Weight: 178 pounds
Date of birth: February 21, 2000
Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario
OHL Draft: Round 1, 16th overall, 2016 Priority Selection
NHL Central Scouting pre-season: B Prospect
NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 38th North American Skaters
NHL Central Scouting final rank: 57th North American Skaters
When it comes to the 2018 National Hockey League Draft and defencemen available from the Ontario Hockey League, this season is no different then any other. There are three distinct groups: those projected to go in the first round, the next group, and those that will get drafted but have a tough road to the NHL. Kitchener Rangers’ blueliner Giovanni Vallati is in that second group.
Depending on who you ask, Evan Bouchard, Rasmus Sandin, Kevin Bahl and Ryan Merkley are in that first group. The next wave is made up of Vallati, Declan Chisholm, Nico Gross and Sean Durzi. Vallati has the benefit of a deep playoff run although that is not reflected in NHL Central Scouting’s rankings as their list was finalized long before the playoffs ended. Yet they still managed to drop him 19 spots from their mid-term rankings to their final rankings.
Vallati played his Minor Midget AAA hockey during the 2015-2016 season with the Vaughan Kings. He played in 64 games and scored 9 goals while adding 27 assists. The Rangers selected Vallati with the 16th overall pick at the 2016 OHL Priority Selection. A year earlier, he was the 17th overall pick by the Gloucester Rangers at the CCHL Bantam Protected Draft.
OHL Central Scouting’s report at the time of the OHL Draft read as follows:
Giovanni is a smooth skating defender that isn’t shy to join the rush when given the opportunity to do so. He is a very strong skater with excellent mobility which allows him to beat a forechecker by himself. His defensive game has really improved since the beginning of the season and he has really simplified his game. He has very good skills and a hard, accurate shot from the point. Giovanni was relied on heavily by his team to help get them into a playoff position and to play in the OHL Cup.
Last season, Vallati joined the Rangers out of camp and had a pretty good season for a rookie defenceman. He played in 59 games for the Rangers and scored 5 goals and 16 assists. He would add two more helpers in 5 playoff games. He also won a silver medal with Canada Black at the World Hockey Challenge Under-17 where he had two assists in 6 games. He would be named to the OHL’s Second All-Rookie Team.
The question coming into this season was whether Vallati could take the next step offensively while continuing to improve other aspects of his game. He played in 65 games and scored just 3 goals but added 23 helpers, with 4 more in 19 playoff contests. Still, he managed to finish fourth among first time draft eligible defencemen in scoring behind Bouchard, Merkley and Sandin.
There isn’t much of anything in Central Scouting’s report you could argue with. Vallati is in fact an excellent skater with terrific mobility and very good speed. As mentioned, he can beat the forecheck with his skating alone. But he’s also very good at reading the play and is very capable of making a crisp, clean pass to exit the zone.
In the d-zone, Vallati has shown improvement from year-to-year. He has decent size and uses it well, although he is going to need to add some muscle. Despite that, he wins more then his fair share of battles and will only improve with the added mass. He anticipates extremely well and possesses an active stick – he will close lanes with his positioning or his twig.
Although Vallati plays a very safe game, he uses that same skating ability and decision making in the offensive zone. He is not averse to taking risks, however, he picks his spots. He can pinch to keep the puck in the o-zone. He can move any-which-way to find lanes and set up teammates. He walks the line extremely well and he has a rocket of a shot from the blueline that he takes with a purpose. He gets it through regularly but isn’t always trying to score but put pucks in places where there is going to be a rebound for his teammates. He has shown he can quarterback a powerplay at the OHL level, but the NHL is a different animal.
For Vallati, the draft in June will be interesting to say the least. He has size, the skating and the skill set. For him it’s just a matter of putting it all together. To be more specific, it will come down to whether an NHL team believes they can help him put it all together.
Few have seen Vallati as much as Kitchener Rangers analyst then Mike Farwell of 570 News. I asked Mike if he could share a sentence or two to describe Vallati. This is what he had to say:
I’d describe him as a smooth skater with an excellent first pass and a defenceman who thinks the game well. He picks his spots to pinch and does so very effectively.