Utica, N.Y. - Highly-touted twenty-year-old goaltender Michael DiPietro is set to enter his first season of professional hockey, this year, after being drafted by the Vancouver Canucks in the third round (64th overall) in the 2017 NHL Draft.
"I'm certainly excited," said DiPietro following his first team practice with the Comets, Tuesday. "It's something that your dream is slowly becoming true and it's a special time for my family and I."
DiPietro has spent the last four seasons playing major juniors in Canada in the Ontario Hockey League, a majority of which with his hometown Windsor Spitfires before being traded last December to the Ottawa 67's.
Now, he says he's finally ready to make the biggest leap of his career.
"Pro hockey is a big jump and that’s something that is in the back of my mind," said DiPietro. "I think I am ready for it, I think I’m ready for the challenge and I’d love to be here in Utica."
In all likelihood, DiPietro will be here in Utica with the Comets this season.
At this point he is no stranger to the organization either. Between Canucks prospect camps the last few years and a couple weeks in Vancouver's training camp this year, the 6'0" netminder said he's been able to get a feel for the pro level and the players in it a bit more.
"I think the past two years have really been helpful in getting to know the guys, seeing familiar faces that way so when you come here there’s really not that shock factor," he said. "Everybody is kind of familiar which is really nice."
With a few days down in his training camp with the Comets, DiPietro said that he is adjusting well to the speed of the game here and feels good about where he's at so far.
"I don’t feel out of place at all, I feel pretty confident in what I can do," he said. "There’s going to be challenges, and I'm 20, so you’re going to experience new things that you’ve never had before, but I’m ready for it."
He's already learning a lot from the various veteran players within the Canucks/Comets organization, and said playing with some of those experienced pros will help him as he learns how to play at this level.
"There are a few veterans on the team that’s been great, really taking me under their wing," he said. "I’ve been really lucky to talk to [Richard Bachman] a lot and kind of pick his brain because he and I kind of play similar styles."
Now that he is here in Utica, he has begun exploring a bit. He said he's looking forward to getting to know the area more.
"I’m a foodie and apparently you have a lot of Italian restaurants here, that’s what I keep hearing," said DiPietro. "All Italians are related, so you never know I might run into a distant relative here."