Flying Start

Ottawa Senator's Rookie Shane Pinto Enjoying Life At The NHL Level

No NHL newcomer got off to a hotter start this season than Ottawa Senators center Shane Pinto, who led all rookies with six goals in eight games (6 goals, 1 assist for 7 points) and topped the entire league with a 42.9 shooting percentage (six goals on 14 shots).

 

As the first month of the season came to a close, Pinto was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for October.

 

He helped the club to its best opening month since 2017, citing the hard work the team put in throughout the off-season as a big factor in their early success.

 

“We came to Ottawa earlier in the summer, before training camp, and we started to skate pretty quickly,” he said. “There was just a different vibe in the room. I think we're confident in each other and we believe in the group we have.”

 

Pinto, a native of Franklin Square, N.Y. ,and a member of the 2020 U.S. National Junior Team and 2018 U.S. Junior Select Team, appreciates the camaraderie in the locker room.

 

“We've always enjoyed each other's company,” he said. “I think we've always had a close group.”

 

Among that group are 10 American-born players, many of whom also had stops on several U.S. teams on their road to the NHL.

 

“I came here right out of college, so to have all these U.S.-born guys, especially like Norry and Chucky, it was easy to talk to them and they went through a similar path that I went through,” the N.Y.-born center said.

 

Norry, who fans might know as Josh Norris, is from Oxford, Mich., and Chucky, perhaps more widely known as Brady Tkachuk, is a Scottsdale, Ariz., native.

 

“I look up to them, obviously,” Pinto said. “Chucky’s been in this league for five years now and has taught me so much. We also have Sandy [Jake Sanderson of Whitefish, Mon.] and we're good buds from playing at North Dakota together. It just makes you feel comfortable in the locker room and it makes the transition easier.”

 

And as the transition phase passes and the year goes on, Pinto said the primary focus is on success.

 

“I think we have more confidence coming into this year,” he said. “I just want to win hockey games. The biggest thing is that we want to push for a playoff spot. We're sick of losing and we just want to show everyone that we're a good team and we can compete for a playoff spot.”

 

With powerhouse additions like Alex DeBrincat, a Farmington Hills, Mich. native, and Claude Giroux to the roster this summer, Pinto said things quickly felt a bit more real and the need to win was naturally emphasized.

 

Also serving as motivation for the team has been the resurgence of fans in the Ottawa market after the global pandemic hindered that experience for some time.

 

“We felt the fans excitement, especially with the summer we had and the guys we added,” he said. “Opening night this year was awesome. It was a huge crowd and it showed what the city is about and how much they care about hockey. We kept saying after the game that it was the loudest that rink has ever been. I think COVID kind of makes you realize how cool it is to have those fans and how important they in a game.”

 

As the season has progressed, that support hasn’t wavered, and Pinto wants to continue fostering that relationship with the fans.

 

“The past couple of years haven’t been the greatest so we just want to reward our fans with good performances and try to win some games because they spend their hard-earned money to come watch us,” he said. “We want to do the best that we can for them and they're always supporting us, so we can't thank them enough for just sticking by us.”

 

And his plan to get those wins?

 

“I know it’s so cliché, but you got to wake up every day and get to work,” Pinto said. “It’s a job at the end of day and I just want to keep putting my best foot forward and having fun. I think when you stop having fun, that's when you don’t enjoy the game as much as you’re supposed to. So I'm just going to continue to get to work, have fun and be myself.”

 

Caleigh Burchfield is the 2022-24 Brian Fishman Fellow.

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