“It’s Vincenzo,” defenseman Vincent Iorio declares as he stands proudly in the Washington Capitals locker room at Capital One Arena. As he sits in his stall, he takes a look around the dressing room, hoping this will be home sooner rather than later.
And, given his development, it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.
The 19-year-old blueliner is coming off his fourth season with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, where he broke out for a career year. In 60 games in 2021-22, Iorio dished a personal high of 11 goals and 33 assists for 44 points in 60 games, while also leading all Wheat Kings defensemen in shots on goal (173) and getting time on the power play and penalty kill. He showcased his ability as a puck-mover and didn’t shy away from joining the rush, and also improved when it came to his skating, positioning and awareness at both ends. Iorio’s hard work also paid off at the end of the season, when he earned a call-up to the AHL’s Hershey Bears as a black ace for their Calder Cup playoff run.
While he didn’t play, the 2021 second-round selection enjoyed his time up at the pros and decided that’s where he wanted to stay going forward.
“Just getting that little taste really motivates you to have a good summer,” Iorio said, “[The goal is to] take the jump to professional hockey. It’s a big summer for me, and I’ve been working really hard. I’m going to continue to work hard and do everything I can to play professional hockey.”
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Over the offseason, Iorio has been putting in work on and off the ice. He was among the standouts at Capitals development camp in July, where he impressed with his skating, wicked shot and mobility. Off the ice, he has been lifting weights and trying to add muscle and size to his 6-4, 200-pound frame. Iorio is also currently back in D.C. weeks ahead of training camp to take part in informal skates with Evgeny Kuznetsov, Hendrix Lapierre and role model John Carlson.
Looking at the depth chart and his role with Washington, Iorio has a goal in mind: to develop into a top, puck-moving defenseman at the NHL level. To do that, he’s been watching Carlson and trying to improve on a day-to-day basis in several different areas.
“Get one percent better. That’s one thing [director of player development] Steve Richmond said was just to get one percent better each day,” Iorio said. “That’s kind of what I’m looking forward to… I just got to take things slowly.
“I’m a puck-moving defenseman, someone who’s reliable in all three zones. It’s something that I’ve been preaching ever since I was a little kid, 16, 17 years old and WHL. As I’ve grown, I’ve gained more confidence,” Iorio said. “And I was a veteran now in the Dub, but eventually, I’ll become a rookie again. And I’m gonna have to learn the ropes from the older guys once again. So for me, just to take bits and pieces of different people’s games. Just develop and model myself into a solid two-way defenseman.”
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Heading into training camp, there is plenty of opportunity for Iorio. The team has a plethora of depth on the left side, with Martin Fehervary, Dmitry Orlov, Erik Gustafsson, Gabriel Carlsson, Matt Irwin, Lucas Johansen and Alex Alexeyev (currently on the IR) making up the depth chart. However, the team doesn’t have that many RHD. Beyond Carlson, Nick Jensen and Trevor van Riemsdyk, there aren’t many more pro-ready RHD in line. Iorio is one of the natural right-hand shots waiting for his chance.
The defensive competition is bound to get interesting at camp. With Justin Schultz and Michal Kempny departing over the offseason, there is a vacancy on the third pairing. While Gustafsson is coming in on a one-year, one-way deal, he is expected to compete with Johansen and others for a spot alongside Trevor van Riemsdyk, who can return to his natural right side, Iorio can certainly make a case.
Anything can happen at camp, as has been seen in the past, and TVR is capable of playing LHD minutes. So, don’t count out Iorio as someone who could make a case for a roster spot. And, from the looks of it, he’s ready to earn NHL ice time this season, whether it be as a call-up or full-time member of the lineup.
“You have to shine bright under the big lights,” he said with a smile about playing on a bigger stage. “That’s something that my parents taught me growing up. Always just stay calm and stay level-headed. Just taking things one step at a time, one shift at a time and not getting over your head.”