It was a minor coup when the Pittsburgh Penguins signed free agent forward Thomas Di Pauli this past August. Some of that had to do with Di Pauli originally being drafted by Pittsburgh’s arch rivals, the Washington Capitals, back in 2012. But Di Pauli’s impressive NCAA stats over the past two seasons at Notre Dame (a combined 22+39=61 in 78 games for the Irish).
Penguins fans were eager to see the speedy center in action as the curtain lifted on the 2016-17 season. But a lower body injury suffered in Pittsburgh’s training camp delayed the start of Di Pauli’s pro career until this past weekend.
The Italian-born forward made his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton debut in the team’s Friday night contest against the Toronto Marlies, and also suited up on Sunday in Hartford. He didn’t record a point in either of those games, but head coach Clark Donatelli was still happy with his performance, and his potential.
“He’s going to bring energy, he can play top six,” Donatelli said after Tuesday’s practice at the Toyota SportsPlex. “Right now we have him playing with [Oskar Sundqvist], he’s going to be a penalty killer, bring energy. He’s got a really good stick, he’s going to get a handful of goals also.”
For his part, Di Pauli was just happy to get into a game situation and begin the acclimation process to the pro game.
“You’ve got to come back and feel it out first before you go full speed,” he stated. “These past couple of games definitely were nice to get that under my belt.
“The most important thing to get to where I want to be is practice at full speed. I think that’s going to be big. That’s going to help me transition into playing at full speed during the game, instead of coasting and waiting for pucks.”
The Penguins return home on Friday night to host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at 7:05pm. Tickets for Friday night’s game are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office, online at TicketMaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000.