“It’s awesome,” Vatrano beamed. “A dream come true to even play in this league. The way my career has gone, being undrafted and let alone playing in the NHL, to be an All-Star, I’m at a loss for words. Never really expected this.”
“He’s been terrific,” head coach Greg Cronin said of Vatrano, who was selected by the NHL’s Hockey Operations team. “With a coaching change, a culture change and an environment change, some guys match that with their compete level. They embrace the challenge of what that represents…He’s an ultra competitor, a great person, a great teammate.”
Vatrano has been the heartbeat of Anaheim’s offensive attack early in the season, leading the team with 18 goals and four game-winners. He’s now tied for 17th in the NHL in goals, alongside Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl and Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel, and is well on pace to eclipse his career high (24), set in 2018-19 with Florida. He’s one of six players in the NHL this season to record multiple hat tricks, which came during the home opener vs. Carolina and two weeks later at Philadelphia. “To do this, it was all help from guys in this room,” Vatrano said humbly. “If it wasn’t for guys in this room pushing me every day and helping me out on the ice to succeed, I wouldn’t be in this position. It’s an individual award, but it’s a team award at the end of the day because of the guys that helped me.”
Long known as a pure goal scorer, Vatrano has also impressed Anaheim’s coaching staff with his commitment to the other end of the ice this season, even seeing ice time as a top penalty killer for the first time in his NHL career. “It’s guys like him that I really enjoy watching them grow,” Cronin said. “Those guys that have that engine inside like, ‘I’m going to make it, no matter what.’ I think that’s a reflection of their family and how they’re brought up. I’m really happy for him.”
The surprise certainly caught the lively veteran off guard, as he admitted to being impressed by his wife and teammates’ ability to keep the secret.