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Robert Polesello

Robert Polesello is a small, but very skilled center coming off a strong season with the Vaughn Vipers. (Photo courtesy of the Vaughn Vipers)

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Robert Polesello is a small, but very skilled center coming off a strong season with the Vaughn Vipers. (Photo courtesy of the Vaughn Vipers)

If everything goes right for center Robert Polesello, he’ll be a long way from home next year.

Polesello just completed his season with the Ontario Jr. A League’s Vaughan Vipers and is now looking ahead to next season, when if all goes according to plan, he’ll suit up in the United States League for the Indiana Ice. From there, the 5-foot-7, 160-pound puck wizard will make his way to Boston University to play for the Terriers. So why BU?

“Everything is good there,” Polesello said. “The facilities are amazing and the coaches made me feel really comfortable.”

Despite his size, Polesello had a big impact on the Vipers this season, posting 17 goals and 47 points in 37 games and garnering the league’s rookie of the year award. He also represented Canada at the World Jr. A Challenge where, as per usual, the 16-year-old went up against older competition.

“It was probably the highest level of hockey I’ve played,” said Polesello, who is not eligible for the NHL draft until 2012. “It really opened my eyes.”

The youngster also played for Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Challenge this year, so he’s pretty special on the ice.

“He does so many things very well for such a young player,” said Vaughan coach Jason Fortier. “He thinks the game at a fast pace, his strength with the puck gets overlooked and he creates separation between him and his man, even in confined spaces.”

Fortier and Polesello agree defensive zone work is one element the pivot must continue to work on and the coach admits he may have been too tough on his pupil in the early going.

“I was really hard on him, trying to improve his defensive game,” Fortier said. “All year long, we held a standard for him. By the time the playoffs came around, he was a force.”

Polesello has been on the prospect radar for a while now and even went to an athletics-based high school for some time. Premier Elite Athletic Collegiate has seen a host of young talents study in its halls recently, including Jordan Subban (P.K.’s younger brother) and 2011 draft prospect Daniel Catenacci who, like Polesello, relies more on guile than size on the ice.

“I think I’m really good down low,” Polesello said. “I’m quick and shifty, can get around the ‘D’ with my speed. I try to make quick passes to my linemates so they can get up the ice.”

Being 5-foot-7, Polesello’s idols tend to be NHLers of similar stature, so it’s no surprise the first two names to come out of his mouth are Martin St-Louis and Brian Gionta. The size factor also meant Polesello would have to be at his best this year, since some of his Jr. A opponents were four years older – and a lot bigger – than he was.

“I knew it was going to be a challenge and as the season went on, I found my touch,” he said. “I accomplished what I set out to do.”

For his coach, that’s no surprise.

“I’ve never seen a kid so focused and driven,” Fortier said. “He’s a strong kid and he’s committed to getting stronger. His work ethic will help him.”

The fact Boston U. wants Polesello is a pretty good indicator of his work ethic and assuming he lands in Indiana next year, he’ll be playing for one of the premier USHL teams. And while Fortier would love to have Polesello back, he knew the deal coming in.

“It was a one-year commitment, I was informed up front,” Fortier said. “But if you told me he was coming back, I’d be doing handstands.”

THN.com's Prospect Watch focuses on up-and-comers from the AHL, Europe, major junior, the NCAA and even minor hockey destined to become big names in the NHL.

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