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BRAINY WINGS PROSPECT CRISCUOLO RELIES ON SPEED TO OVERCOME LACK OF SIZE

Photo: Sam Iannamico
09/13/2016 1:00 PM -

Sept. 13, 2016

By Brendan Savage, MLive
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Kyle Criscuolo is just beginning his pro hockey career but he already has an eye on the future when it comes to his post-playing days.

Criscuolo would like to stay in hockey and work in the front office, perhaps as a general manager.

"That's actually definitely what I want to do, be in the front office, something like that," Criscuolo said. "That's definitely something that I've thought about and that's the direction I want to go, so try to position myself the best I can."

He certainly has the smarts to work on the business side for a team after spending the past four seasons at Harvard, where he was a two-time winner of the ECAC Student-Athlete of the Year award – the first Crimson athlete to do so.

Before college, he was a three-time member of the principal's list at St. Joseph's Preparatory School and a two-time member of the dean's list at Choate Rosemary Hall prep school.

If brains translated to hockey skills, Criscuolo would be an All-Star candidate.

That said, can that type of brainpower help on the ice?

"I don't know," said Criscuolo, who graduated with a degree in psychology while minoring in economics. "I think it's definitely useful. I think being at Harvard, going to college for four years, anywhere you're at, the coaches really harp on defense and the importance of playing in all three zones so that's definitely a big help.

"Definitely give credit to my coaches at school and definitely developed me a lot."

All that aside, the classroom wasn't the only place Criscuolo excelled before the Detroit Red Wings signed him to a minor-league contract last spring and assigned him to their top farm club, the Grand Rapids Griffins.

At Harvard, he was the team's first two-year captain in 92 years; was named to the All-Ivy League team; and was nominated for the 2016 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's best player.

He signed with the Red Wings after catching the eye of assistant general manager Ryan Martin, who doubles as the GM in Grand Rapids, where Criscuolo played four games at the end of last season.

"I actually went and played a few games there at the end of last season and decided it was the best option for me," said Criscuolo, 24. "I stayed there for two or three weeks. It was a good experience. I like the city a lot.

"I think just the organization itself, they develop players and that was a good fit for me and Ryan liked me a lot."

If there's one area of concern regarding Criscuolo, it's his size.

At 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, he was one of only three players at the club's July development camp who wasn't at least 6 feet tall.

Criscuolo tries to counter his lack of size by being "someone that can use his speed but will go to the front of the net, can play in all three zones," he said.

"Definitely don't shy away from the big guys and can definitely play fast and play a lot in the D zone as well."

At Harvard last season, Criscuolo was second on the team with 19 goals in 34 games while finishing third in scoring with 32 points. The team's leading scorer was highly sought-after free agent Jimmy Vesey, who signed with the Rangers.

In four seasons with the Crimson, Criscuolo had 53 goals among 113 points in 124 games.

With the Griffins, he had no points and a plus-2 rating in four games.

A native of New Jersey who grew up as a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers, Criscuolo compares himself to players like the Red Wings' Darren Helm and Luke Glendening, Montreal's Brendan Gallagher and Tampa Bay's Tyler Johnson.

"Some of the smaller guys that are gritty," he said. "Those smaller guys."

The Red Wings weren't the only team interested in Criscuolo after his college career ended.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Pittsburgh Penguins' AHL far club, expressed interest in Criscuolo but he ultimately decided the Red Wings were a better fit.

Criscuolo, who scored during one of the scrimmages at the Red Wings development camp, will play in prospects tournament team this week in Traverse City.