Arcuri’s first OHL Goal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GB2Oqn7-6ak
It’s been over a year since Ron MacLean gifted Franceco Arcuri a signed photo of his favorite NHL players, Mitch Marner and Connor McDavid, after winning the OHL Cup in 2019 with the Don Mills Flyers in 2019. Now, Arcuri hopes to follow in the footsteps of his heroes and become a 1st-round NHL draft pick.
After a successful rookie campaign that was cut short in 2019-20, Francesco Arcuri has his sights set on the upcoming season, whenever that may be. Since making his OHL debut on September 20th, 2019, a lot has certainly changed. If this were a normal year, Francesco would likely be getting home from the rink about now to finish up some homework before heading off to his grade 12 classes in the morning. While the world around him has changed in drastic ways, one thing that hasn’t changed in the Arcuri household is Francesco's mindset.
Most 17-year-old kids have spent the time locked in quarantine playing video games and counting down the minutes until the world returns to normalcy. Arcuri, however, has been using his time off to prepare for his second season with the Kingston Frontenacs. Like many hockey players born in 2003, the 2020-21 season is perhaps the most important for Arcuri to date, as it’s the first year in which he is eligible to live out his dream by being drafted to the National Hockey League.
This year’s NHL draft class has been faced with a whole new set of challenges in addition to trying to get themselves noticed by NHL scouts. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the top hockey leagues have yet to start, while others have faced their fair share of challenges. With both the OHL and WHL having a delayed start date, some prospects elected to play overseas until league action resumes. Playing in Europe was definitely an option for Arcuri, however, he quickly decided that preparing for the new season at home was the better course of action, which seems to be paying off, according to his new head coach and general manager Paul McFarland.
“He’s put in a ton of work and he’s done everything he can to give himself the best opportunity to take a big step this year for himself personally but also to help our hockey club,” said McFarland. Over the course of his offseason training, getting bigger and stronger was at the top of Arcuri’s bucket list. Working with dry land coach Darrell Levy, the Woodbridge, Ontario native has been focused on getting bigger since returning home after the OHL season was cancelled. The countless hours spent at the gym looks to have paid off for the Frontenac's center, who gained 11 pounds and grew two inches during the offseason. As of now, Arcuri will enter his draft season standing at 6’2 and weighing 193 pounds.
Getting bigger was just one item that Arcuri can cross off his aforementioned bucket list. In regards to his play on the ice, Arcuri expects big things from himself and wants fans and scouts alike to expect the same. “I’m going to be one of the top players in the OHL this year. I’ve worked really hard in the offseason and I got more powerful, stronger, and I’m a goal scorer, so I think with all of those things combined I’m going to be a dangerous player.” In order to meet his own expectations, the 17-year-old knows that he needs to be more consistent as well.
The confidence that Arcuri has both on and off the ice is nothing new, according to former coach Dave D’ammizio, who has coached the 2019 OHL second-round pick since he was eight-years-old. When the game matters most, in those do-or-die situations, that’s where Arcuri excels. Whether it was when he coached Arcuri and the Toronto Bulldogs at the Brick Invitational when he was just 10-years old or even watching him at the 2019 OHL Cup Finals, D’ammizio has seen first-hand how Arcuri performs under pressure. “Those big spotlight moments are when you really see Francesco elevate and rise to the occasion,” D’ammizio said. “That’s probably why he had so much success in the shootout,” he added. “The pressure doesn’t really faze him.”
The shootout success, which Dave D’ammizio referred to, came this past year in the OHL. Stepping in as a rookie, Arcuri helped establish himself at the major junior level with his performances in the shootout. When all eyes were on him, Arcuri did not disappoint. In fact, he exceeded expectations, going a perfect four-on-four in the shootout. Prior to Arcuri doing so, no 16-year-old has ever achieved this feat since the shootout was implemented in 2005-2006.
As one might expect, Arcuri was nervous before hopping off the bench for his first shootout attempt in the OHL. However, it wasn’t for the reasons you would think. “I actually really wanted to go really bad in the shootout,” Arcuri said. “I knew what I was going to do right away when I stepped on the ice, there was no pressure.” The biggest worry Arcuri had before getting picked to take the shot was that he wouldn’t get picked.
The shootout is just the beginning for Francesco Arcuri, who is focused on being ready for the 2020-21 season to begin at any moment. “I think we are going to get called sometime whether it’s February, January, whenever, I just have to make sure I’m ready.”
While the pandemic has had an impact on everyone and causes most people to shift focus on various things, Arcuri’s goals for the season have not been altered one bit. Despite having yet to play league hockey this year, Arcuri is optimistic surrounding the start of the season and has his sights set on getting drafted in the spring. “I think I’m very capable of hitting the first round or even higher,” Arcuri said. “I just have to play my game, and just be consistent and I think everything is going to go well,” the 2019 OHL Cup Champion added.
While the draft is on the top of his mind, Arcuri will not let his individual goals come at the cost of team success; in fact, it is quite the opposite. “The team comes first and when your team succeeds then it leads to individual success. As long as my team succeeds I’m going to have success with them,” Arcuri said.
His positive mindset and love for the game have not gone unnoticed. After leaving the NHL to re-join the Kingston Frontenacs, Paul McFarland had been keeping a close eye on the sophomore centreman and knew how important he is to the club. “He’s a guy who’s going to be very important to our program and we need him to take a big step from where he was last year and obviously we are going to count on him to play with good players and be able to contribute offensively but also be a guy who’s very competitive without the puck.”
Needless to say, Francesco Arcuri has his sights set high, but more importantly, he has the confidence and the skill necessary to reach his potential. While a 17-year-old prospect is always needing to improve, Arcuri wants to improve and relishes every opportunity he has to take to the ice.