When the Anaheim Ducks made a one-year pact with NHL heavyweight Zack Stortini they struck pay dirt. Not just in the toughness category, they also inked a gem that is willing to sacrifice and give the organization his all.
The 6-foot-4 right-wing signed with Anaheim as an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 9th. Stortini shared his thoughts on signing with such a prestigious organization from his off-season home in Sudbury, Ontario declaring, “It’s exciting to go to a winning organization and a successful organization. I have a lot to prove and show and I want to make sure that I can be in the best physical shape when I go to training camp.”
Speaking of being in tip-top shape before camp, the Elliot Lake, Ontario native has been back on-ice for about two months working out alongside Nick Foligno and Derek MacKenzie who both are under contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Zack is making the best of his on-ice summer sessions elevating his game through his work ethic. The 2003 Edmonton draft pick spoke of his off-season workouts stating, “On the ice I spend a lot of time working on my skating with skating coaches trying to develop a more efficient stride. I spend some time working on my first couple steps for being a big guy.” Besides upgrading his skating, Stortini is bettering his passes and reinforcing his shot.
Stortini has 257 NHL games to his credit. 256 of those were with the Oilers, a Ducks Western Conference opponent, so he’s familiar with the flock. “I’ve played against the Ducks and they’re a pretty competitive team to play and they compete hard. They have a physical team with good skill and All-Stars and they’re always competitive and winning for a reason.,” voiced Zack on the performance of his new Club.
Zack flocks to Anaheim holding ties to Coach Bruce Boudreau, but if you want to trace this root you will have to go all the way back to the 2006 AHL Calder Cup Finals. Stortini reminisced on the subject stating, “I played against his team when he was at Hershey in the Calder Cup Finals. Two years in a row–one when I was with Milwaukee, they beat us and then again when I was in Hamilton and we beat them. I have a tremdous amount of respect for him. He was a great player when he played and he is a great coach.”
“Huggy Bear” as he is known in the hockey community chirped about the tools he brings to the organization declaring, “I’m a player that’s very hard to play against. I’m very physical, big bodied, and I bring a lot of size and weight to the line-up. I stick up for my teammates and when things get physical or out of hand or situations need to be dealt with I’m the guy that’s going to show up in those situations.” Stortini has proven he’s the go to guy in “those situations” putting up 725 minutes in penalties during his NHL tenure.
In today’s NHL, the term “goon” is irreverent and is hardly used. Stortini is a tough guy or enforcer and talked freely about the fighting aspect of the game stating, “I think fighting has always been an attribute or a role I’ve really relished with any team I’ve been on. It’s a great part of the game and it’s something for me I’m really good at and last year I think I improved tremendously.”
The grizzly bearded forward has ping-ponged back and forth between the National League and the American League playing in 291 AHL regular season games, but if he’s assigned to Anaheim’s top development team, the Norfolk Admirals, he’ll cherish the veteran role and will extend an olive branch to younger teammates who are just starting to get their feet wet in the pro game. “We had a very young team last year in Milwaukee. I think I’m a guy who is always positive and is always at the rink working hard. I’ll help them with on-ice issues and off-ice issues. I think I’m very approachable. I’m a guy that players can go to with whatever they need and I try to lead by example, by being one of the hardest working guys.,” battered Zack on his AHL veteran status.
The 27-year-old comes to Anaheim primed with veteran leadership and will be ready to answer the bell when needed on the ice or assisting a rookie who requires a little pick me up off the ice. Anaheim’s hidden gem will deliver.
Follow Ted on Twitter @bauerhockeydude