Of the eight players selected by the Golden Knights in the 2018 NHL draft, one plays in Russia, one was traded, one was a member of the Chicago Wolves, one completed his junior year of college and three remain unsigned from junior hockey.
And then there’s defenseman Peter DiLiberatore.
The former sixth-round pick who recently completed his sophomore season at Quinnipiac University elevated his stock more than anyone else from his draft class over the past year and continues to climb the organization’s overall depth chart.
“He’s just shown tremendous improvement. He gets better and better,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. “We expect he’s going to be a real good player in our organization. The only thing that we still have some back and forth with the player would just be with respect to the timing and what the player feels is the best timing. Those are discussions that we’ll have.”
DiLiberatore, who was raised in Bedford, Nova Scotia, was an unheralded prospect when he was selected by the Knights after his senior season at Salisbury School in Connecticut.
At Quinnipiac, he was named to the ECAC Hockey all-rookie team after posting 19 points (three goals, 16 assists), and his plus-22 rating ranked fourth in the nation.
DiLiberatore’s puck-moving skills on the breakout caught the eye of Hockey Canada officials for the first time, and he earned an invitation to his country’s world junior team development camp last summer in his final year of eligibility.
“It was pretty surreal when I got the invitation I was going to the first camp, and for the second camp, too, it was obviously a confidence booster,” DiLiberatore said in a phone interview last week. “For me, I just tried to take as much as I could, and playing with such high-level players just kind of compare myself and see where I’m at.”
The 6-foot, 175-pound DiLiberatore was one of 10 defensemen to attend Canada’s final selection camp in December but was cut on the final day. Canada went on to win the gold medal.
That experience helped DiLiberatore during his sophomore season with Quinnipiac, and he was named a third-team All-ECAC selection after posting 21 points (six goals, 15 points).
“Not making the team definitely hurt, but just getting the opportunity was a blessing and I took everything from it,” DiLiberatore said. “Getting back into college, I was able to just slow everything down. It helped me see the ice a lot better.”
DiLiberatore drove home to Nova Scotia from Hamden, Connecticut, after Quinnipiac’s season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic and has been in quarantine since arriving Tuesday evening.
That gives him plenty of time to weigh his future.
DiLiberatore, who turns 20 on March 31, said in a text message Sunday he planned to return to Quinnipiac for his junior season rather than sign a pro contract with the Knights.
The Bobcats are expected to contend for the ECAC title and a NCAA tournament berth with DiLiberatore leading the blue line. The Knights retain DiLiberatore’s rights and can sign him after his junior season when he is closer to pushing for an NHL roster spot.
“I think the route of college hockey just helps me develop because I was undersized,” DiLiberatore said. “The last two development camps (with the Knights), I’ve had nothing but positive feedback, and they’ve really helped me in my development and gaining confidence.”
Peter DiLiberatore file
Hometown: Bedford, Nova Scotia
Weight: 175 lbs
Drafted: 2018 sixth round (No. 180 overall)
Notes: Third-team All-ECAC Hockey selection as a sophomore after finishing with six goals and 21 points. … Was second among ECAC Hockey freshmen (first among defensemen) with 16 assists.