Dexter School is a proven training ground for a blooming NHL talent. Ryan Donato, drafted by the Boston Bruins out of the prep school in the second round of the 2014 draft (56th overall) made his way to the top league in the world from the High School Hockey System.
Donato played at Harvard for three season following his success with Dexter, but that was not before coming back to the same team for his draft-plus-one year, allowing him to finish as their all-time points leader. The Bruins had to wait to harvest the fruit of their selection, but it ultimately paid off for them as they found an NHLer with offensive potential and swapped the asset for Charlie Coyle, boosting their roster for their current playoff run.
Now it could be the turn of John Farinacci, who is projected by some scouting services to go around the same spot Donato did five years ago.
Birthplace: Redbank, New Jersey, USA
Date of birth: February 14, 2001
Weight: 185 lbs.
Team: Dexter School
Scouts like to identify patterns. Farinacci, like Donato before him, and like Jack Rathbone in last year’s draft (95th overall), will join Harvard University for his NCAA career following his success with Dexter School.
Farinacci scored 86 points in two seasons with the prep program, which works out to an exact production of two-points-per-game. He also put up almost a goal per contest in his time there, and recorded five points in the same number of games at the Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament this summer against some of the best Junior players in the world.
The centreman led his team this season with his hands and vision of the ice. Even through the special defensive attention he received every game there was a lot of space for him to operate in due to the nature of the competition he played against. He had no trouble recognizing where that space was and making the defence pay for their lapses. As defenders closed on him, he could dangle through them, protect the puck with his sturdy frame, create room for himself, get his head up, and find scoring plays.
Farinacci was levels above his peers, and his offensive tools allowed him to dominate. In a single game, you could fill a highlight reel with his plays.
John Farinacci wore #9 with Dexter School
Defencemen could steal possession away from him and find themselves missing their pass a second later due to a timely stick lift by the centreman. Claiming the puck back, he’d instantly attack the net and dangle an opposing goalie left alone to fend off the shifty threat. Farinacci also positioned himself well when away from the puck, cutting opposing feed and always being an option to push the play up on the breakout.
He could find teammates quickly when surrounded by the defence, showing precise and skilled passing that left teammates with plenty of room for a scoring chance, and could just as effectively create chances for himself with timely give-and-gos to get dangerous shots from the slot. Dangler, playmaker, and scorer, when he was on the ice, the whole play went through him.
The question for high-schoolers dominating their level (and really for any prospect for that matter) is: how translatable is his game to the next level?
Farinacci isn’t the most mobile forward. His skating wasn’t a weakness against his competition and probably won’t really be in the NCAA, but he will need to work on it if he wants to keep up and beat professionals to loose pucks and up the ice. Apart from his feet, the centreman’s ability to get open, use teammates, and do so quickly should have him learn to generate offence for Harvard over the next few years.
He could also be useful in a defensive role at first. At the Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament, while sporting the C on his jersey, he was used against top competition and on the penalty kill.
His stint in the USHL this season, where he recorded three points in two games for the powerhouse Muskegon Lumberjacks, was also promising for his future. There, he again showed he could keep up with stronger opposition, transforming his game slightly to adapt to his unfamiliar teammates, becoming more of a presence around the net. But he also showed his skill, scoring the game-winning goal on a breakaway in his second match with the Lumberjacks.
Farinacci wears #9 with the U.S team and #28 with the Muskegon Lumberjacks
It’s hard to predict exactly where Farinacci will end up in the draft. While it’s probable that he is selected somewhere in the third round, some team could end up falling in love with his skill set, seeing projectable elements in his game that others do not. He doesn’t have the grinding style of game to go with the high puck-handling skills of Jay O’Brien (also a star USHS prospect), who was selected in the middle of the first round last year, but Farinacci was arguably just as dominant and had interesting flashes against better competition.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Elite Prospects: #79
Hockey Prospect: #52
NHL Central Scouting: #35 (NA skaters)
The Dexter school lineage could also prove appealing to some teams, who could see a stronger program capable of producing another NHL talent.