the 30-somethings retiring and the 20-somethings being well-seasoned*?

*I can hear your eyes rolling

What’s Petro been up to this year?

This week had Petro, and please do leave a comment if you have another official nickname we should know about, in Plymouth, Michigan for the Warren Strelow National Goaltending Camp.

Last season Petro faced tougher competition as a freshman at Quinnipiac University and he struggled. Which is fantastic news, because skating by (pun intended) on natural talent and being a giant isn’t how you get better.

[Insert inspirational speech here]

There was a lot of hype around him before he ever stepped foot on campus, and he stumbled a bit under that weight, but even having a tough season he showed positive progress.

Although his save percentage was a sadface 0.892 over 17 games, he ended up the go-to-guy for the playoffs due to Andrew Shortridge (the sophomore starting goalie) being injured. That experience really exposed him to tough competition, and helped him build his confidence as he kept the Bobcats’ dream alive into the second round.

The good news is next year he won’t be adjusting to campus life or any of that other freshman drama everyone deals with and he knows what kind of competition is waiting for him on ice.

He’s in contention to swipe the starting job next year. Even if he doesn’t, we can expect him to take some big steps in the right direction.

Strengths

HE IS TALL. Have I made that clear yet? We don’t have much history with employing Large Adult Goalies. Although, Jared Coreau is also 6’6” but he is bad at NHL-level goaltending, so he doesn’t even count.

Petro’s been called “raw”, which for a college goalie isn’t a bad thing because at least he hasn’t had time to ingrain any bad habits that would need to be unlearned.

He’s also majoring in civil engineering, which shows that he is not only a hard worker and up for a challenge but that he may also be able to finally fix that Grand Rapids to Detroit pipeline that is so inefficient and clogged up.

Seriously, it’s already a struggle to transition to college no matter what you were doing in high school, but to enter freshman year with hockey equipment in one bag and 12 math books in the other? That shows he’s got the heart, the hustle, and the GRIT to do whatever work needs to be done.

Nice guy. Tries hard. Probably good at building Hot Wheels tracks and long trains of dominoes. What more do you want?

Weaknesses

Petro still has work to do on his skating, which is not an uncommon problem for young goalies to have. We’ll probably see him shed some of the lankiness and fill out more over his college career, and it will be interesting to see how packing on some muscle affects his skating ability.

Ideally, stronger legs will lead to better push off for those sliding saves our defense so often requires. But, too much too fast and it may lead to awkwardness during the adjustment period. I guess that’s why hockey teams hire professionals, so there’s no reason to think he won’t keep improving.

Great insight from Greg Balloch at InGoal Magazine about how Petro is adjusting his game: “At 6-foot-6, [Petruzzelli] doesn’t necessarily need to play an aggressive style. Positionally, he likes to hang out no further than at the top of his crease. He used to play much deeper, and this additional depth to his game really put his skating to the test.”

Compare that to when Jimmy used to play basically at center ice and once he started playing deeper his game radically improved. Hopefully, Petro will see the same positive transformation from taking the opposite strategy.

The Secret Ingredient

If Petro wants to find a home as the Wings starter, there is one more thing he needs to work on. Perhaps the most important thing of all for a Detroit goaltender to have.

The Crazy Eyes.

Why do you think Mrazek couldn’t dethrone Jimmy? It’s all about getting your crazy eyes on, and nobody is going to out-crazy James Tiberius.

Jimmy and Hasek (and obviously Monster) came from the “don’t trust me with sharp objects” school of crazy eyes. Ozzie and Vernon preferred the “I can see your soul and know all your secrets” method. You can even mix the two, like Ty Conklin’s one eye squinted dead stare smile.

There are many ways to have Crazy Eyes, and if you just can’t manage it you better level up the Dreamy Smolder à la Lundqvist.

Poll

Doy ou agree with this ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Yes!
    (249 votes)
  • 11%
    No, he should be higher.
    (51 votes)
  • 34%
    No, he should be lower.
    (160 votes)
460 votes total Vote Now

WIIM Top 25 Under 25 so far...

18. Dominic Turgeon, Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL
19. Gustav Lindstrom, Frölunda, SHL
20. Jared McIsaac, Halifax Moosehead, QMJHL
21. Filip Larsson, University of Denver, NCAA
22. Christoffer Ehn, Frolunda, SHL
23. Alex Regula, London Knights, OHL
24. Axel Holmstrom, Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL
25. Jack Adams, Union College, NCAA