A few minutes before they dropped the puck on the final scrimmage of the week at Caps Development Camp, a handful of us threw a buck and a guess apiece in a winner-take-all pot as to who would score the first goal of the game. Oskar Osala was picked early. So was Andrew Gordon. And two of the three kids from the Q. Even undrafted Camp standout Jake Hauswirth was taken with one of the first handful of picks.
By the time my pick came around (eighth or so overall), I called a name I might well have called with the first overall pick: "Give me Stefan Della Rovere."
Della Rovere was the Caps' seventh round pick in the June Entry Draft, 204th overall, and admits that at times during the draft he didn't think he'd be drafted at all. But he'd worked his way up to 156th on Central Scouting's final ranking of North American Skaters after not being on the mid-term version of that list in January, and he continues to work. Hard. And not only at being a Grade-A pest, getting under opponents' skin, dishing out hits and answering the bell when need be, but also on other aspects of his game - in his second OHL season, the Barrie Colts winger nearly doubled his goal and nearly tripled his assist totals, finishing sixth on the team in scoring while leading the squad in PIMs (natch). Della Rovere, as it will become clear if it hasn't already, is a hard-nosed power forward, and precisely the type of player destined for cult hero status, should he ever make the bigs.
Della Rovere didn't win me any money on Saturday, though he certainly helped to make the first goal happen, as his disruptive pressuring of a Team White defenseman forced a turnover that Hauswirth was eventually able to convert with a helper from Gordon. But Della Rovere's effort on that play, and all scrimmage - indeed all week - long, opened a lot of eyes. Pepper sought out and snagged his sweater post-game, and Peerless had this to say of the scrappy winger:
We’re rooting for Stefan Della Rovere to make this team some time down the road. He was quite the bundle of energy and grit out there. Even in an environment where one might not see quite the level or intensity of hitting one would see in real games, he was out there plugging away making his presence felt.
I caught up with Della Rovere for a couple of minutes after Team Blue's shootout win to talk nicknames, role models and fisticuffs, among other things.
JP: With a name like Della Rovere, you've gotta have some nicknames, something short and sweet. What've you got for us?
SDR: Back home I got called 'Delly' a lot and this week I had [Joel] Broda calling me 'Rover,' but I don't know what that was about.
JP: Strong day out there today for you - you looked real good. How'd you feel?
SDR: It was a tough, long week and on the final day we were excited knowing that if we got the win as the blue team, we'd take the three game series. But for myself, I felt really good out there. I felt confident that I put together a strong week and once again the blue team pulled it off in the end.
JP: You were doing some things out there today that people might not have expected offensively, like that behind-the-back drop pass on the two-on-one. How's the offensive side of your game coming together?
SDR: This camp is for development and I like to try new things once in a while, but my game is a hard-nosed power forward type of game and I don't mind mixing things up with a little bit of offense. [Note: speaking of mixing it up, check out Delly's mid-scrap right-to-left switch in this scrap. Impressive.]
JP: What do you hope to work on and develop in your game this coming year?
SDR: We got our test results back for the week and I was kinda low on my on-ice stuff and my lower body strength, so I'm going to work on my leg strength and quickening my feet and speed.
JP: What current NHLers do you model your game after?
SDR: I grew up as a Todd Bertuzzi fan when he was in Vancouver and tried to mold my game after his. But now I enjoy watching Jarome Iginla because he's a two-way, hard-nosed power forward that can put the puck in the net and isn't scared to drop the gloves. As for myself, I like to model myself as kind of a pest player, like a Darcy Tucker...
SDR: I don't know about Avery... Avery's kind of a nut off the ice, I've heard, so I wouldn't say him, but a guy you had here in Washington, Matt Cooke, is a good hard-nosed power forward.
JP: You're not a huge guy [Delly's 5'10" listing might even be generous]. Who's the biggest guy you've ever fought?
SDR: He was 6'5", 220. I fought him last year.
JP: How'd that turn out?
SDR: I think I got the upper hand on it. [Note: check it out for yourself below.] My fights are on YouTube, some of them. But I don't mind dropping the mitts. I'm not afraid of anybody... maybe Donald Brashear.
JP: Well, that's certainly a good guy to be afraid of.