By Larry Moko
A former member of the Cardinal Newman Cardinals high school hockey team has been chosen in the first round of the 2019 OHL priority selection draft by the Kitchener Rangers.
Francesco Pinelli, a Grade 10 student at Newman, was the Ontario major junior hockey league’s 13th overall pick Saturday. He joins his brother, Anthony – a second-round draft choice in 2018 – with the Rangers organization.
The Pinelli brothers will be at Kitchener’s spring camp later this month.
“Last year both of them played on the Newman team,” former Cardinals coach and current Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School vice-principal Anthony Macaluso said. “It’s always good to see guys get a chance.”
Francesco was captain of the Greater Toronto Hockey League’s Toronto Red Wings this past season. The 5-foot-11, 172-pound centre scored 49 goals, 65 assists at the minor midget level.
Francesco’s Red Wings advanced to the final of the OHL Cup (despite being seventh ranked) and he saw action for Team Ontario’s silver-medal-winning squad at the Canada Games in Red Deer, Alta.
“Francesco can really lead by example,” Macaluso said. “He’s quiet. He’s not about the flash.
“Francesco always had a great work ethic any time he was on the ice. He could make some really good passes that other people couldn’t make. He’s a well-rounded player both offensively and defensively … that’s part of the reason he’s been so successful.”
Macaluso said Francesco did not look out of place in Grade 9 playing against some 17 and 18-year-olds. “Right away he was one of the best players, not only on our team, but in the league.”
Red Wings Angelo Catenaro made the following comments about Francesco to the Waterloo Region Record: “He really likes to control the game. He has oodles of character. He wants to win. He has a bit of an edge. He’s not a kid that is going to shy away from any situation.”
And Rangers general manager Mike McKenzie said: “He’s a guy that can do it all for us. Putting him in the middle of our ice for the next three or four years is going to be huge.”
Francesco is excited about joining the Kitchener club. “There is a ton of history behind this team,” he said. “The organization is so good and the room and atmosphere is amazing.”
Although Anthony – a Grade 12 student at Newman – suited up for the Hamilton Kilty B’s in 2018-19, the brothers might be teammates again with the Rangers. Two seasons ago in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic league they played together for about nine games.
“If we could play together at the next level it would be an honour,” Francesco said.
Francesco admits it was difficult balancing hockey and school this season. “Making the NHL is a dream of mine,” he said.
Newman’s Jack Wismer and Adrien Beraldo just completed their OHL campaigns with the Flint Firebirds and Kingston Frontenacs, respectively.
Another Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association product also was taken in the early rounds of the draft this year. Jacob Maillet from the St. Mary Crusaders went in the second round (39th overall) to the Guelph Storm.
Jamieson Rees, formerly of the Bishop Ryan Celtics, was a first-round OHL draft choice in 2017. He was taken ninth overall by the Sarnia Sting.
Source: Marnie Jadon