17 / CENTER /Rossmoor, Calif.
This is an article from the Aug. 2, 2010 issue
Achievements: After leading the U.S. under-17 team with 40 points in 36 games, Rocco was promoted to the U-18 squad during its run to a second straight world title in April. He earned a spot on the power-play unit and notched a goal and an assist in Team USA's 3--1 win over Sweden in the gold medal game.
First Steps: Growing up in Southern California, Rocco was hardly surrounded by hockey. But when he was four, a friend of his older sister's started playing and Rocco was hooked. By five he had joined travel roller and ice hockey teams and was playing with kids nearly twice his age. "I was too aggressive, so they had to put me with older kids," he says. In 2005 Rocco and his family moved to Michigan so that he could play against better competition.
Evokes: Brian Gionta. Though only 5' 6", the 160-pound Rocco is a powerful skater with puck skills to match those of the diminutive Montreal Canadiens right wing. "Size doesn't matter [for them]," says U-18 national coach Kurt Kleinendorst, who worked with the New Jersey Devils when Gionta played for the team.
Coach's Comment: "He's got a gift to score," says Kleinendorst. "The more important the moment, the more he'll step up."
What's Next: Rocco has narrowed his college choices to North Dakota, Denver and Notre Dame, and he will probably be chosen in the 2011 NHL draft. "Hopefully, I'll be playing [in the NHL] in a year or two," he says. After what he hopes will be a long pro career, he wants to become a church pastor.