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Prep Watch: Championing Ciampini

Luca Ciampini of the Chateauguay Patriotes. (Photo Courtesy of the Patriotes)

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Luca Ciampini of the Chateauguay Patriotes. (Photo Courtesy of the Patriotes)

Luca Ciampini and Frederic Gamelin have awesome chemistry together – even if they don’t take chemistry together.

The stars of Les Patriotes de Chateauguay of the Quebec midget AAA league are 1-2 in team scoring, even though they’re two of the youngest players on a circuit that includes 16- and 17-year-olds. And unlike most squads, the players go to different high schools – Ciampini goes to an English school, Gamelin a French one.

Nonetheless, the pair make magic together, helping Ciampini raise his status as one of the top prospects for the Quebec League draft this year.

“His biggest trait is the way he goes to the net, with or without the puck. He’s willing to take a hit,” said Patriotes coach Jean-Sebastien Perron. “Luca loves to go to the net and Fred’s very patient with the puck.”

The result for Ciampini has been 11 goals and 26 points in 17 games, but there’s no complacency with the 5-foot-11, 186-pound left winger.

“We’ve been playing very well as a line so far,” Ciampini said. “We sit beside each other in the dressing room, so we’re always talking, always looking for a new play.”

A 1994 birthday, Ciampini won’t be NHL draft eligible until 2012, but ask his coach if he’s surprised to see two of his youngest players atop the team leaderboard and he’ll set you straight.

“We were waiting for them anxiously. They were dominant in minor hockey,” Perron said. “It’s a 1-2 show right now.”

Ciampini and Gamelin had watched each other from opposing benches for most of their youth, but last year they got the chance to skate together as 14-year-olds in a circuit usually reserved for 15-year-olds.

Given Ciampini is already NHL-sized and will no doubt continue to grow in the next few years, it’s no surprise he likes to use his frame to his advantage.

“I’m a power forward, I bring the puck to the net,” Ciampini said. “I’m more power than dangles, but I have those skills, too.”

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In terms of an NHL role model, the youngster aims right for the top.

“Evgeni Malkin,” he said. “I find we have similarities. I try to play like him.”

And if Ciampini can harness the power of Geno, he’ll be a hot commodity come summer when the ‘Q’ holds its annual draft. Having said that, Ciampini doesn’t want to close any doors and Lac St. Louis’ Louis Leblanc proved last year that going from midget AAA to the United States League with a commitment to the NCAA can still land you in an NHL jersey (in this case, Montreal’s) in the first round of the draft.

In the meantime, Perron would like to see his gifted winger work on his defensive game, something Ciampini has willingly embraced. Vigilance on the backcheck is priority No. 1.

“He was not cheating, but didn’t always keep his head on a swivel,” Perron offered.

But instead of holding his charges back, Perron has given Ciampini more responsibility, something the coach believes is his duty as a teacher of the game.

“We try to give him ice time in every situation,” Perron said. “This is a development league, so we try to prepare all our players for the next step in their hockey careers.”

Based on how things have gone so far, it’s the next level that may need to prepare for the arrival of Ciampini.

Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every second Thursday throughout the season.

For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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