Last Tuesday, the Nashville Predators announced they signed defender Marc Del Gaizo to a three-year, entry-level contract beginning with the 2021-22 season. Fresh off winning a national championship with the UMass Minutemen, the 2019 fourth-round pick has joined the Chicago Wolves on an amateur tryout (ATO) for the remainder of the season.
I’ve been excited by Del Gaizo’s development for a couple of years now, so what is Nashville getting from the New Jersey native?
By The Numbers
In his first collegiate season, Del Gaizo impressed at UMass playing alongside Cale Makar and collecting 13 goals and 29 points as a freshman. In his sophomore year, Del Gaizo came to campus as a drafted prospect and one of the Minutemen’s top defenders. However, injuries plagued his season, and his offensive production dipped to just 15 points, including seven primary points at even strength.
This year, while Zac Jones (NYR) and Matt Kessel (STL) collected all the headlines, Del Gaizo flourished as UMass’ most critical blueliner. Facing top competition in all situations, Del Gaizo recorded 14 points, including six primary points at even strength (Del Gaizo shot at just a 4.69% rate this season).
In eight games tracked this year, Del Gaizo was an extremely positive possession player, recording at 54.04% Corsi at even-strength. The shot attempt edge was partially fueled by his success in transition where Del Gaizo exited the defensive zone successfully on 63.24% of attempts and limited opponents to a successful entry just 40.58% of the time.
On defense, Del Gaizo stood out in limiting opponents’ high-danger shots on goal, allowing an organization-wide low of just 2.832 per 60 minutes of even-strength ice time.
The Scouting Tape
The term, “active defender,” is thrown around frequently in the modern NHL; I can honestly say Marc Del Gaizo fits that description almost every shift. When on the ice, he’s constantly buzzing. While he’s toned it down as his defensive responsibility grew in college, Del Gaizo is none for leading the rush from the backend, attempting long stretch passes, and penetrating deep into the offensive zone to pepper pucks on goal.
Del Gaizo (#2, white) moves with good pace, but he doesn’t have elite speed. I think he can move well at the NHL level but won’t always have a breakaway gear that can separate him from opponents. What helps him though is how effective of a puck manager he is; He doesn’t overhandle the puck in transition, he won’t stickhandle himself into a dead end, and he’ll always fight to turn his transitions into some sort of cycle or scoring chance.
Del Gaizo loves to use the full length of the ice from the back end and can attempt some daring stretch passes from time to time. But he also has great awareness of how his forwards plan to move in transition and makes quick decisions with the puck below the hash marks. In the clip above, I love the angle he attacks the puck carrier with to force a dump-in; As he collects the puck, he gives a quick look up-ice under pressure then rapidly makes his reverse clear decision to collect a simple primary assist on an empty-net goal.
Del Gaizo loves to float low in the offensive zone to utilize his powerful shot. On this shift, he captures the room he’s left to get into a shooting position without sacrificing the point, manages the puck well under pressure along the blue line, and then carves deeper into the zone on a give-and-go with his defense partner instead of circling back up top as many defenders would do. Del Gaizo then collects the puck in tight quarters and gets himself into a shooting lane where he wisely places the puck low and on-net, generating a rebound in the process.
On defense, Del Gaizo is a tenacious player who will play the body and not let up on opposing puck carriers. His angles and pivot timing are often good, but his foot speed can leave him a step behind if his gap closure is mistimed or an opposing puck carrier evades contact. In the clip above, Del Gaizo is fooled by the Providence skater into committing to his left side but uses a strong crossover step to get back into position; Opposing forwards won’t be so easy at the pro level.
On this shift, Del Gaizo demonstrates how well he can execute odd-man rush defense. As Providence enters the zone, Del Gaizo recognizes that he has two forwards to manage: the puck carrier and the player crashing the net. He maintains a good gap to the former and quickly gets his stick into the potential passing lane to the latter, forcing forward one to take a low-danger shot attempt that Del Gaizo dismisses to the corner.
I think Del Gaizo has interesting potential at the NHL level; He could grade out as a top-four defender with heavy power-play usage, or he could level off as a depth option who can run a top pair in the AHL. He has a subtle intelligence to his game, which will help him succeed against stiffer competition along with his tireless motor, but I am curious to see how much of his offensive talent is mitigated in the AHL next season.
Del Gaizo’s entry-level contract lasts three years starting in the 2021-22 season. and comes with a cap hit of $850,833 each season. While his minors salary is $70,000 each year, the rest of the contract has an interesting breakdown.
At the NHL level, Del Gaizo’s salary is $842,500 in years one and two but $832,500 in year three. He can earn up to $82,500 in performance bonuses each season, and he takes home a signing bonus worth $92,500 in years one and two and $57,500 in year three.
Upon expiry, Del Gaizo will be a restricted free agent.