2021-22 Team: Kitchener Rangers
Date of Birth: April 11, 2003
Place of Birth: Hamilton, ON, CAN
Wt: 185 pounds
Acquired: 2021 NHL Draft #42 overall
Francesco Pinelli Bio
Francesco Pinelli played his midget hockey with the Toronto Red Wings. In his U16 season, he exploded for 74 goals and 83 assists in just 103 games. His outstanding season caught the attention of the Kitchener Rangers, who selected him 13th overall at the 2019 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Priority Selection.
Pinelli played for the Rangers starting in the 2019-20 season when he recorded 18 goals and 23 assists in 59 games. Due to COVID-related obstacles, however, he was loaned to HDD Jesenice in Slovenia for the 2020-21 season, where he totaled five goals and six assists in 13 games. He also made an impressive appearance for Canada’s U18 team, which included four goals and seven assists in seven games.
The Los Angeles Kings selected Pinelli 42nd overall at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, and the pick could end up being the steal of the draft. At one point, he was ranked as high as 16th overall by FC Hockey, and few, if any, ranked him outside of the first round.
This season, Pinelli returned to Kitchener, but this time as the team’s captain. His 2021-22 campaign has seen him play 35 games, scoring 13 goals and 25 assists. He will look to continue to put up great numbers as his journey to the NHL continues.
Pinelli is the definition of a complete player. He has a great shot and a solid hockey IQ. He makes the right decisions, and he is also willing to drive to the net. In addition to his offensive skills, he also gets back and plays a solid defensive game.
There aren’t many areas where Pinelli is lacking. Some have pointed out the need for some slight improvement in his stickhandling and skating, but there aren’t any significant issues in his game.
There is no doubt that Pinelli could end up as a top-six forward if he continues to develop as he has been. With the logjam at center on the Kings, we could see him move to the wing. As far as an NHL comparison goes, his play most resembles that of Ryan O’Reilly and Phillip Danault, players who are defensively responsible while still possessing the ability to contribute offensively.
O’Reilly, the captain of the St. Louis Blues, has been a near point-per-game player at times throughout his career. He has also won several awards, including the Frank J. Selke Trophy awarded to the forward who showcases the most defensive skill.
Danault is having a great season for the Kings, scoring 15 goals and 15 assists through 52 games. In addition to the offense he provides, he is known for his defensive skill and ability on faceoffs. These were the main attributes LA was searching for when they signed him to a six-year, $33 million contract prior to this season, so his appearances on the scoresheet have truly been a bonus.
If Pinelli can even come close to matching the contributions of O’Reilly or Danault, he will cement himself as a big part of the Kings’ future.
The foundation of Pinelli’s potency is his hockey sense. He supports his teammates, takes optimal routes to prepare one or two plays in advance, always finds soft ice in the offensive zone, and times his movements perfectly into those pockets of space to strike. With a no-drawback push release, he’s sending the puck home as a capable one- and two-touch finisher.Elite Prospects 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Pinelli is an elite skater with excellent puck pursuit, work ethic and a high compete level. The 17-year-old can contribute on the power play and penalty kill, and projects to be a reliable two-way player in the NHL.Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com
“We just really liked his blend of hockey sense, his compete, and his skill level. He’s a dual threat. He can score, he’s got a really good shot, but he can also make plays and set guys up. He was the catalyst of that team offensively. He was always the guy.”Mike McKenzie, head coach of the Kitchener Rangers, on Pinelli
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Zackary Weiner is a high school student from New York City who covers the Los Angeles Kings here at The Hockey Writers. He is a lifelong hockey fan and player, and his previous experience includes writing articles about the NHL for various online publications. His articles cover a wide variety of topics that concern the Kings and he takes into account a range of viewpoints, making his articles a perfect read for anyone who wants to stay up to date on the team. Zackary is more than happy to get into a conversation with fellow Kings fans, so feel free to leave a comment below any of his articles like this one to let him know your opinion and what you want to see next. You can also listen to him talk about the team on Fantasy Hockey Life, The Hockey Writers Live, and Blackhawks Banter.