Even though we're deep in playoffs, Steve Yzerman is already thinking about the future. Today, news emerged that TBL signed F Anthony Cirelli to a three-year entry level deal. He was drafted 75th overall in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft, after Tampa fans had to wait until the second day of the draft for Yzerman to make any choices.
Cirelli is 18, and spent the season with the OHL's Oshawa Generals. He has shown himself to be both skillful and pugnacious, combining the playmaking ability of a two-way forward (21G/38A for 59 points) with some of the "tough to play against" nature that Tampa likes (27 PIM). He was relied upon for special teams by the Generals' coach, ranking first on the team for assists, power-play goals (10), and power-play points (16).
Cirelli has played 130 OHL games over two seasons, and in his rookie year, the year in which the Generals won the OHL Championship on the strength of Cirelli's overtime GWG, he ranked 9th in OHL rookie points league-wide.
After the Generals' season was over, he played with the Syracuse Crunch, signing an ATO in April and making his pro debut on April 15 against the Utica Comets.
Raw Charge talked with Jeff Marek of Sportsnet's Junior Podcast about Cirelli's game.
"I love this kid," Marek said. "[He] really popped for me at the Memorial Cup last year, and this year, was Oshawa's best player by a mile. Great skill set, just needs to add some weight. I think where Tampa got him is a steal. He's a skilled guy but also good along the boards competing for pucks."
As Marek mentioned, the only mark against him is his size. At 6'0, he is 171 lbs, a small player even among Junior players. "You'll love him," Marek said, "But man he's tiny! So skinny."
Early speculation was that Cirelli would return to the Generals next season, but at least we'll get to see him at camp in September. The fact that Yzerman has already signed him to an ELC indicates that he liked what he saw when Cirelli played at Syracuse.