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Carolina Hurricanes excited about Massimo Rizzo's skill level, despite injuries

Massimo Rizzo Penticton Vees. Jack Murray / Penticton Vees
Penticton Vees forward Massimo Rizzo skates between two defenders in a game this season. Jack Murray / Penticton Vees

VANCOUVER -- If the NHL drafted its players at age 16, Massimo Rizzo would have been a top-two round pick.

But the UND recruit had a tough season with the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League, littered with injuries. He started and ended the year hurt. After the season was over, Rizzo had surgery. When he was in the lineup, his production wasn't as high as expected.

By the time this weekend's NHL Draft came around, most teams had nixed Rizzo from their lists.

Despite being from suburban Vancouver, Rizzo opted not to attend the draft, knowing there was a chance he wouldn't get picked.

But the Carolina Hurricanes didn't forget about the future UND forward.

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Carolina selected Rizzo with the second-to-last pick in the draft, No. 216 overall in the seventh round. It was the final of 12 picks for the Hurricanes in Rogers Arena.

"We like the skill with Rizzo," Hurricanes director of player personnel Darren Yorke said. "It's a little unfortunate that he had the injury, but we felt that sort of was a benefit for us for him to be able to still be on the board in the seventh round. So, we feel that he can get healthy, he's going to a great college, and that can really help his development."

Rizzo, 5-foot-10, 180 pounds, played just 37 regular-season games with Penticton this season and tallied 40 points. Although he didn't have big numbers, it didn't worry the Hurricanes.

"I don't think that came to us as a concern," Yorke said. "We looked at the body of work that he's put in the last two years, so we're not concerned that maybe the production dropped. We're happy with the speed and skills."

Rizzo is expected to play one more year of junior hockey -- he was just traded from Penticton to the Coquitlam Express -- before coming to UND in the fall of 2020.

"The past two seasons have been trying for Massimo, dealing with significant injuries which forced him to start seasons late and miss substantial stretches of games," Vees coach Fred Harbinson said after trading Rizzo. "We felt that with Massimo's recent surgery, it would be best for him to rehab at home next season. Massimo will always be a Vees alum and we wish him the best during his recovery next season."

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MASSIMO RIZZO

Position: Center/left wing.

Size: 5-10, 180.

Shoots: Left.

Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.

2018-19 team: Penticton (BCHL).

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2018-19 stats: 37 games, 11 goals, 29 assists, 40 points.

2019-20 team: Coquitlam (BCHL).

Expected UND arrival: Fall 2020.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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