Del Paggio helps lead rising Stars
Daniel Del Paggio had his early-season doubts whether he could make the successful jump to junior A hockey at a young age.
Those doubts have long been put to rest, grounded and sent to bed without supper.
The 17-year-old forward has helped lead the resurgence of the Thunder Bay North Stars in the Superior International Junior Hockey League this season. Part of a youth injection that has brought the perennial powerhouse back to challenge the top of the standings, Del Paggio is scoring at a torrid pace as the club’s top point-getter.
He has 73 points (30 goals, 43 assists) on the season, including scoring a goal and adding two assists in a 9-3 win Thursday at the SIJHL Showcase in Spooner, Wis., against the Wisconsin Wilderness. The North Stars will host the league-leading Fort Frances Lakers at Fort William Gardens on Saturday.
Del Page’s output leads all players in points-per-game average.
“I can’t say enough about Daniel. No. 1, he’s a great kid like all the kids on our team,” North Stars head coach Jeremy Adduono said of Del Paggio. “He’s got some natural ability. He’s got a high intelligence on the ice and he’s made some plays out there that have made us look at each other and say, ‘Where did that come from?’ He’s been great.”
The speedy, five-foot-10, 175-pound Del Paggio — who went undrafted by the OHL —chose the North Stars over returning to the Thunder Bay Kings major midget program with thoughts of eventually landing in the USHL or staying with the North Stars to uncover a U.S. college hockey scholarship. Right off the bat, the size and experience of players in the SIJHL were a challenge, he recalled.
“The first couple of games it was a big adjustment. I didn’t really know how the season was going to go,” said Del Paggio, a Grade 12 student at St. Patrick high school.
“Jeremy has been a good teacher for me as well as my Dad and my parents. I’m just trying to get better every day, using my passing as well as my speed. It’s been great. . . . I’ve been getting a lot of help and I’ve enjoyed it.”
Del Paggio’s work is not going unnoticed. On Monday he was named the SIJHL’s player of the week for the second time this season. Two months ago he represented the league at the World Junior A Challenge in Nova Scotia.
More importantly, the North Stars as a team have rebounded from a difficult 2012-13 campaign that saw three coaching changes, a regular season finish of just a game over .500 and a first-round playoff exit. Thunder Bay (27-6-5) is the hottest team in the league, going 10-0-1 in its last 11 games.
Like Del Paggio, Adduono entered the picture as a late hire and had to build the roster quickly.
“We really didn’t have a good idea what was going to happen. We were just hoping in the short time that we had was to put the best group of kids that we could and I think that’s where we kind of started,” said Adduono. “That’s really carried us throughout the year. We have a lot of character in that dressing room.”
North Stars captain Trevor Hynnes said the mix of returning players like himself and Matthias Gardiman and Brandon Wolframe with new faces Del Paggio, Zach Grzelewski, former OCN Blizzard Taylor Santorelli and goaltenders Eric Mann and Nathanial Dupuis
“The guys that are here care a lot and it shows how they play on the ice,” Hynnes said. “Obviously everyone is having a great time because we’re winning.”
Dupuis made 25 saves in Thursday's win. Gardiman scored twice and Tim Cavar, Kenny Turner, Grzelewski, Ryan Walsh, Tyler Brower and Santorelli added singles. Walsh also added three assists.
Next order of business for the North Stars is Fort Frances (32-6-0) on Saturday. The North Stars lead the season series 4-2-1.
“Fort Frances is right there. I think we match up well against them and have been playing them well,” Del Paggio said. “We get a few more Ws under our belts and get that much closer to catching them. This is a big weekend.”