If there’s anything the Philadelphia Flyers have had a surplus of in the past 40 years, it’s enforcers who specialize in beating the living daylights out of opponents. Now left winger Zac Rinaldo is ready to follow the line of Dave Schultz, Dave Brown, Donald Brashear and, more recently, Dan Carcillo.
The fact Rinaldo got into a fight during the Flyers’ prospect camp is a pretty good indicator of his demeanor, so GM Paul Holmgren and his staff should be licking their chops at the potential to see him in a Flyers uniform. “Our guy got hooked and there was no call,” Rinaldo explained. “It was 0-0 at that point. It frustrated me, so I took it into my own hands and tried to give our team some energy.”
The Flyers selected Rinaldo in the sixth round (178th overall) of the 2008 draft. After playing for the Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors in the Ontario League (and picking up 191 PIM in his first full season), Rinaldo was traded to London, per his request. In 2009-10, he was dealt to Barrie, this time without asking management for a trade.
“I asked for (the first trade) because I wasn’t happy in Mississauga,” Rinaldo said. “London was great, I loved it. It was a family town; they appreciated me with open arms. Going to Barrie was a little different because I didn’t ask for it, but it was nice going to a team trying to win a championship. Mentally, I just had to stay positive.”
Rinaldo’s numbers increased annually, as he posted 201 PIMs in 2008-09 and 255 in ’09-10. But the 20-year-old left winger says he steps up when there’s more on the line. “I’m a playoff player,” Rinaldo said. “That’s the best kind of hockey. The regular season is kind of boring for me. Playoff hockey is more of an edgy, physical type of game. It’s a big part of my role.”
Don Luce, the Flyers director of player development, knows Rinaldo has his upside, but also comes with risks. “The pluses are that he still has the passion to play physically,” Luce said. “He’s a good skater. He has good skill and quickness, so that gives him a chance to play in the NHL.
“The minuses are that he’s undisciplined to a degree, which has to improve. And he knows that. He’s got to be a more effective player. I think he has to control his emotions better.”
Rinaldo believes his discipline will improve with age: “My weakness is going over my edge; getting penalties and getting suspended. But it’s all part of growing up.”
Though he is an avid fighter, Rinaldo stands just 5-foot-10 and is listed at 180 pounds – fairly small for a typical NHL enforcer. But it doesn’t bother him. “Yeah, I’m 5-foot-10,” he said. “But I play like I’m 6-foot-4, 260.”
For those who still don’t believe he has the skills to make it? Rinaldo has just two words: “Watch me.” But he understands what it will take to make it to the big leagues. In fact, according to Rinaldo, it’s pretty simple what he must give: “Everything I got.”
Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College hockey team as well. You can contact him at BergHockey24@gmail.com.
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