The Chicago Steel are one of the most interesting teams to follow in hockey due to their skill development approach. The Steel hosts practices that feature traditional system-based exercises, but also spend time working on specific aspects of players’ game and how they work together to create on-ice success (skating, shooting, playmaking, stick usage on defence, etc.)
The team’s rise this year — going from one of the bottom in the league to one of the top over the course of the season — might lead to a gradual change in how the organization views the best way to improve their players and favor their growth.
One of their players, draft eligible forward Robert Mastrosimone, benefited a lot from the new style of teaching brought forth by the Steel.
Birthplace: East Islip, New York, USA
Date of birth: January 24, 2001
Weight: 170 lbs.
Team: Chicago Steel (USHL)
Mastrosimone finished ninth in point-per-game in the USHL (if we exclude the performances of the USNTDP players) and led the playoffs with fifteen points in eleven games, helping the Steel reach the Clark Cup Finals before ultimately falling to the Sioux Falls Stampede.
The winger was one of the go-to skaters of the coaching staff due to his versatility and effectiveness in all facets of the game.
He spent time orchestrating the powerplay, defending on the penalty kill, and seeing the bulk of the top competition other teams had to offer. During the year, Mastrosimone flourished into a capable two-way forward, adequately playing inside his team’s system. Breaking plays defensively and showing himself to be especially intuitive on the forecheck where, a few times a game, he managed to keep the puck in the zone by intercepting passes and putting timely pressure on the opposition.
He isn’t the fastest skater in a straight line, or the quickest off the mark — a more prominent usage of crossovers would help him achieve more speed — but he positions well for the most part and relies on solid reads to impact the game.
It’s also what drives his offensive game and especially his ability as a playmaker. Mastrimone is very aware of friendly options around him on the attack due to constant shoulder checking and his vision allows him to take advantage of passing lanes that the defence often hasn’t seen and closed.
Robert Mastrosimone wears #24 with the Chicago Steel
He can reach teammates with hard cross-ice passes inside the opposing end, or find them with shorter feeds to create shots from the slot after having beat the defence with his agile hands and east-west movements. He is a skilled passer who can surprise with the plays he is capable of seeing and making happen.
Mastrosimone likes to remain moving in the offensive zone. When he gets the puck in a quiet spot of the ice, his shot can be dangerous due to solid mechanics.
In the first clip above, he finds open ice in the slot and waits for a pass coming from the corner. Before the puck touches his stick, Mastrosimone turns his body to allow for a quicker release. He catches the puck softly inside his pivot, moving it in a shooting position by using the momentum of the pass and it’s on and off his stick in a second. The goalie re-positioned, but the power of the shot beat him cleanly.
In the second clip, Mastrisimone uses the space given to him by the defence to skate up between the faceoff circles in the powerplay. He shifts his weight to his left at the end of a few crossovers to press down on his stick and fire the puck unexpectedly to get his team the lead.
The winger can also score with slapshots from a mid-range distance and dangle the goalie in close, using the threat of his release to force him to go down only to move around and slid the puck in the empty cage.
Rankings (not all rankings are final)
Dobber Prospects: #39
Elite Prospects: #43
Future Considerations: #47
Hockey Prospect: #93
NHL Central Scouting: #53 (NA skaters)
Pronman/The Athletic: #26
Mastrimone’s ability to be both a scorer and a playmaker, depending on the situation, added to his knack for anticipating opposing breakout routes and his developing in-zone defensive game makes him an interesting target in this 2019 draft class. His skating and, in lesser part, his stature, will likely hold him back from being selected on the first day of the draft, but he shouldn’t have to wait long to hear his name on Saturday.
Mastrosimone will join the ranks of Boston University next year, accompanying Trevor Zegras in his commitment. The pair will be a much needed boost to the offence for the college team who lost some of their top players last year.