Cunti, Luca

'Nics Beat OHL Champs

N.A. Juniors Memorial Cup Game Night: 5/17

Windsor Spitfires 4 vs. Rimouski Oceanic 5 (Round Robin)
W/C Luca Cunti, RIM: 1-0-1,-1, 2 PIM (high sticking), 3 SOG
MemCup totals: 2 GP, 1-0-1, -2, 2 PIM
Playoff totals: 13 GP, 4-5-9, -2, 12 PIM
Season totals: 57 GP, 20-25-45, +10, 32 PIM

A fantastic game between the heavily-favored Spits and the host Oceanic. Cunti scored his first goal of the tournament on a one-timer down low off a nice feed from Kevin Veilleux (Penguins), after Veilleux performed a fancy toe-drag around the stick of a Windsor defender. Cunti nearly repaid him for the feed with a somewhat accidental set-up for a Grade A scoring chance late in the game. Veilleux's shot was stopped by Andrew Engelage, however. For a full report, see Pete's blog.

More Thoughts on Luca Cunti

Before I get into talking about how Luca Cunti played in today's game against Windsor at the Memorial Cup, I have to comment on what a great game Windsor and Rimouski played today. Unlike the snooze fest between Kelowna and Rimouski, l'Oceanic played with a lot of pride today in a game that had a little bit of everything: speed, hitting, lots of goals, a potential future #1 overall pick, and goal mouth thrills down to the wire of the game. People got their money's worth in this game.

Luca Cunti got a promotion in today's game to a line with 2007 2nd round pick Keven Veilleux, whose was selected by the Penguins. Their line came out really strong on their first shift to generate a scoring chance, but Veilleux got his teeth knocked out by Ryan Ellis on his second shift, so their line wasn't together for a good chunk of the first period. Cunti came out with the same speed be had against Kelowna early in the game, but Windsor seemed better prepared and wasn't giving him the corner. That really limited Cunti's effectiveness because he just didn't seem to be willing to fight through the opposing defenders to create chances. Rimouski really upped their physical intensity tonight over the opening game with Kelowna, but early on Cunti seemed to lack the same urgency. I said last game I'd like to see Cunti with better linemates, and that happened today. Now, I'd like to see Cunti play angry.

In the second period, it started out worse for Luca. He took a bad highsticking penalty against Ellis on a play at his point that resulted in an Ellis goal that tied the game at 1-1. He then took a big hit a shift or two afterward and made a bad turnover in his own zone. He made about two of those in the game. He tried to make up for it after a Windsor scoring chance by carrying it on a dangerous rush, but he sat for the next 5 minutes or so. When he got back out, the good Luca re-emerged. He got the puck on the rush and used his speed to swoop around the next on his first shift after getting back in to set up a chance on a pass across the crease at the far post. A shift after that he scored Rimouski's 4th goal on a nice give-and-go on the rush moving up through the neutral zone. He passed the puck in the neutral zone to Veilleux who crossed the blueline and drew the attention of Winsor's defenders because of his big shot. Cunti then cut right to the net with his speed and got a nice diagonal pass down low from Veilleux that he one timed into the net. Nice goal. In the third period he didn't get much ice time because Rimouski was on the PK most of the first half of the period and they were protecting a one goal lead late in the game. He almost set up Veilleux for an insurance goal on a play on the rush where he crossed Windsor's blueline and beat a defender with a nice inside-out stickhandling move. But, he lost control of the puck on the play and it ended up sliding to Veilleux who was going to the net and lifted it over the net.

He wasn't the fastest player on the rink today with Taylor Hall flying around for the Spitfires, and he was annoyingly passive at times, but once again Cunti's speed made a difference. He has game-changing speed the other team has to respect, and now Rimouski has an opportunity to advance in the tournament if they can knock off QMJHL champion Drummondville in their next game.

Kelowna Crushes Rimouski in Memorial Cup Opener

N.A. Juniors Game Night: 5/15

Kelowna Rockets 4 @ Rimouski Oceanic 1 (Memorial Cup Round Robin)
W/C Luca Cunti, RIM: 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Playoff totals: 13 GP, 4-5-9, -2, 12 PIM
Season totals: 57 GP, 20-25-45, +10, 32 PIM

Don’t let the final score fool you, if not for Rimouski goaltender Maxim Gougeon, the Rockets could have picked up where Drummondville left off and put a snowman on the Oceanic. Rimouski was outshot 42-20, including 17-8 in the first period where it looked like Kelowna was running offensive drills in the Oceanic zone. Tyler Myers (Sabres) had a goal and two assists in the game and was rather dominant. When that prospect fills out, he may be among the most dominant at the next level, too. Tyson Barrie, son of Lightning owner Len Barrie, also had a good game and showed a quick stick and decision making in his own zone to go with his offensive prowess. At one point the Sportsnet broadcasters mentioned speaking with scouts who say Tampa Bay early in the second round is a likely destination for Barrie at this summer’s draft.

As for the Lightning’s current prospect in the tournament, Cunti was arguably Rimouski’s most dangerous player, creating a half-dozen scoring chances – a couple of which were Grade A. For an excellent write-up on Cunti’s performance, see Pete’s blog post on the subject.

Thoughts on Luca Cunti

After watching Rimouski's opening game of the Memorial Cup Tournament tonight, I felt compelled to write a little about Luca Cunti.

Cunti didn't score tonight and Rimouski was clearly overmatched by the better team in Kelowna, but there's definitely something there with Cunti: speed. He has raw, pure, and undeniable speed. It's world class skating ability; a gift that simply can't be taught. There were times tonight where Rimouski's best and only chance of getting the puck out of their own end was to have Cunti carry it out himself, and his speed generated several scoring chances. Bear in mind, Kelowna's defense is very good (Tyler Myers is going to be an awesome NHL player), and there were times Cunti made them look like they were standing still. It was a 2000% improvement over the way Cunti looked at the start of the season at Traverse City. Sure, some of the same old criticisms of Cunti are still valid. He tended to float in the defensive zone, although he wasn't overtly cherry picking. He looked uncomfortable digging in the corners. He hogged the puck a bit (although that's partly due to the lacking quality of his linemates and the fact they simply couldn't keep up with his speed). There's definitely holes in his game and he's definitely a project. But, my word, he will back opposing defenses off the blueline with his speed. If you put him and Steven Stamkos on the same line 2-3 years down the line, I promise you there will be opposing defensemen going prematurely grey. Speed kills, and I'm closing my eyes and imagining what a line of Cunti, Stamkos, and maybe Dana Tyrell could do together. Have mercy.

There's some ambiguity, on our end at BoltProspects, as to whether Cunti's rights will be retained after June 1st or whether he's considered to have defected status as a player who was drafted out of Switzerland. It's one of the joys of the breakdown of the IIHF transfer agreement coupled with the new rules that were supposed to be enacted in the new CBA. We believe his rights will be retained past June 1st if he isn't signed. However, if the Lightning do indeed need to sign him before the end of the month in order to keep him, count me among the people who think that they should. The same is true for Edmonton goaltender Torrie Jung, whose rights definitely will be lost after June 1st. Both players could be returned to junior if there isn't room for them in Norfolk, and both players, in my mind, have the kind of athleticism the Lightning just shouldn't let get away.

Memorial Cup Opens Friday

With Drummondville's 3-2 Game 7 victory over Shawinigan Tuesday night, the field for the 2009 Mastercard Memorial Cup is set. Luca Cunti and host Rimouski will open the tournament against WHL champion Kelowna on Friday night in Quebec. On Saturday, OHL champion Windsor plays the Q's Drummondville.
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