Cheswick's Liberati says being drafted by Canucks 'surreal'
The Vancouver Canucks hat sat relatively untouched in the Liberati family's household for several years. It held no particular significance — just another item owned by a hockey-loving family.
On Sunday night, the cap became meaningful in a way the Liberatis barely had imagined. And Mario Liberati, 13, was wise enough to grab it and put it on when the time came to celebrate with his older brother, Miles.
Miles Liberati, 18, a Cheswick native, sat with his family and watched the NHL Draft on television Sunday night when his name popped up late in the seventh round, the No. 205 pick overall. Vancouver chose him, a 6-foot, 195-pound defenseman for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League who attended Central Catholic.
“I don't think it has sunk in yet,” he said. “It was really surreal seeing my name on the screen. I remember watching the draft in the past and wondering what it'd be like to see my name up there.
“I think it'll really sink in once I get out there” for rookie camp.
Liberati will head to Vancouver for camp, which begins Saturday. As the Canucks' final pick in the draft, he's no lock to earn a contract, a reality he acknowledges.
But he's closer to his dream than at any point in his hockey career, which started at age 5 with youth games at the Harmarville Blade Runners.
During the past year, Liberati skated as a rookie for the Knights. In the regular season, he played in 42 games, scored three goals, had six assists and was plus-5. In the playoffs, he earned time in 10 games for the Knights, who won the OHL title.
Getting drafted struck him as a possibility — 50-50 at best, he said. He checked the NHL's central scouting rankings, which at one point listed him as No. 88 among all North American position players other than goalies; he fell to 150 by the season's end. And his agent, Todd Reynolds, indicated several teams were interested, the Canucks chief among them.
All the information left Liberati uncertain. To find a distraction Sunday, he and a friend headed to Pittsburgh National Golf Club in Gibsonia for a round. Yet, he still checked for draft updates via Twitter.
Home after the round of golf, he settled in for the night, and as the draft reached its final round, he still hadn't received any news.
Then, with eight teams left to make choices — the Canucks were seventh from last — his cell phone went off because of a text message from Knights assistant general manager Rob Simpson, who congratulated Liberati for a reason that was not yet quite clear.
“As soon as he sent it, I told my parents, ‘I might've just got picked,' ” Liberati said. “Then we looked at the screen, and the Canucks were up next.”
Congratulatory messages — some from close friends, others from guys who sharpened his skates or cut his grass — poured in via text message and Twitter for the rest of the evening. As Liberati soaked it all in, he also began to contemplate the challenge ahead.
“I got a little nervous,” he said. “I'm going to try to go into it with confidence. … I think making the team would maybe be two or three years away.”
If he fails to earn a contract offer at camp, he'll continue to play for the Knights, who he hopes will entrust him with more ice time. Liberati said the Canucks have his draft rights for two years.
“It really was a confidence booster and good for me for going into next year,” he said of his selection. “I think next year with more ice time (in London), I'll be able to show them what I really can do.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.