Massimo Rizzo first impressed Penticton Vees fans while wearing No. 27.
This season, despite getting in games last year, will be his rookie campaign in the B.C. Hockey League, as he looks to continue to impress with No. 13.
The Burnaby native chose that number because he was born on June 13, and he also wore that number as a kid idolizing Pavel Datsyuk.
Related: Rizzo picks Vees over Blazers
“I love the way he plays,” said Rizzo. “His hands were unbelievable. He was so deceptive. Always had the defenceman guessing. And the way he could just find people around the ice, his vision, what he could do is just spectacular.”
The product of the Burnaby Winter Club tries to inject parts of Datsyuk’s game into his. One area that impressed Rizzo is the former Detroit Red Wings’ 200-foot game.
“He is solid. He makes unbelievable plays with the puck. Smart without.”
Rizzo has shown skills with the puck and is smart enough to put himself into position to score or help teammates hit the twine. Former Vees captain Nicolas Jones said he is very talented. During the Fred Page Cup playoffs, he watched the phenom score his first BCHL goal, and show flashes of brilliance during the Western Canada Cup where he scored a goal and added four assists in five games as the Vees advanced to the Royal Bank Cup.
“Being able to come up at 15 and make an impact like he did, be able to play on the power play and be a contributor on the ice is pretty impressive at that age,” said Jones, days after their season ended. “I think at his age, every year is a huge development year. He is only going to get better. It’s exciting to have a player of his caliber.”
Vees co-captain Owen Sillinger said Rizzo did everything he could in the playoffs.
Rizzo, the most valuable player of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League’s midget prep division last season, said the playoff experience was awesome.
“I was just thrilled and it was a blast,” he said.
He was happy with his play and adjusted to the bigger players. The teen also discovered that he can keep up with the speed and intensity.
“It definitely helped my confidence,” said Rizzo prior to training camp. “It will be easier when I go in, I will be able to be more confident. Play more of my game and trust in what I can do.”
After spending a few weeks in Italy with family, Rizzo got started on his training, but injured himself and wasn’t able to skate. The injury prevented Rizzo from being on the ice during the Hockey Canada Under-17 camp in late July. It was still a great experience as he was able to participate in the activities and sit through presentations. Rizzo said the talent at the camp was higher and opened his eyes. After leaving, he wanted to train harder to be his best.
“I learned a lot of life skills that they demand excellence at,” said Rizzo. “You always have to do everything to your best and be a great person.”
Rizzo is looking forward to this season because of the roster that Vees coach-general manager Fred Harbinson has assembled.
“We have a great chance of going back to the RBC Cup this year,” he said. “It looks like we have some really good players coming in from all over.”
Harbinson made trades recently, picking up 1997-born forwards Ben Allen from the Battlefords North Stars and Shane Allan from the Okotoks Oilers. Allen, a native of Allen, Tex., appeared in 44 games for the North Stars scoring 19 goals and adding 26 assists. He then scored seven goals with six assists in 12 playoff games to help the North Stars win the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League championship. At the Western Canada Cup, he scored once in five games.
Allan, a Calgary native, was limited to 10 games with the Oilers due to injury. He recorded one goal and one assist. In 2015-16, he played 66 games in the Western Hockey League with the Kootenay Ice, scoring three goals with three assists.
“When we look back at the four championships in our last 10 years, the one constant has been the importance of a veteran presence in the BCHL playoffs,” said Vees head coach and general manager Fred Harbinson in a team statement. “These acquisitions raise our experience up front. Ben knows what it takes to win a championship at this level and will be relied upon in our quest to repeat as BCHL champions. Shane is coming off an injury and looking for a fresh start. We look forward to working with both of them throughout training camp.”
Less than 100 season memberships remain for the 2017-2018 season. To purchase your seats, contact Laura Carleton at 250-493-8336 ext. 4.