WNY Hockey Prospects

Jacob Tortora’s Future Goes Through Youngstown

Jacob Tortora of Victor, NY has signed a tender with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL for the 2015-2016 season. Last October Tortora made a verbal commitment to play NCAA Dvision I hockey with the Boston College Eagles beginning with the 2017-2018 season.  Many people were a bit surprised that Tortora signed a USHL tender as he was drafted in the 1st Round, 19th of the 2015 OHL Priority Selection, a spot usually reserved players who teams are expecting to play major junior hockey. Tortora has maintained him commitment to Boston College all along and signing with Youngstown maintains his NCAA eligibility.

Tortora, like many hockey players, began his time on the ice at a young age. After starting skating at age three he began playing organized hockey at age five. During his time in Rochester Tortora played with the Rochester Americans and Syracuse Nats as well as the Rochester Grizzlies. After playing spring hockey in Ontario for Lindsay’s pro hockey development team, Tortora was offered a spot on the Don Mills Flyers, an elite hockey team from the Toronto town of Don Mills. The Flyers are members of the the Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) that boasts an incredible number of alumni with names like Eric Lindros, Paul Coffey, Steven Stamkos, PK Subban, John Tavares, Jason Spezza, Rick Nash, Tyler Seguin and Connor McDavid just some of the players who have come through the GTHL ranks.

Like many young players, moving away from home, especially at such a young age, can be a challenge.  For Tortora, the challenge was made a little easier because of who he was billeting with:

“It was very challenging moving to Canada and moving away from home but I got used to it after a few months. I would go home almost every weekend. It was great living with billet family. I actually lived with Lindsay Hofford and he treated me like his own son. My parents didn’t want me to move away because they thought I was too young but I really wanted to (go).”

Moving away from home at such an early stage in life can be a little difficult but Tortora’s play on the ice did not suffer and he finished his first season in Don Mills as one of the team’s leading scorers. In July of 2014 following his return home to Victor, Tortora was named to the USA Hockey Select 15 Player Development Camp, bringing together all of the best American born players born in 1999. Playing against the stiffest competition from across the country, Tortora excelled, scoring a goal and adding 6 assists for 7 points in 5 games.

“There were a lot of good hockey players at the camp. I wasn’t expecting the hockey to be that good. But playing with the Don Mills Flyers and because of the great coaching there I got a lot better. Lindsay Hofford taught me a lot about hockey and how offense isn’t the only part of hockey. I learned leaving that camp that I had to work really hard to be a top player in the US.”

Shortly after the August development camp Jacob was on his way back to Don Mills to begin his sophomore year in high school and his second season with Don Mills, and the expectations were sky high. Tortora started of the season right where he has left off at the Select 15 Development Camp and was rewarded when Boston College offered him a scholarship to play NCAA Division I hockey with the Eagles beginning in 2017-2018, an offer that Tortora gladly accepted.

“I grew up watching Boston College hockey and it was always a dream of mine to put on that jersey. I would never have thought I would be committing to Boston College and it was a dream come true. I knew that it was a great place to play too because their development is outstanding.”

After making his commitment to Boston College, Tortora seemed to take his game to an entirely new level and was named to the Scotiabank GTHL Top Prospects Game, winniing MVP honors along the way. Tortora continued to pile up points following the Top Prospects Game and finished the 2014-2015 hockey season with 31 goals and 37 assists for 68 points in 52 games in the best youth league in Toronto. According to Jacob, he owes a lot of his growth as a hockey player to the increased time he put in on the ice and in the weight room. At 5’6″ and 160 lbs, some saw Tortora’s size as a drawback, but it is a factor that clearly has no effect on his game or the minds of Boston College coaches. After all, Boston College has excelled recently with players just like Jacob Tortora. Brian Gionta, Nathan Gerbe and recent Hobey Baker winner and Calder Cup finalist Johnny Gaudreau have all gone on to be become very successful NHL hockey players. According to Tortora, much of his drive comes from the words of his father.

“Like my Dad says “you haven’t done anything yet.” He only says that to remind me not to stop working hard because if you stop working hard you won’t get better and you won’t reach your goal and that is to play in the NHL.”

Don Mills season ended with a heartbreaking loss in a thrilling overtime game in the OHL Cup finals to GTHL rival Toronto Marlboros. The Marlboros, like Don Mills, iced a roster stocked with OHL Draft talent. Down 3-2 with just over three minutes to play, it was Tortora’s goal that brought his team back and tied the game, eventually sending it to overtime. Although his team lost in the game, Tortora’s play both in the OHL Cup and during the regular season really stood out scouts all across hockey, something he attributes to work ethic and the the time he puts in on and off the ice.

Tortora Youngstown

There was a lot of speculation following the season as to where Jacob Tortora would be playing hockey in 2015-2016. Some people thought it might be with the USNTDP U17 program, while others, including the Barrie Colts who selected him 19th overall in the 1st Round, thought he would be on his way to the OHL. When he was selected in the 1st round of the OHL draft many thought the writing was on the wall. Typically, OHL teams do not use 1st Round selections on a player unless they are certain of their intent to play major junior. Tortora has stated all along, both to me, and other hockey people I’ve spoken with, that he intended to keep his commitment to Boston College and that became even more clear when the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League used their 1st Round selection to sign him to a tender. By signing Tortora to a tender, the Phantoms relinquished their 1st Round selection but added an excellent player who will be be able to contribute on offense immediately. When I asked him about his decision to sign with Youngstown, what the Boston College coaches thought of his decision, and if he had anything else to say Tortora told me:

“I knew Youngstown was a great organization. I visited once and fell in love with the place. The coaching staff is awesome and the arena is really nice too. I had talked to Youngstown a couple times in the middle of the season. The BC coaches were thrilled that I tendered with the Phantoms. Also, I would like to thank my family, friends, and coaches for helping me reach this point in my hockey career, especially my three best friends Adam Panacci, Liam Dennison and David Levin.”

 

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