Firebirds pluck Gualtieri in OHL draft
Getting drafted Saturday into the Ontario Hockey League by the Flint Firebirds was a big moment for Luke Gualtieri.
“I was really excited because ever since I started playing minor hockey, I had a goal of making it the OHL,” the 15-year-old St. Catharines resident said. “To finally see my name come up was a great feeling.”
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound South Tier Admirals left defenceman had discussions with Flint and a couple of other teams before the draft so it wasn’t a total surprise when they selected him 196th overall in the 10th round.
“Honestly, I am just happy to go (get drafted) wherever I went and to have a chance to go to camp and prove myself.”
Gualtieri realizes every rookie has the opportunity to shine at OHL training camps, regardless of where they were selected in the draft.
“Everyone goes to the same camp and now it is time to try and separate myself.”
The Grade 10 student at Denis Morris is excited to have that chance with the Firebirds.
“I have heard all great things about their organization,” he said. “They are a great team and I can’t wait to get started.”
Gualtieri realized he had a chance to get drafted into the OHL a few years ago.
“I started to think about it a bit last year, but it was a lot more this year when I came to my new team at Southern Tier,” he said. “I started to talk to some people from the OHL and I started to realize this is real and there is a chance that I am going to be drafted.”
He started with Southern Tier at the minor atom level and played two years with the Admirals before a four-year stint with the Niagara North Stars.
This past season with the Admirals, Luke Gualtieri had nine goals and 27 points in 32 regular season games and one goal and six points in 13 playoff games for the Admirals. He also had a goal and five points in five games at the Ontario Minor Hockey Association championships.
“I tried to work a lot more on my offensive game this year and I tried to become more of two-way defenceman.”
The decision to pay more attention to offence was sparked by his team.
“I was on a much more offensive team that scored a lot more goals and it encouraged me to want to be part of the play and creating offence,” he said.
Admirals head coach Kevin Rosebrugh enjoyed having Gualtieri on his squad.
“Luke is a gritty kid with a terrific compete level. He’s a two way defenceman that can play power play and penalty kill,” he said. “He’s very good in his own end and he has a very active stick. He also has very good offensive instincts, especially joining the rush and creating offence.”
Gualtieri takes a lot of pride in being gritty and competing hard.
“I have always been very competitive, I look to put my team first and give it my all on the ice.”
He has already start to get ready for his first training camp.
“I am going to prepare the best way possible, get on the ice as much as I can, work out pretty much all the time and by the time camp comes, I should be more than prepared.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has obviously put a crimp in his preparations, but he is trying hard to stay busy.
“I am lucky that I have some stuff at my house that I can use to work out so I have been doing that a lot lately.”
He has been shooting pucks in his basement and doing whatever else he can to stay fit.
He has already set a goal for training camp.
“The goal is to make the team but I just want to establish myself for who I am and show them what I can do.”