It may not have ended as far into the season as he would have liked, but Kingston’s Gabriel Vilardi looks back fondly on his short tenure with his hometown Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League.
The forward was brought to Kingston as part of a mid-season trade to help propel the Fronts deep into the playoffs.
“It was a lot of fun last year, getting to play at home again,” Vilardi said during a phone call from Los Angeles, where he’s training for the summer.
“I moved out when I was 14 and hadn’t played at home since,” he added.
Spending time with friends and family, and sleeping in his own bed, were added perks to a successful OHL career, one in which he was able to hoist the Memorial Cup with his previous team, the Windsor Spitfires.
But now Vilardi is in Los Angeles, training hard in hopes of changing his jersey colour this fall to the Black and Silver of the Kings from the Black and Gold of the Frontenacs.
“Hopefully, I play with the Kings next year,” Vilardi said. “I’m here, I’m working hard with their staff and the trainers, trying to get the best training I can.”
Should Vilardi fail to crack the Kings lineup, he’s too young to play for their American Hockey League affiliate, and would be sent back to Kingston. If that happens, he would have a silver lining to fall back on — a chance to play at the World Juniors.
Last week, Vilardi was selected to a 40-man roster for the World Junior Showcase tournament later this month.
“World Juniors are a big thing that I want to be on next year,” he said. “Of course, you want to show well, and impress some of the Hockey Canada staff.”
Vilardi was invited last year, but didn’t take part in any of the on-ice activities due to an injury that kept him out for part of last year’s Ontario Hockey League season. But if he does impress staff this time around, chances are he could be getting an invite to the main camp closer to the popular holiday-time tournament.