Colorado Avalanche: All About Center Rocco Grimaldi

DENVER, CO - APRIL 06: Rocco Grimaldi
DENVER, CO - APRIL 06: Rocco Grimaldi /

Colorado Avalanche center Rocco Grimaldi is a small but talented player with an interesting back story.

The Colorado Avalanche have signed center Rocco Grimaldi to a one-year contract. According to Avs insider Adrian Dater, the two-way contract carries a $750,000 cap hit and is worth $170,000 in the AHL.

The Avalanche acquired Grimaldi last summer from the Florida Panthers in exchange for goalie Reto Berra.

Here’s the thing about Rocco Grimaldi — he’s small. Not in a “not ideal size for the NHL” small. He’s legit diminutive at 5-foot-6. He’s got a sturdy bull-dogish body, but that’s Theo Fleury height, and Fleury was a midget of the NHL.

Here’s another thing about Rocco Grimaldi — he’s got skill.

Rocco Grimaldi Biography

The 24-year-old Grimaldi was born on February 8, 1993, in Anaheim, California. He’s one of four California-born players to have suited up for the Colorado Avalanche.

He started his organized hockey career when he was five years old. Apparently he thought it looked more exciting than baseball. (I didn’t even know that was a question.)

In any case, an interesting fact about Rocco Grimaldi is that he’s devoutly born-again Christian. In fact, according to Puck Daddy, he’s expressed interest in becoming a pastor one day. Indeed, here’s what he said about social media after being drafted:

"“I think [Twitter and Facebook] are a way to spread the Gospel. I try to put positive messages out there, and keep my head up.”"

The Florida Panthers drafted Grimaldi with the #33 pick in 2011. Interestingly, it was thought at the time that Grimaldi’s devoutness may have cost him going first round. According to Puck Daddy, some teams were “scared off” by his candid religious discourse. Apparently his Twitter was all religion, all the time when he was drafted.

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Since then he’s gotten married, to Abigail Mattson of North Dakota. And while I’m sure they’re having a very Christian marriage, a lot of his tweets now are about how happy he is with his married life.

In any case, Grimaldi comes from a working class family. His father was a police officer. His mother worked for Little Caesars AAA Hockey as a club team manager, which was probably useful for young Rocco.

Rocco Grimaldi spent three years in the prestigious US National Development Team Program. He also spend three years at the University of North Dakota of Tyson Jost fame (and some guy named Jonathan Toews). Over three seasons, Grimaldi played 86 games and recorded 31 goals and 46 assists.

Grimaldi has spent the better part of three seasons in the AHL. In that time, he’s recorded 61 goals and 69 assists in 188 games. Like I said, the young man has skills — unfortunately, he hasn’t exactly translated that into NHL success. In 31 NHL games, he has four goals and three assists.

Rocco Grimaldi and the Colorado Avalanche

In addition to NCAA and AHL success, Rocco Grimaldi has been a force representing the USA internationally. He’s played in four world championships for a total of 26 games, recording 10 goals and 26 assists and earning four gold medals.

For the Colorado Avalanche, though, he’s only played four games, recording a single assist. That assist came against the Minnesota Wild on April 6, the same day fellow UND alum Jost scored his first NHL goal.

Here’s Grimaldi’s first NHL goal, scored in 2014 against the Nashville Predators:

In any case, Grimaldi is known for being a terrific skater and speedy. He’s considered both agile and versatile. Here’s what the Hockey News have to say about his assets:

"“Highly competitive and feisty, he can produce points and play sound two-way hockey as well. Is versatile enough to play either wing or center and is constantly hustling.”"

The site says his career potential is as a “diminutive, talented and versatile forward with a little upside.”

His career potential with the Colorado Avalanche is undetermined. He’s signed to a two-way contract, which suggests to me that the team isn’t sure how much of a chance it wants to take on Grimaldi.

Size shouldn’t be such an issue like it would have been a couple years ago. And though the sample size was small last season, Grimaldi showed some good talent in those last four games of the Avs’ season. He seems to function well under Jared Bednar’s system.

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I’d say Grimaldi is facing the same fate as a lot of other players across the NHL. He’s going to have to go into training camp with fire in his belly and ready to impress. He didn’t make the team out of the gate last season, but maybe the Colorado Avalanche will take a flyer on him this season.