By Brian Compton
NHL.com Staff Writer
American Hockey League teams in need of a goal scorer might look at Chris Capraro‘s bio, find out that he’s a mere 5-foot-7 and turn the page.
But as Charlotte Checkers coach Derek Wilkinson quickly pointed out, Capraro sure doesn’t play like he’s 5-7. Because of that, the 24-year-old is one of the ECHL’s most pleasant surprises this season.
In 53 games, Capraro ranks second on the Checkers in scoring with 37 points — 18 goals and 19 assists. His grit and determination play a major role in his success, as Capraro has racked up 52 penalty minutes and doesn’t shy away from chasing loose pucks in the corners.
“He works so hard,” Wilkinson said. “You see the size disadvantage and it just doesn’t seem to faze him one bit. There are some games where he’s looking for a dance partner. He’s sincere about it. He wants to do what he can do. He seems like the type of kid that he knows his size is what it is, but he’ll try to play like a 6-2 guy, which makes him kind of unique. He’s been a real pleasant surprise.”
Capraro entered his rookie season after four years at UMass-Amherst, where he scored 28 goals and added 67 assists in 127 games. He joined the Trenton Titans, scoring a goal and an assist in two regular-season games before collecting one point in five postseason contests.
Once the Titans were eliminated from the playoffs, the parent New Jersey Devils came to the conclusion that Capraro wasn’t in their plans. Capraro was shipped to Charlotte last August for future considerations.
“We had heard about him, and Trenton had his rights,” said Wilkinson, who is in his fourth full season as coach of the Checkers, the New York Rangers’ ECHL affiliate. “They weren’t planning on bringing him back. He wasn’t looked at as a prospect in New Jersey, so we were able to get him. You always take chances on kids, and we had hopes that he could be a point producer. You don’t know until you see him. He’s come in and really surprised a lot of people.”