After bouncing back and forth between the AHL and NHL over the past few seasons, Rocco Grimaldi seems to have found his place with the Nashville Predators.
Just going to start this off by saying that I love everything about Rocco Grimaldi. He is the definition of hustle on the ice, and his 2019 playoff performance for the Nashville Predators is proof that that hustle pays off.
Grimaldi was drafted 33rd overall in 2011 by the Florida Panthers but didn’t make his NHL debut until 2014. From 2011-2014, Rocco was busy tearing it up with the University of North Dakota, where he tallied 31 goals and 46 assists in 86 career collegiate games. Over the next 4 seasons, Grimaldi would bounce back and forth between the NHL and AHL. However, the bulk of his time was spent in the minors, as he played 237 AHL games and just 37 NHL games.
Rocco was outstanding in the AHL, with 161 total points in those 237 games, however, he could never find a full-time spot on an NHL roster.
His Shot with Nashville
In July of 2018, Rocco landed in Nashville after a trade with Colorado. The 5’6 forward didn’t make the team after training camp and made the league minimum of $650,000. He began the year with Milwaukee in the AHL but was brought up for good after just 10 games, where he scored 4 goals and added 7 assists.
After that promotion, Rocco scored 5 goals and had 8 assists in 53 regular season games. The numbers aren’t popping off the charts, but Grimaldi’s real presence was felt in hustle plays and creating opportunities.
More from Predlines
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Kiefer Sherwood
- Captain Candidates if Nashville Predators Didn’t Have Roman Josi
- The All-Time 25 Games or Less Nashville Predators Lineup
- Nashville Predators 2023 Training Camp Spotlight: Cody Glass
- Joakim Kemell Flashes his Offense in Nashville Predators Loss to Tampa
Grimaldi finished the regular season with a Corsi rating of 57.6%, 9th best in the NHL among players who played at least 50 games. Simply put, the Predators controlled the puck more with Grimaldi on the ice and generated more shots than they allowed.
Playoff Rocco is the Rocco that we all know and love now. Grimaldi was a little fireball in his 5 playoff games, leading all Predators in scoring with 3 goals. He was possibly the only offensive bright spot in the Predators short playoff run.
In the regular season, Grimaldi averaged 10 minutes of ice time per game. In the playoffs, that number jumped up to nearly 13 minutes. That time was well-deserved, as Rocco was electric for Nashville. He looked like another Viktor Arvidsson, as he chased down pucks, and peppered the net with shots, every chance he got.
He is lightning fast, both short and long distances, he is slippery, smart, and doesn’t make many mistakes with the puck.
He began as a 4th-line grinder and ended up on the Predators’ top line when it was all said and done.
And he earned that spot, 100%.
This wasn’t from the playoffs, but this right here is exactly why Rocco is staying put in Nashville.
He makes plays out of thin air. In the NHL, that ability is king.
As I said, Grimaldi is staying put in Nashville for now. GM David Poile told Rocco to start looking for a house in Nashville, back in the spring. He is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, but Poile has made it clear that Grimaldi isn’t going anywhere.
“He was one of our best, if not our best, forwards in the playoffs…We have every intention to re-sign him.”
- Predators GM David Poile
Guys like Arvidsson and Grimaldi are incredibly valuable to a team, as they create so many opportunities with their hustle and quick decisions with the puck. They both are always looking to shoot the puck, and they never give up on a battle, no matter where it is on the ice. Their hustle often doesn’t show up in the box score, but their positive presence is obviously seen through the chances they provide for others.
To me, Rocco deserves to be graded on his playoff performance. He didn’t have a chance to really be a true regular in the Predators lineup until the postseason. And when he got that chance, he showed us what he is really capable of.
To me, Rocco was the best (surprise) thing that happened to the Predators this season, when it was all said and done.
Rocco was lightning in a bottle for the Predators in 2018-2019, and personally, I am so glad that he will be here for the next few years. He is a great player, and an even better guy, making him a magnet that people gravitate towards in the locker room.