Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sibling tough-love and family help define Anthony Florentino

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

One of the things about the Traverse City Tournament is that not all of a teams prospects participate. The eight-team event hosted by the Detroit Red wings is tailor-made for 18-19 yr. old draftees, with some late-bloomers, and free agents thrown in for good measure.

Missing from the tournament, though, are international prospects like goalie Linus Ullmark (who should make an appearance next season,) and wingers Gustav Possler and Victor Oloffson. All three happen to be on the same team, MODO Hockey of the Swedish Elite League. They're already two games into their season.

College players are also not involved in the tournament either as they're readying themselves for the upcoming season. Players like JT Compher (Michigan,) Hudson Fasching (Minnesota) and goalie Cal Peterson (Notre Dame) are in that group.

So too is Providence defenseman, Anthony Florentino. Instead of attending Traverse City, he's with his Friars teammates getting ready for their season opener October 10th at Ohio State.

Traverse City would have been a great way for him to ride into fall and the beginning of hockey season as Florentino had a real strong summer. He showed well in his second Sabres Development Camp in back July and was an invitee to the US National Junior Evaluation Camp in August. He made an impact at both camps and was on a good roll.

The 6'1" 210 lb. Florentino began the summer well, with the 5th round pick (2013) proceeding to do something at the development camp scrimmage he can't do in college--drop the gloves. He and fellow Sabres prospect Justin Kea (2012, 73rd) went at it during the scrimmage in a quick bout that got the crowd going.

"I'd asked him the shift before if he wanted to go," said Florentino, "but he said he was too tired and I didn't want just a half-assed fight." With his Team Blue going down a goal the next shift, Florentino thought they might need a bit of a lift. "Our team went down and I thought I could help by sparking some intensity," he said. So he asked Kea again. The 6'4" 220 lb. forward obliged.

It didn't matter that Kea was bigger. Florentino took a punch and gave a punch and simply shrugged off the disparity. "Size didn't matter," he chuckled, "I've been in worse situations."

Perhaps those "worse situations" he alluded to came about when he was growing up in West Roxbury, a southwest neighborhood in Boston.

Florentino has three older brothers and two of them play hockey. His older brother James, played at D-2 Stonehill College while Rob played at UMASS and is presently playing for the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL. Playing hockey on the streets of Boston with older siblings helped define Florentino's gritty, hard-hitting style of hockey. And make no mistake, he was going to play street hockey. "When I was real young," he said, "my brothers wouldn't let me in the house unless I played hockey."

Of course, anyone who ever played street hockey with older siblings and/or friends, knows the score. Those in charge played in the top positions, the rest were placed wherever there was a need. Florentino had to play goalie. "I just got shots fired at me," he said, "and the rule of not hitting the goalie didn't apply."

That upbringing and the influence of his older brothers set the tone for how he would play the game. His brother James in particular really molded him, "I don't think I've seen a guy hit like him. He was a vicious player. The scouting reports on him all said 'make sure you keep your head up when you're on the ice.' Growing up I went to every one of his games and just wanted to play like him."

As for his other brother Rob, Florentino said, "He's a silent assassin. He's not one of the bigger guys, but he throws a big hit when you least expect it."

Florentino comes from a tight-nit Boston family, complete with tough-love, so it's not surprising that he mentioned the word "family" more than once during the interview.

Rochester Americans forward Tim Schaller was Kea's teammate on Team White when the gloves were dropped and proudly let everyone know that Florentino was a fellow Providence Friar. Although the two college careers never crossed paths, there is a Providence connection. "Everyone around [Providence] says 'Friar-family' and that's really what it is, regardless of how long you may have known each other."

Florentino moved on to yet another "family" this summer when he attended the USNJEC. "There's no bigger honor than pulling on that USA sweater," he said. "I just went out there and gave it my best."

His best got him noticed and got him more ice time by the end of camp. Florentino was near the bottom of the depth chart on defense at the beginning, but he went in with an open mind and came out of pretty confident. He started out camp paired with Miami commit Louie Belpedio (MIN,) then worked his way up the depth chart.

After the final game vs. the Czech team, Kris Baker of sabresprospects.com/sabres.com wrote, "Florentino saw a regular shift while paired with 2015 draft prospect Brandon Carlo and was steady the whole way with his ability to step into his check as well as displaying confidence when legging the puck out of trouble. [He] kept his shots low and was otherwise active offensively, following the play deep and filling lanes on the rush."

Perhaps what came out most during his busy summer was the ability to adapt to various coaches and varying styles of hockey. The Sabres camp was more of a gritty, NHL-style while junior evaluation camp featured games against teams like Sweden who skate well and skate fast. "[They] were the toughest to adjust to. They never dump the puck in. When they came up to our blue line, if they didn't have anything they'd curl back all the way back to their defensive zone.

"They've got crafty, fast forwards. All finesse. It was quite a bit to adjust to."

What bodes well for the hard-hitting defenseman from Boston was that he was able to slow the game down at that level to counteract the quickness. "I didn't even feel the difference in the speed," he said.

In an interview with Ken McKenna of Hockey's Future.com, Florentino talked of playing for so many different coaches over the summer. And just like the players he interacted with, his approach was to 'just take it all in and listen to what they have to say, do it the first time so that you don’t get yelled at the second time.'

Florentino is hitting the ice as a sophomore with Providence this season after spending time with soon to be Sabres-NHL'er, Rasmus Ristolainen and future NHL'er, Jake McCabe. Both play defense, both play a gritty game and both are leaders. He also spent time with Sabres forward prospect JT Compher at NJEC who looks to be the US captain at the WJC.

That's quite the amount of character and leadership to be around. Although he probably won't wear a letter on his sweater this season, the former South Kent Prep hockey captain has developed a strong constitution and has innate leadership that comes from how he learned the game growing up. "I would love to wear [a letter]," said Florentino, "I'm a little too young. [But] I don't need a letter on my jersey to make sure I'm a leader."

Methinks the character instilled by his brothers during his street hockey days in Boston may have had something to do with that.

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