At the time of the 2013 NHL Draft, current Providence College defenseman and Buffalo Sabres prospect Anthony Florentino was a stocky and relatively unheralded draft prospect. He stood 6’1” and weighed 227 pounds, and was coming off of a successful prep school career at South Kent School in Connecticut.
Fast forward a little over a year to USA Hockey’s 2014 National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY, where Florentino was a participant and in fact survived the first round of cuts in a process that will ultimately lead to the selection of the USA’s entry for the 2015 U20 World Junior Championship. The first thing that is noticeable about Florentino is his outward appearance, with the West Roxbury, MA native having shed some pounds while adding an inch to his height.
While the change in his physique came about with a bit of prodding from Providence head coach Nate Leaman, Florentino internalized the advice and ran with it.
“It’s not something that they got on me for – they told me once, and once I have a task I just go for it,” said Florentino. “Coach Leaman told me I need to be a certain weight just because the weight I was at was not the weight you need to be an elite athlete, so I switched that up, put my mind to it, and got to work.”
That work has dropped Florentino’s weight to a more svelte 209 pounds, a playing weight that so far seems to be suiting him just fine.
“I realized what I had to do was the little things, such as diet and nutrition,” stated Florentino. “I lost 22 to 25 pounds since then. That took a lot of work, but I just kind of put my mind to it more so than before and it kind of paid off in the end.”
Indeed, Florentino has advanced from being a prep school star followed almost exclusively by scouts in New England to now being considered one of the better U.S. defensemen in his age group. But the climb up the ladder also means that the talent Florentino is competing against will present unique challenges that he hasn’t necessarily had to face in previous seasons.
“All these guys are great players,” Florentino said of the players competing at the NJEC. “It’s a different style compared to college just because everyone’s the same age – in college there’s some guys stronger than me, and here there’s some guys stronger than me, but not as much. The speed for some of the guys is just a lot quicker here, some of the guys are a lot craftier – Sonny Milano has some of the best pair of hands that I’ve seen, and I probably haven’t seen a par of hands like that in college, so it’s kind of tough to adjust to that. It’s just the different style of play that each team has here – Sweden has a style completely different than anything I’ve played against, so it’s tough adjusting.”
With the national team’s camp now completed, Florentino will focus on his sophomore season at Providence. The Friars had a solid 2013-14 season, one that ended in the NCAA East Regional Final with a disappointing loss to eventual national champion Union College. Even a few months after the season-ending loss to the Dutchmen, Florentino still feels the sting of defeat and is committed to helping his team take the next step this season.
“It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth losing to Union one game away from the Frozen Four, so we’re going to do everything we can to get back to that and help the team,” said a determined Florentino. “Basically, I just want to focus on having the younger guys realize that it’s one team, one goal, and just try to get to the Frozen Four because we were so close last year. We know we can do it, we just really have to put our minds to it.”
The Friars enter the 2014-15 campaign without some key, graduated personnel. Now that he has a season of NCAA hockey under his belt, Florentino feels he can help to fill the void left by the departed seniors.
“I’m just going to try and be a leader more so than last year,” said Florentino. “We lost three captains, three seniors, and then (Ross) Mauermann is returning, he was our fourth captain last year. So I just want to step in, I just want to play my role and be a leader, and play in as many special teams situations as possible.”
While it is never easy to predict just how long an NHL prospect will stay in the college ranks, it seems likely that Florentino will stay at Providence for the next couple of seasons. The Sabres, who made Florentino their fifth round pick at the 2013 draft, sport prospect depth at defense that is as strong as that of any NHL team. Given that depth, Florentino’s best option would appear to be the continuation of his development in a solid NCAA program.
Once he moves to the next level, Florentino wants to bring a mix of grit and skill from the back end.
“At Providence, I like to jump up more, but (at the NJEC) I feel like I need to kind of be like a stay-at-home guy, just kind of hold the fort down for them,” stated Florentino. “I’m always willing to jump up into the play, but I want to be a mean, mean two-way guy, but it really depends on the situation. I don’t like putting the label on one thing because, if some things aren’t working I can try something else. It really depends on the situation. But overall, I want to be a mean, two-way guy, but it depends on the situation and where I’m at and what I need to do.”
Like many of the drafted players that competed at USA Hockey‘s summer camp, Florentino will go through the experience of training with several different coaching staffs over a short period of time. Processing the varied information from each coaching staff can be a challenge, but Florentino has a simple approach to keeping his coaches happy.
“Just do what they say,” Florentino said with a laugh. “It’s kind of like my Dad and my older brothers, just take it all in and listen to what they have to say, do it the first time so that you don’t get yelled at the second time. Every coach has a different way of processing things and getting their points across. I’ve been around a lot, around different coaches a lot, so I’ve just adjusted on how to adapt to learning the way they put things on me to handle. Coach Leaman has a different style than Buffalo, and USA is different from Coach Leaman. It’s really just adjusting.
“The way I’ve been raised is just to do it the first time you’re told and you won’t have any problems – don’t question anything, don’t talk back, just take it all in and listen.”
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