DeSimone set for breakout season
The Niagara IceDogs have big plans for Jonah DeSimone this season.
The 17-year-old sophomore winger endured the normal growing pains of most rookies last season, but with a year of experience under his belt DeSimone feels he is ready to take his game to the next level.
“I think training with older guys and getting more comfortable playing a bigger role and putting up more offence, I think is something I was preparing for and I’m exited to do it in the regular season,” DiSimone said. “It’s really exciting, especially in a league like this, (where) opportunities don’t come around often like that.
“Right now, it’s just making sure I’m in a position to take advantage of that.”
DeSimone appears to be doing just that with two goals and five points in the first two exhibition games, matching his points total of all last season.
“He’s a guy who in his exit meeting the message was to come back with the confidence of a guy who has played in the league before,” IceDogs coach Billy Burke said. “He’s got great speed, a great shot, and he’s in fantastic shape. He has a lot of things going for him.
“On this team, even through he’s a second-year, we’re going to look to him as a guy we can really lean on.”
DeSimone says he has a different mindset heading into this season.
“I think there’s a big mental difference. Obviously before you’re looking up to a bunch of guys and now you’re at the same level as your teammates and you’re able to see that you can do this, you can score goals, your job just isn’t to get the puck out. Now it’s to take the puck down and put it in the net.”
Burke feels it is vital DeSimone and other younger players step up and give veterans such as Akil Thomas and Phil Tomasino a hand on offence.
“It’s certainly going to be scoring by committee,” Burke said. “When you have a team like last year there’s not a lot of movement. You know who your top 12 forwards are.
“It’s a little bit different this year. Things aren’t quite as much in cement. Guys will be able to earn opportunities all over and it’s important for a guy like Jonah to have the confidence and have a good start. Nothing is set in stone so he needs to continue to get better and keep improving and so far he’s been doing that.”
DeSimone can’t wait to get started.
“We’re really anxious. We’re got real top-end guys in Akil and Tomasino and it’s real exciting to see what they can do. If we can do the right things, we’ll find success. They key is working hard and knowing what we’re supposed to do.”
The IceDogs visit the Barrie Colts Thursday to continue the exhibition season. They host the Peterborough Petes Friday, Sept. 13 at the Fleming Centre in Beamsville and then conclude pre-season Saturday, Sept. 14 versus Peterborough in Millbrook.
The IceDogs open the regular season at home Thursday, Sept. 19 versus the Sudbury Wolves.
Burke is curious to see some of his young charges in action.
“These are the guys we’ve have at practice for the last two weeks. We’ve inserted some systems now and let’s see it against other teams. It’s important we have a little structure in our game and guys have some confidence,” he said.
Thomas (Los Angeles), Tomasino (Nashville) and Jacob Paquette (Columbus) remain at NHL camps.
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