Italy begins producing hockey prospects

By HF Staff

by Stefano Sala

Italy has never been considered among the elite countries in developing young hockey players. In the 1990s, the team has relied on players such Jim Corsi, Gates Orlando and Bob Manno in the World Ice Hockey Championships. Italos (players with double passport) have played a major part in the success of Italy in hockey, but at a cost the development of the development program over the last 15 years. Italy is now embarking in a new era where Italos will be part of the building process, but the development of the young Italian talent will become the primary focus.

Since September 1, 2003 FISG (Italian Federation of the Ice Sports) decided to entrust its future to the Canadian Mickey Goulet, 14-year Head Coach of the University of Ottawa. Goulet was also previously on the coaching staff of the Ohio University and the Toledo Hornets (IHL). For two years he was a scout for the Washington Capitals. Goulet believes in Italian prospects and he’s working hard with them. The young Italian talents are getting the opportunity to develop and are relishing the challenge ahead. Even with a limited talent pool, there are now some interesting Italian prospects.

Andreas Lutz (03.30.1986) Defenseman, Ht 5’11 Wt 165

Lutz is now playing in Merano in second tier league. He has the talent to play for most teams in Serie A (top league in Italy). He skates well, has good hands and a good shot, but he needs to learn to get it off quicker. According to Red Gendron, who was assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils, Lutz has the skill level of many fifth round draft choices from the NHL. Lutz must get physically stronger as he found out when he went to a hockey camp in Indianapolis. He also has to learn to make the first pass out of his zone faster. Mentally he has to learn to stay focused. He has a good attitude and has the potential to go further in pro hockey if he is willing to continue to work hard and be disciplined. He will play for Italy on the next IIHF world J20 Championship Div. I.

Claudio Mantese (05.18.1985) Center, Ht 5’10 Wt 168

Mantese is playing in Asiago, Serie A. He is a natural center, very disciplined and moves the puck well. He needs to work on his shot. Mantese is recovering from shoulder surgery and has taken big steps at becoming a dominant center for Italian J20 National team. As his confidence and his ability to read the play improves, he will have a good future on the National senior team. Mantese will play for Italy on the next IIHF world J20 Championship Div. I.

Armin Hofer (03.19.1987) Defenseman, Ht 6’1 Wt 176

Hofer is playing for the Brunico J19. Mike Shea, Brunico’s Coach, is very high on Hofer and would love to have him with the senior team in Brunico, so it is difficult to understand why they are holding back his development. He will not improve playing 40 to 45 minutes a game for the J19 team, compared to the upper level, as he is already dominant. Hofer has an amazing instinct for the game. He makes a difficult play look simple. During the summer, Coach Goulet suggested to him that he needed to learn how to pass like a pro. Last week in an Under 19 game against Kaltern he showed that he is a quick learner.

Luca Zandonella (07.30.1987) Defenseman, Ht 6’0 Wt 183

Zandonella is playing in Cortina, Serie A. He has great potential to become a tough defensive player. He was a dominant defenseman and must learn what his strengths are and play to this side of his game. Presently, he is not seeing much ice time.

Nicola Fontanive (10.25.1985) Forward, Ht 5’7 Wt 154

Fontanive is now playing in Alleghe, Serie A .He has good speed but his greatest attribute is his intelligence and discipline. Fontanive is small in stature and must work on using his greatest asset which is his anticipation. His shot is average and must be improved. He is a competitor but must learn how to use his body. He will have to continue to develop his mental toughness. Fontanive has the heart of a lion and will be part of the National Senior team in the future. He will play for Italy on the next IIHF world J20 Championship Div. I.

Diego Iori (05.20.1985) Forward, Ht 5’7 Wt 165

Iori is playing in Fassa, Serie A. He is an explosive forward who could become a great scorer, but has to learn to play both ends of the rink. Ron Ivany, his current coach, has done a great job in directing Iori in his development. As soon as he becomes more focused and decides that he wants to become a great professional Italian player, then he will reach his potential.

René Baur (01.19.1985) Goalie, Ht 5’11 Wt 154

Baur is on loan from Dobbiaco (Italy3) to Brunico, Serie A. Brunico has been great in giving Baur the opportunity to develop. This past summer he worked with Jim Corsi (Goaltender coach of the Buffalo Sabres) and Bill Ranford, two former great goalies. He is continuing to learn the position and has played well this season. Baur has great legs and must work on challenging the shooter on a consistent basis. He has a great work ethic and is one of the bright spots for Brunico.

Thomas Tragust (05.28.1986) Goalie. Ht 6’0 Wt 165

Tragust is now playing in Merano in second tier league. Last year he was a key reason for an Italian bronze medal in the Under 18 World Championships Div. I. He has a very strong upside and he is mentally tough. He needs to continue to challenge the shooters. For sure the competition between Baur and Tragust will help to motivate and develop them. They both have a good future with the National program.

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