Hill climbs depth chart
Persistence has paid off for Dillon Hill.
The 19-year-old Niagara Falls native was told by Niagara Falls Canucks head coach Frank Pietrangelo at the end of last year he was in line to quarterback the power play this season, but only if he did some work.
“When he left here last year I told him it was very important he work on his shot,” Pietrangelo said. “He can skate and is big and strong and he’s very unselfish, but his shot wasn’t where it needed to be at this level for him to be in that position.
“I told him if you want it, it’s yours. You’ve earned it and we think you would excel at it.”
Hill took Pietrangelo’s advice to heart and spent two days a week during the summer firing pucks into an empty net at the Gale Centre.
“I went out to the ice a lot. I had a bunch of pucks and just sat there and shot them,” Hill said.
But Hill said there is more to running the power play than just being able to shoot the puck.
“It’s just moving my feet and getting faster and knowing when to pass and getting your shot through,” he said.
Hill’s play on the blue line has been a key factor in the Canucks potent power play this season. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound defenceman has a goal and nine points in just four games. The Canucks power play has nine goals in only 21 opportunities with the man advantage.
“It’s just confidence and the guys you play with help a lot too,” Hill said of his point production. “I have a lot of power-play points and the power play has been working really well, so that helps.”
Hill began with the Canucks four years ago and was used as a forward in his rookie season.
“He’s really developed over time,” Pietrangelo said. “He started as a forward his first year and then on defence he played really steady for us. We have him on our No. 1 power play until and penalty kill and he’s a main shut down guy.
“He’s developed into a solid two-way player. He is a really aggressive kid who is a good skater who is on the puck and we liked that about him.”
The Canucks are off to a 4-0 start and lead the Golden Horseshoe with 26 goals.
“We know we have a gifted group of forwards but we need to get them the puck on their sticks,” Pietrangelo said. “If we’re just going to be selfish and hang on to the puck all the time it’s not going to work. Everybody has to buy in.”
Hill is enjoying the early returns, both from a team and individual standpoint.
“It’s great to have a good start,” he said. “Last year I got off to a slow start and it was hard to get into things but this year it’s been great. We have a great group of guys so it’s been easy.
“It’s better to get off to a fast start then have to work from behind.”
Pietrangelo has been pleased with his club’s strong start as well.
“We are very happy where we are. We knew we had a good hockey club going into the season,” he said. “You have to show up every night and perform. You have to learn as the season goes on.
“When you are an undefeated team, like we are at the team, you have a target on your back and teams are going to bring their best.”
The Canucks are at Lockport Wednesday, home to the undefeated Pelham Panthers Friday, and in Welland Sunday.
Falls files: The Canucks have added Niagara Falls native Ryan Donovan. The 19-year-old forward spent last season in Nepean of the Canadian Central Hockey League and is a former Welland Junior Canadian.
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