Aaron Volpatti will meet the Vancouver Canucks players and staff, take in their game Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks and then hop a plane to Winnipeg where he will meet the Manitoba Moose.
Volpatti, a 24-year-old tri-captain with the Brown University Bears and Vernon Viper grad, signed Monday a multi-year deal with the Canucks. He will start his pro career with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League.
“I saw it coming for a while,” said Volpatti, in a phone interview from Chicago. “I’ve been talking to quite a few teams and it’s pretty crazy I landed in Vancouver. It feels awesome and kind of surreal.”
Volpatti, a 6-foot-1, 203-pound smash-mouth winger who took on heavyweights like Milan Lucic during his B.C. Hockey League days, finished his senior year in Providence, R.I. with 17 goals, 32 points and 115 penalty minutes.
“It came down to eight teams at the wire,” said Volpatti, represented by Boston-based Peter Cooney. “I was talking to Nashville, Edmonton, New York Rangers and Boston. It started back in November.”
“I’ve always had the desire to play pro hockey and I had a great year offensively which I don’t usually have. The new coaches let us play a more offensive style and play down low more which I’ve always been pretty good at.”
A Third-Team All-ECAC selection and Second-Team All-Ivy honoree, Volpatti collected 32 goals, 62 points and 236 penalty minutes at Brown.
He led the Bears with 17 goals, six power play goals, and three game-winning goals, and was second on the team with two shorthanded goals, while posting a team-high plus-5 rating this season.
Prior to joining the Bears, Volpatti played for the Vipers from 2003-06. He earned 37 points and 279 penalty minutes in 137 games.
“He is a strong, physical player cut from the same mold as Tanner Glass,” Canuck assistant GM Laurence Gilman told The Vancouver Sun.
“That’s a fair comparison,” said Volpatti. “My coach, Brendan Whittet, actually coached Glass at Dartmouth.”
Volpatti said he has been flooded with phone calls, texts and Facebook wishes from family and friends, especially in his hometown Revelstoke.
“All my buddies and my parents think it’s just crazy I signed with Vancouver. We won the ECAC consolation game Saturday and then I signed the contract so it all happened fast.”
One of the first people Volpatti called in Vernon were Brian and Brenda DeBoice, his Viper billets.
Troy Mick, who was GM of the Vipers during Volpatti’s final year in Vernon, is now coach of the Revelstoke Grizzlies, where Volpatti spent one year of junior B.
“I couldn’t be happier for Aaron,” said Mick. “He’s one of my top-5 committed athletes. He’s so driven and so focussed. His worth ethic is second to none and he’s such a fierce competitor.”
Mick said he wouldn’t have blamed Volpatti for leaving the game after he suffered second- and third-degree burns on 40 per cent of his body during a bonfire accident during a team party in April, 2005.
“He could have packed it in. He has overcome adversity and his hard work has paid off. He skated with my guys at Christmas, and in between shifts playing four-on-four, he would skate lines.”
The son of Tony (security guard volunteer for the Grizz) and Lana Volpatti, Aaron will head back to Brown in May to graduate with a degree in human biology.