The Penguins seventh and final choice in the 2005 draft was Joe Vitale of Sioux Falls in the USHL. He finished with 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists), thanks mainly to a very strong second half of the season which saw him going at almost point-per-game pace.
2005-06: Vitale was an offensive standout on a Northeastern Huskies team that struggled to score goals this past season. His rookie season was cut short by an ankle injury that forced him to miss Northeastern’s final three games of the season. Vitale played in 31 games and posted eight goals and eight assists, both ranked second on the team. Vitale also led the Huskies with 71 penalty minutes. His most memorable game came back on February 10 in Northeastern’s 6-4 over UMass-Lowell in which he posted two goals where he later won Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors. Most recently, Vitale was named the recipient of Northeastern’s Ed Arrington Memorial Rookie of the Year award.
2006-07: In his sophomore season at Northeastern, Vitale was once again one of the top scoring players on the team, managing 7 goals, 9 assists, and 54 penalty minutes in 35 games.
2007-08: The captain of the Northeastern University Huskies, Vitale obliterated previous numbers with a team leading 35 points in 37 games. The accomplishments continued as he was named to the All-Hockey East second team, New England’s Most Improved Player, and as his team’s MVP.
2008-09: After a 27 point season with Northeastern, Joe signed an entry level deal with Pittsburgh and finished the season with Wilkes-Barres, scoring four points in five games.
2009-10: Playing the full season in the minors, Vitale played throughout the lineup and registered six goals and 26 assists.
2010-11: In his second professional season, Vitale managed 9 goals and 21 assists in 60 games while also posting 64 penalty minutes and a plus-13. He saw some NHL call-up time where in 9 games he posted 1 goal, 1 assist, and 13 penalty minutes.
Vitale (pronounced “vet-tah-lee”) is a tenacious forward who has become one of Northeastern’s top players on face-offs this past season. He is a very smart player who knows where the puck is going. He’s a player who seems to be constantly moving both with and without the puck. Vitale is an outstanding skater with good speed. He is strong on skates and moves well through traffic. The combination of his mobility, strength and aggressiveness makes him a difficult player to contain and have to defend against. He does a very good job of protecting the puck and fiercely competes for it as well. He possesses a very good wrist shot and passes quite well. Vitale is very strong along the boards and in the corners. He has shown a willingness to not only drive hard to the net but to take the punishment in front of it to make plays. He works hard and is not afraid of playing the body. While Vitale has demonstrated proficiency on the defensive side, it is an area that needs improvement and should continue to improve as his game matures and develops.