Michigan State sophomore defenseman David Gucciardi wasn’t sure if he would be drafted or not.
On July 5, three days before the second day of the 2022 NHL Draft, Gucciardi and his father made the four-and-a-half-hour car ride from Toronto to East Lansing to drop Gucciardi back off at MSU. Gucciardi’s parents were already used to the drive, making frequent weekend visits to Michigan State last winter during the season. This time, the plan was for Gucciardi’s dad to stay until the eighth in the toss-up chance he was drafted.
At around 2:30 p.m. that Friday, Gucciardi was selected 213th overall by the Washington Capitals. He was in the middle of a team workout away from his phone. An hour passed by before Gucciardi finally got to his phone and received the good news.
“It was really cool,” Gucciardi said. “It's something I've been working for my whole life. To have that goal achieved means a lot to me, and I'm really grateful and just thinking about people that got me there like my parents, my brother, all my family really. They did so much, so it was really special for them too and an exciting moment for everyone.”
The next day, Gucciardi was off to Washington D.C. for the Capitals Development Camp. For a week, Gucciardi trained among other Caps’ prospects while receiving guidance from Washington coaches and ex-NHLers.
Nothing impressed Gucciardi more than getting to work with retired 16-year NHL defenseman and former first-round pick Brooks Orpik, who now serves as an assistant coach at Boston College and a player development coach for the Capitals. Gucciardi said he learned some new defensive traits that he can work on, as well as a new desire to improve his nutrition.
“Learning how to play defense from that, I don't think there's too many guys better to learn from,” Gucciardi said. “He had a lot of really good pointers on just stick positioning, lining up your shoulders on one-on-ones, stuff like that, that I really enjoyed and I'm really grateful I got to learn that from him.”
Toward the end of camp, the prospects played a live scrimmage in front of fans at Capital One Arena, where Washington plays its home games. Gucciardi displayed his offensive capabilities as he did his freshman year with MSU, scoring a slapshot goal from the blue line.
“It kind of makes you want to get there, even more, when they show you kind of what it's like,” Gucciardi said. “It was great. It was really cool to score that goal too, a little cherry on top, so it was awesome.”
In the meantime, Gucciardi will continue playing with Michigan State as he works toward eventually signing a pro contract. He was part of a promising freshman class last season, joining with forwards Jesse Tucker and Tanner Kelly. Gucciardi led the trio with five goals while appearing in all 36 games and being a key component of the Spartan power play. Three of those goals came in the Great Lakes Invitational, including the overtime winner versus Michigan Tech.
Rounding out his game to complement his offensive skills could be the next step of improvement for Gucciardi. He’s been focused this summer on getting stronger in order to help win more puck battles along the boards. Plus the addition of new head coach Adam Nightingale could be an added boost.
“There's a ton of excitement kind of around our team,” Gucciardi said. “Even around campus, people I would say are a little bit more excited about the hockey program right now.”
If that buzz leads to more wins, even more weekend road trips from Toronto to East Lansing may be in store – perhaps with Gucciardi’s parents donning some Washington Capitals gear.
“I love having my parents there,” Gucciardi said. “It's always exciting to have them there.”
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