ARLINGTON, V.A. — It has only been a year since Vincent Iorio joined the Washington Capitals organization, but from the way he carries himself, it’s as if he’s been in the system for years — and that’s exactly the impression he wants to make.
The 2021 second-round selection (55th overall), who goes by either Vincent, Vinny or Vincenzo — depending on who you ask — is still an easy-going, fun-loving kid at heart. Beyond that, though, he has turned into a young leader that is well-liked in the locker room. Along with good friend Hendrix Lapierre, he has taken to showing other prospects around, going first in drills, being vocal and carrying himself professionally.
Iorio has translated all of that onto the ice as well. That drive for success in his post-draft campaign with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings, as well as his passion for the game and ability, helped him have a career year and earn a call-up to Hershey for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
“It was awesome,” Iorio said of his short tenure, which lasted roughly a week and saw him take on a “black ace” role. “Definitely the pace of play [is different], guys move the puck pretty quick, it’s on and off their stick. But it was really good.”
And, once he put on the Bears gear, Washington’s 2021 second-rounder decided that making the jump to the pros would be at the top of his to-do list for 2022-23. And since he already has four seasons of major-junior hockey under his belt — and also turns 20 on Nov. 14 — he is eligible to do so.
“Just getting that little taste really motivates you to have a good summer,” Iorio said, adding that his 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.”
Iorio knows that moving up to the pros is easier said than done as he is still evolving his overall game. He also saw what it will take to make that jump at his first Capitals training camp last September.
“It was a little nerve-racking not gonna lie. Being around the big boys for sure,” Iorio laughed. “But you know, they’re really good to me.”
He returned to Brandon on a mission and ended up having a stellar post-draft year. The WHL veteran dished a career-high 11 goals and 33 assists for 44 points in 60 games, along with 49 PIM. Iorio showcased his puck-carrying ability, heavy point shot and speed, and also moved the puck well and worked great on the transition. Meanwhile, he was solid in his own end, won puck battles and showed good awareness and positioning.
When it comes to making that transition to the big leagues, Iorio knows there will be a lot of work, and he has put in a lot to add to his game. After coming into Washington last year at 6-3, 191 pounds, he now weighs in at 6-4, 200 pounds and is still adding strength. That frame will help him succeed at a higher level.
Iorio working hard in these scrimmages. pic.twitter.com/F2AbsY3CaQ
— Sammi Silber (@sammisilber) July 13, 2022
However, he also knows it’ll take more than size and strength to get to the pro level. Iorio wants to be a puck-moving defenseman, much like Capitals star John Carlson. So in order to incorporate that into his game, and also move up the ranks in Washington, Iorio knows he’ll need more speed, faster decision-making and better skating.
“For me specifically, just quick passes on and off the tape,” Iorio said of the differences between pros and juniors. “No dusting the puck… little things like that. The pace of play is a lot faster. And eliminating extra time that’s not needed is going to be very important.”
“It’s making sure that I get my hips around and that I open my body up completely to make that pass to the forward or my D-partner,” Iorio described, adding, “Joining the rush is something that I definitely have to offer, and it’s something that I progressively got better at… Carlson is one name. He is very good at the first pass and he loves to join the rush. So if I can emulate a little bit of that, that’d be great.”
Iorio’s summer has been full of training and preparation for the upcoming campaign. Plus, after development camp, he went back to Canada and picked up right where he left off at the gym. He knows the areas where he needs to improve and the end goal. However, he isn’t trying to think too much or rush anything before Washington returns for training camp in a couple of months. Instead, he is relying on the “day-by-day” mentality and taking as many lessons as he can from each day.
“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.”
— Brandon Wheat Kings (@bdnwheatkings) October 14, 2021
Ultimately, he knows that will help him take the next step for the Capitals. And for Iorio, one piece of advice from his family has served him well as he continues his career.
“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.”