- 2021-22 Team: Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
- Date of Birth: Jan. 14, 2004
- Montreal, QC, Canada
- Ht: 5-foot-11 Wt: 181 pounds
- Shoots: Left
- Position: LW
- NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 91st (Amongst NA Skaters)
There’s always room on an NHL roster for players with a complete skillset. Being well-rounded allows a coach to put a player in different spots throughout the lineup, increasing their chances of staying in said lineup throughout the season. Having multiple dimensions to one’s game increases the chances that a draft prospect moves up the ladder, eventually making their dream come true at the NHL level. Michael La Starza of the Sioux Falls Stampede looks to be one of those well-rounded players as he waits to hear his name in the upcoming NHL Draft.
La Starza is a great two-way forward who plays a structured game. While a bit under-sized, he’s made up for it by being one of the best skaters in the United States Hockey League (USHL) this past season. His speed opens up the game for him offensively, proven by the 44 points he had in just 57 games co-leading the Stampede. Traded to Sioux Falls from the Waterloo Black Hawks for Ray Fust and two USHL draft picks, his offensive numbers were hindered as neither team had the most successful regular seasons in 2021-22.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Scouts note that he makes good decisions with the puck and is efficient in all areas of the ice. He’s great on both the power play and penalty kill and can generate offense 5-on-5. His abilities with the puck, along with his offensive creativity, make him a for-sure pick in this year’s draft.
La Starza played his youth hockey with one of the best programs in the country, Shattuck St. Mary’s. Shattuck has a long list of notable alumni, including Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Nathan MacKinnon, and Zach Parise. Needless to say La Starza is hoping to be the next man up in the long bloodlines of Shattuck players in the NHL.
He’s heading to Boston University in the fall, joining a storied program with loads of alumni in the NHL as well. He’ll have the opportunity to grow and get stronger, hopefully playing into the already talented puck handler he is. His complete skill set, along with his fiery play will always give him a shot as he moves up towards the NHL.
Other THW Profiles
Michael La Starza – Draft Projection
While he has proven that he can succeed in many different facets of the game his size is going to be an issue for teams considering drafting him. That along with a habit of overhandling the puck will not be tolerated at the NHL level. However, the skills and playmaking ability are undeniable and make him well worthy of being a mid-round pick. Look for him to be taken anywhere after the third round, likely earlier than later.
“La Starza’s vision and passing ability, particularly in the offensive zone are a big part of his game. He has a knack for setting up teammates in the high-slot with crisp and accurate passes that allow for quick shot opportunities. He has strong vision and patience with the puck on his stick, and when the lanes open La Starza will exploit them. His shot isn’t the strongest, so he hesitates to take shots when given the opportunity. At times he’d hold the puck too long and try to open up a passing lane rather than taking an easy shot for himself. He still has a tendency to overhandle the puck on occasion, and tries an unnecessary extra move rather than making the easy play presented to him.” — Austin Broad (from ‘22736 — Lincoln vs. Waterloo’, FC Hockey, 11/2/21)
“La Starza is a speedy two-way winger that plays a strong straight-line game. He uses his excellent speed and first-step acceleration to get up and down the ice in the most effective and efficient way possible, which is straightforward. He isn’t the biggest guy, but he really plays like a power forward using his speed to crash the net and into opposing defenders. He is also very responsible in his own zone and on the backcheck thanks to his acceleration and breakaway speed. He possesses a deceptive shot with a quick release that he is able to get off while skating at top speed, which is incredibly tough for netminders to read.” — Josh Thomas (from ‘2322 — Waterloo vs. Sioux Falls, FC Hockey, 1/17/22)
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
It will be interesting to see where his skillset fits into an NHL roster. He has the speed and playmaking ability that he could find a role on a second line if he can grow and get stronger. However, with the lack of physicality in his game, it’s tough to see him being a good fit in a bottom-six role if he can’t find a fit on the second line. His complete game will keep him in a lineup when in doubt, but his peak is a high-motor, second-line winger.
Risk – 4/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 6/10, Defense – 3/10
Awards and Achievements
Was tendered by the Waterloo Black Hawks of the USHL prior to the 2020-21 season.
La Starza s’engage envers l’Université de Boston (In French)
Michael La Starza Statistics
Latest News & Highlights
Law student, who loves all thing sports. Connor is a former college athlete who understands sports from a players perspective. Based out of Detroit, fell in love with hockey by going to the old Joe Louis Arena watching those legendary 2000s Red Wing teams. Connor will talk to anyone who will listen on player performance, draft prospects, and front office management around the NHL. In his free time he loves to golf, although his scorecard may tell you otherwise. Covering all things Tampa Bay Lightning.