Without a doubt, Ottawa Senators fans have been eager to see the NHL arrival of Shane Pinto and the excitement is certainly justified. At only 20 years old, Pinto was a finalist for the 2021 Hobey Baker Memorial Award (given to the nation’s best NCAA men’s hockey player) and the most recent winner of the NCHC Defensive Forward of the year.
Pinto proudly represented his country in the 2020 World Junior U-20 Championships where he ranked 16th overall with 7 points – 4 goals and 3 assists. In 2019, he made the USHL All-Rookie Team and, in 2020, he was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team. In his sophomore season this year with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, Pinto had 15 goals and 32 points.
The 20-year-old says his biggest on-ice strength is his “hockey IQ”. Anticipating the play and knowing the game is something that comes naturally to him. At the Ottawa Senators development camp last June, Pinto recognized that he needs to continue to work on his speed.
"That's the biggest thing. That's all I do every day. If you watch the game now, it's so fast. You've got to be able to skate if you want to play in the NHL", he said.
Pinto's impressive skills were on display last week in his pro debut against the Montreal Canadiens. Pinto had an overall face-off success rate of 66.7%, even winning a defensive zone face off which resulted in his first NHL assist. D.J. Smith commented on his strong face-off skills saying, “He’s going to be a really good face-off guy. He’s got a heavy, heavy stick.”
Pinto played center alongside Alex Formenton and Connor Brown and stayed with this line for the next game against the Calgary Flames. Although Pinto did not make it on the game sheet in his second game, he continued to make his mark.
In an interview with the Ottawa Sun, Pinto explained the unfortunate reality of the COVID-19 pandemic and how much it would have meant to him to have his family and friends in the stands for his NHL debut. Nevertheless, his parents, Frank and Catherine Pinto, and close friends cheered him on through their television screens.
Drafted 32nd in the second round of the 2019 NHL draft, Pinto signed with the Ottawa Senators on April 1, 2021. He became the fifth rookie to make his NHL debut with the Senators this season — a list that includes Artem Zub, Filip Gustavsson, Jacob Bernard-Docker, and Tim Stutzle.
When deciding what school to attend, along with the University of North Dakota, Pinto visited UMass, Penn State, Providence, and Michigan State. He ultimately decided to attend the University of North Dakota because of “[the] people and culture that they have”. What convinced him was the coaches who made him feel a part of a family and the amazing fans who sold out every game.
Born November 12, 2000, in New York, Pinto started hockey when he was 7-years-old. Surprisingly, he did not enjoy hockey from the beginning; He actually hated it. When he played hockey his back would hurt and, thus, made him not want to play. However, his feelings for the sport started to change during his first organized hockey game where he scored his first goal.
Living in New York, Pinto said he was constantly playing against highly skilled and competitive players, which only made him better.
At just 15, Pinto left home to play hockey at Selects Academy. It was difficult for him to leave his family and he struggled at the beginning of the season. Nevertheless, Pinto said that he took advantage of the opportunity and worked extra hard to get better.
“I learned the harder you work, the luckier you get. That’s how I got through that tough time.”
Saying that Pinto is a talented hockey player is an understatement. With the skills and determination that Pinto demonstrated in his first two NHL games, fans can only be excited to see what he accomplishes as an Ottawa Senator.
By Hannah Sheehan | Sens Nation Hockey
Hannah Sheehan is a Communication and Media studies major at Carleton University