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2013 NHL Draft Prospect: Vinni Lettieri

Minnesota commit Vinni Lettieri is a scorer, but will his small stature keep him from being drafted?

Courtesy of Shooting Star Photos

Lincoln Stars(USHL) forward Vinni Lettieri comes from great bloodlines. His father, Tino Lettieri, was a pro soccer player that represented Canada's national soccer team 24 times throughout his career. His grandfather is former Minnesota Stars player and general manager Lou Nanne. Vinni has carved out a nice name for himself, however, in the hockey world, that has him on the cusp of being drafted this summer.

Lettieri has always been known as a very gifted scorer, coming up through the youth ranks, but concerns about his lack of size--Lincoln listed him at 5-8 170 lbs. last season-- have kept him from being more strongly considered as a pro prospect. Perhaps in part to start answering those questions about whether he could continue to score against bigger, faster competition, Lettieri left Minnetonka High School in Minnesota after his junior year to play his draft year with the Lincoln Stars.

Lettieri got off to a painfully slow start with the Stars, scoring just a single assist in his first six games. But once Lettieri netted his first goal of the season in his seventh game of the season, it kicked off a seven-game point scoring streak, and helped Lettieri finish the season averaging exactly a point per game over the final 55 games of the regular season. Lettieri also played one weekend with the US NTDP U18, scoring 2 goals and 2 assists in games against the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas.

Despite his small stature, Lettieri isn't necessarily a blazing skater, but is deceptively fast because he has very quick feet, and has an above average shot for a player his size, which makes him a dangerous scoring threat. His offensive instincts and positioning are exceptional as well. Off the ice, Lettieri has a reputation of a very outgoing, well-liked teammate, and would make a valuable addition to any locker room. His ability to play at the pro level will likely hinge on his ability to keep scoring, because he's highly unlikely to fit a lower-line grinder type of role. The type of year he had in Lincoln, averaging nearly a point per game--23rd overall in the league, 5th among first-year draft eligibles--was good enough that he won't be discounted completely, but also not eye-popping enough that it is a guarantee he will be selected.

Lettieri has committed to play college hockey at the University of Minnesota, and he will suit up for the Gophers next fall, as a part of a very talented incoming class, so any team drafting him will have up to four years to let him develop before having to make a decision on him. If Lettieri is selected, it will likely be in the fifth round or later. Last year, the Minnesota Wild drafted Lettieri's cousin Lou Nanne in the 7th round, despite Nanne's credentials as a draft prospect being highly questionable at best, which many speculated was a favor to Nanne's grandfather, still a legend in Minnesota hockey circles. This year, the Wild have a second 7th round draft pick they acquired via trade, that they may use in a similar manner should Lettieri fall that far in the draft.