Emanuel Vella knows that even by achieving success, one can always improve and elevate their game.
The Toronto Patriots goaltender is always looking to get better, whether starting a game or taking part in practice.
“Absolutely, I feel in my game especially, that I can always improve,” said Vella after the Patriots defeated the North York Rangers 6-4 last Saturday. “Every time I hit the ice I tell myself that I continually need to improve out there and that is very important.”
The London Knights trusted his game enough to select him 47th overall in the third round of the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection this past April. The Knights are consistently one of the top teams in the OHL, and Vella was honoured to be drafted by the club.
“They are a very strong team and they are going to be strong again this year,” said Vella. “As much as they are going to be rebuilding, they always find ways to win.”
At six foot three and 185-pound, Vella likes using NHL goaltenders with similar physical attributes as motivation.
“As a bigger guy I try to follow the bigger goalies like [Montreal’s] Carey Price and [Nashville’s] Pekka Rinne,” said Vella. “Those types of guys who are incredibly athletic but also have a big frame.”
Size vs. speed
Goalies with size can have a significant advantage since they can easier cover more net, but they can be limited with mobility in the crease.
“Speed is something I’ve needed to work on and I improved it a lot over the summer,” said Vella. “That is an area where I’d like to keep moving forward.”
A goaltender’s attributes can only get him so far. If Vella wants the improvement he craves, he’ll need to play more. To this point, the 16-year-old goalie has only started two of the Patriots’ five games.
“He competes hard, his size is unteachable and he has a lot of potential,” said Patriots assistant coach Derek Foam. “It’s all about getting those games in and getting the confidence in himself come game time.”
Having confidence is always key to winning, and this was evident from Vella by leading his Jr. Canadiens Minor Midget team to a Greater Toronto Hockey League championship over the Toronto Marlboros last season. According to Sean Lafortune’s scouting report from thescout.ca on Vella, he displayed the ability of elevating his game during those playoffs.
“That was such a great experience. We had a few injuries but our team really came together and couldn’t be happier with the result,” said Vella. “To be honest, the Marlies have had our number for the past few years, just to get that win was a big boost for our team and it was really exciting.”
The beneficial point for Vella at this stage of his development is that he has no glaring limitations to his game.
“There is no major weakness at all, it’s just about solidifying everything since he is still a very young goaltender,” said Foam. “He’s a guy with a lot of tools and if he develops properly and puts in a lot of work, he can be a number one goalie.”