25. Shane Pinto (Reader Rank: 23, Last Year: N/A)
In any other year that I can remember, a player of Pinto’s pedigree would’ve been ranked higher than where we have him. But as you’ll see, dear reader, this isn’t your average year. Silver Seven’s Top 25 Under 25 is an annual ranking of Sens players under the age of 25, and has been one of our regular features that readers look forward to the most. You can see past rankings here [2015, 2016, 2017, 2018], and I referenced 2014’s list on Friday as we reflected on Ottawa’s pool of young players from five years ago.
As of right now, part of what Pinto is fighting is something completely out of his control. The players who were taken right after him, namely Los Angeles’ Arthur Kaliyev and Philadelphia’s Bobby Brink, were rated as first-round picks by most scouting units, while Pinto was pegged as a mid-second rounder. The Sens’ staff, though, rated him highly:
“In the last couple years, we’ve put a premium on character kids and I think we’ve got one here. Going to North Dakota next year, where I feel like he’ll develop with our other draft picks and be a skilled player with us some day. We had him rated pretty highly. You can’t go wrong with a good sized, skilled centre iceman.”
Scouting reports are all over the place on Pinto — something that happens when you don’t start playing competitive hockey until you’re 15 — but his strengths appear to be his pro frame (6-foot-2, 192 pounds), willingness to learn, and engagement at all ends of the rink. In Pinto’s own words: “I think my biggest on ice strength is I think the game pretty well. I think I can anticipate certain things and have pretty good hockey IQ.”
He can still score, as evidenced by his 1.05 points-per-game in the USHL last season, and is best described as a “developing” centre who’s still scratching the surface of his ceiling. This is a player who was drafted in the 21st round in the 2017 USHL Entry Draft, so he’s come a long way in a short period of time. Even if we just look at the last year, Pinto started as a late-round selection with the NHL’s Central Scouting Service, but ended as their 28th ranked North American skater. His consistency between Lincoln and Tri-City last season is a good sign, especially since he moved from a weak team (he led the rebuilding Stars in scoring at the time of his trade) to one of the league’s stronger groups. Pinto was named to the USHL’s All-Rookie Team for his regular season performance, and featured internationally for the Gold Medal winning U.S. squad at the World Junior A Championships. He scored two points in six games at the tournament.
In our first look at Pinto at Sens’ development camp, he seemed to mesh well with the team and played a role on the winning squad in the 3-on-3 tournament alongside Jonathan Tychonick, Lassi Thomson, Drake Batherson, and Rudolfs Balcers.
Pinto was recruited by top programs in Michigan State, Penn State, Providence, and UMass, but chose North Dakota in part because the pro environment will help him round out his overall game. It’s clear that he needs to work on his skating to continue to develop into a legitimate NHL prospect, and he’s expected to get plenty of ice as the Fighting Hawks’ top freshman this year. He’ll be competing with sophomores Jasper Weatherby (SJS) and Mark Senden down the middle, along with fellow rookie Harrison Blaisdell (WPG) for playing time. With a net-front spot on the powerplay with his name on it, potentially on a unit with Tychonick and Bernard-Docker, we’ll be watching Pinto closely this season to see if he can take steps towards silencing the (many) doubters.