ARLINGTON, V.A. — Washington Capitals defenseman Vincent Iorio skates into the boards, raising his arms in celebration and letting out a huge “woo!” after scoring a goal in a drill at camp. His enthusiasm is contagious; whether it’s chatting with Alex Ovechkin at informal skates or joking around with best friends Hendrix Lapierre, Haakon Hanelt and other prospects, he automatically makes those around him smile wide with him.
Iorio bounces up and down as we talk by the boards, putting on his left shoe and leaving one untied before standing confidently, bursting with excitement at the same time. There’s not a moment in the 1-on-1 — let alone on the ice, in the gym or walking around D.C. — that he isn’t smiling.
It’s nothing new for Iorio, who’s just living in the moment. A natural character and a kid at heart, he has maintained that euphoria since his childhood while also balancing work and play with aplomb.
“I always have a smile on my face. I’ve always been the happy kid,” he explains.
And for good reason. While hockey’s a lifestyle, it doesn’t last forever. So, Iorio takes things day by day and soaks in every second of his career.
“Like, every time you get to go on the ice, you don’t know when it’ll be your last time,” Iorio said. “Hockey’s not gonna be a factor for my whole life. So I’m not taking it for granted, and making sure that I do everything I can to stay here as long as possible.”
Iorio’s dream became a reality in 2021. With the pandemic still going on, Iorio was at home, watching on TV when he heard his name called. The Capitals drafted him 55th overall as their first selection of that year’s draft. Since then, he’s established himself with the organization, signing an entry-level deal and rising as a fan favorite and top prospect.
He is coming off a career year with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, dishing a career-high 11 goals and 33 assists for 44 points in 60 games. Iorio showcased his improved mobility, wicked shot and two-way game while also taking on more responsibility as a top-pairing defender. His impressive play also earned him a call-up to the AHL’s Hershey Bears as a “black ace” for the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs, and after four years at the WHL level, he is ready to make that pro jump.
— Brandon Wheat Kings (@bdnwheatkings) April 30, 2022
With that goal and transition in mind as he looks to start 2022-23 in the AHL with the Bears, he has worked on several aspects of his game and has subsequently put himself on Washington’s radar. The Vancouver, B.C. native worked a lot on his skating with coach Barb Aidelbaum and also added plenty of muscle and size this offseason, and he says he now comes in at 6’3″, 205 pounds. At development and rookie camp, he became a brick wall, turning on the jets and engaging in more physicality as well while establishing himself as a standout and big name to watch.
He credits Aidelbaum and his hometown trainers in British Columbia for his development.
READ MORE ON WHN: Washington Capitals Training Camp Primer
“[I’ve been working on] little things like keeping my feet moving… [Aidelbaum] and I have built quite a relationship. She’s a really good role model to me and everything she’s done for me has really helped. All the little things. And I’m sure if she reads this, she’ll understand,” Iorio grinned. “It’s been really good. The whole staff that I have back home has been fantastic, and I’m just continuing to build on myself and work.”
That work includes using his size to his advantage, and not just when it comes to throwing his weight around. He also utilizes his frame to move the puck quick, create space for himself and in turn, generate offense. Iorio has also been working on adding skill and puck-moving ability to his overall game, something that the Capitals like to see.
“I’m a bigger boy… when you’re taller, and you’re a bigger body, you kind of need to focus on that and add elements to your game,” Iorio noted. “Naturally, you will have that. For me, I think I possess that physical game as well as the skill game. Moving pucks quick and making plays.”
Not only has he been making his presence known on the ice, but he’s taken on a leadership role for Washington and the rookies. He and Lapierre, who are roommates and attached at the hip thanks to the organization, have been serving as role models for their fellow teammates.
“Vinny’s done a really good job of getting stronger. He was always a big guy, but there’s a difference between being big and getting some strength. I think him and Hendrix, they’ve been here before; they showed really good leadership as far as the rest of the group. Vinny’s done a really good job, worked really hard from the end of development camp till now,” assistant general manager Ross Mahoney said, adding, “They’re really good kids and good character guys. It’s one thing to come out and train and work hard and get on the ice and do your thing, but it’s another thing to take on a leadership role. And I thought that very impressive for both of them.”
Iorio added that comes naturally to him, and his enthusiasm, positivity and contagious personality play a big factor in that increased responsibility.
“Everywhere I’ve played, I’ve kind of been the happy guy. I’ve been the motivator off the ice as well,” he explained.
Still, he wants to improve several aspects of his game. The fun-loving forward admitted that junk food has been a guilty pleasure (he’s confessed that he’s a big pizza guy that’s been ordering out quite a bit, though he’s laid off the Shake Shack for now), but he has been working to get back on a strict diet and has been working in the gym to stay in shape.
“Love junk food… got to start having more salads,” he joked.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) September 20, 2022
Overall, though, Iorio is still taking every experience in stride and looks to the veterans as he continues to evolve his game. He knows that making the pro jump won’t be easy and plans to take a lot of lessons from John Carlson and more to gain more knowledge and further unlock his potential.
“Coming into main camp, learning from the older guys, it’ll be really fun. I’ve said this a lot: Taking little bits and pieces of different players’ games and their personalities as well, and learning from that will be important for me,” Iorio said.
And, of course, he still lives by a motto he said earlier in July, one that his parents told him when he was young that he’s since held close to his heart.
“You got to shine bright under the big lights,” he expressed.