Fresh Start Working for Whalers' Ginaluca Curcuruto
18-year-old defenseman is playing well for Whalers.
The first thing you'll probably notice about Plymouth defenseman Gianluca Curcuruto is his name.
The name is pronounced “Jean-Loo-ka Cur-cur-ROO-toe”.
Then you may know or not he’s got one of the all-time great nicknames in the Ontario Hockey League.
Take one look at Curcuruto, and you can understand why he’s know as “Chin” or “Chinner.”
“I was teased, growing up, about having a big chin,” Curcuruto admitted today with a smile. “But the nickname is something I embrace.”
Acquired from Sault Ste. Marie last summer for Mitchell Dempsey and Dylan Mascarin, the 18-year-old defenseman from Richmond Hill, ON has embraced the Whalers, and the Whalers have embraced him. Curcuruto thoroughly enjoys Plymouth and – with a goal and five assists and +5 through 14 games - is playing the best all-around hockey of his career.
“Coming here from the Soo, it’s definitely been a change in atmosphere,” Curcuruto said. “The guys have been great, the coaching staff has been great and so far we’re doing pretty well as a team. There is a definite professionality here – as a team, coaching staff and organization. This is a hard working team that is focused on the game.”
Chalk up another low-key but excellent deal for Plymouth general manager and head coach Mike Vellucci.
Curcuruto was originally taken by the Soo in first round (14th overall) of the 2010 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection and – last summer - was a seventh round draft pick of the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets.
After two seasons in the Soo, Curcuruto was looking for a change and found an ally in Plymouth associate coach Joe Stefan.
“He skates real well,” Stefan said. “He moves the puck real well. He keeps his head up and can play physical at times. He can help on the power play and has a nice shot. Gianluca’s been a real nice addition to our defensive corps this year.”
“He was highly touted coming out of midget hockey and was a high draft pick for the Soo. We thought playing against him during his first year that he was going to be a real good player in our league. And then last year, he took a little backward step.”
Curcuruto came to Plymouth looking to improve in his game. Enter Stefan and his low-key, but effective approach.
“Coming into my third year in the league as a veteran, I just want to prove myself,” Curcuruto said. “The last two years have had their shape of bumps in the road. But this year I want to show it (my ability).
“Joe’s a great coach. In practice, he corrects all the little things in your game and cleans up everything. He’s helped me become an all-around player.”
Stefan feels Curcuruto has fit in seamlessly with a group that is growing up.
“It’s been refreshing for him to come to a new team,” Stefan said about Curcuruto. “He’s seems to really enjoy the players that are here. We enjoy coaching him right now. As long as he keeps progressing the way he is, with steady improvement, I think he has a chance to be real good for us in the future.”
After coming from Sault Ste. Marie – where the ‘Hounds are under the microscope – Curcuruto said something perhaps surprising about the Whalers’ side of Hockeytown.
“Plymouth is a great city,” Cuccuruto said. “I love the hockey atmosphere here – the coaching and how professional and classy the organization is. It’s unbelievable.”
Plymouth gets back into the West Division this weekend, playing in Sarnia on Friday and then hosting the Sting on Saturday at 7:05 pm at Compuware Arena.
VOTE FOR THE WHALERS ON ELECTION DAY: The Whalers continue within the West Division next Tuesday during their annual Election Day Matinee, hosting Saginaw at Compuware Arena. Note the 2:00 pm start.
WHALERS STAND UP FOR MEN'S HEALTH: Whalers Nick Malysa, Colin MacDonald, Michael Whaley and Curtis Crombeen are leading the team's Movember Initiative, designed to raise awareness towards men's health issues.
Listen to Malysa on "Plymouth Whalers Weekly", heard Tuesday and Friday from 5:45-6 pm on 88.1FM WSDP.
The Whalers have set up a donation site through Movember.com. Any donation - large or small - is appreciated.