Senators Rookie Profile: Louie Caporusso

This is my ninth profile of a Senator rookie.

Louie Caporusso, C/LW, Contract: 0.565/13 (RFA)
3-90 2007 (Murray), 5’9, Shoots L, YOB 1989, Toronto, Ont
2008-09 NCAA 41-24-25-49 30pim
2009-10 NCAA 45-21-22-43 26pim
2010-11 NCAA 41-11-20-31 22pim

Bryan Murray drafted Caporusso in the 2007 draft, taking over the scouting staff and strategies of the just-fired John Muckler (Caporusso was ranked the 121st North American skater by Central Scouting).  Caporusso had completed his career with the St. Michael’s Buzzers with 50 points in 37 games.  He also was named the East Player of the Game honours in the CJAHL’s Top Prospects Game (he’d earned a Silver Medal for Team Canada East in 2006, more about his performance there can be found here: www.hockeycanada.ca/index.php/ci_id/25116/la_id/1/si_id/multiyear/hdr_agm).

Caporusso enjoyed an outstanding career with the Michigan Wolverines.  A plus player his whole career, he was among the team’s top scorers every season.  After his freshman year (2008) he was invited to Canada’s WJC evaluation camp, although he did not make the team.  In his sophomore year he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker award.  His junior year saw him win the team’s Perani Cup champion (the most three-star points in games), while as a senior he was an Academic All-Big Ten and the Wolverine winner of the Athletic Academic Achievement.

Nathan Sandals,  Managing Sports Editor at The Michigan Daily newspaper, was interviewed about Caporusso a few years ago (2008), had this to say: “He has centered the third line for most of the season. His role is as a playmaker. Louie has impressed onlookers this season with his ability to score timely goals, as evidenced by his game winner against Notre Dame in January with 20 seconds left.  Coach Berenson has been very impressed with Louie as he has been with the entire freshman class. Louie is one of Michigan’s best faceoff men and he has caught up to the speed of the college game very quickly. Louie missed six weeks in November and December with a knee injury but he came back and managed to score a goal on his first shift back. Louie‘s future at Michigan is certainly bright. He is an intelligent and friendly kid who has quickly been embraced by the coaches, his teammates and Michigan fans. Louie‘s role is as a playmaker on Michigan’s third line, which he centers. Louie is an offensive stalwart with a knack for timely goals, none bigger than his game-winner against Notre Dame in January, which was scored with twenty seconds left in the game. Louie has seen sometime on the power play and the coaches consider him one of the team’s best faceoff men” (sensarmy.blogspot.com/2008/03/scouting-report-louie-caporusso.html).

Steven Nesbitt, the Co-Managing Editor of the Michigan Daily, had this to say about Caporusso: “He was a pure, unrelenting goal scorer. He scored 24 goals as a sophomore to finish the season as a Hobey Baker finalist. His junior season was nearly a carbon copy, with 21 goals. But since then his focus shifted a bit, from being a goal scorer to a more defensive-minded forward. Still, Caporusso finished with 144 points in 160 games at Michigan. His speed isn’t quite as good as teammate Carl Hagelin (now with the Connecticut Whale), but Louie was usually the second-quickest on Michigan’s squad. His speed is certainly no liability. He’s very reliable on defense, has a nice, heavy shot, and he has showed great signs of scoring finesse. Good hockey smarts. As an aside, he’s great with the media. Louie’s the first guy to chime in with a quote of the day, and he’s the first guy you look for when the team steps off the ice. He’ll give it straight, and adds some of his personality.

Perhaps Caporusso’s biggest point of criticism is that he’s a perennial second-half perfomer. He knows this, the team knows this. After his torrid 2008-09 campaign, Caporusso began his junior season with just 21 points (7 G, 14 A) in his first 30 games, but led the Wolverines’ charge to the final of the NCAA Regional by pouring in 22 points (14 G, 8 A) in Michigan’s last 15 games. His senior season was a similar story, although the year-end numbers weren’t quite as gaudy (11 G, 20 A). For Louie to even get a sniff at cracking the NHL roster for Ottawa, he needs to put together a full, consistent season. He’s not the flashiest player — won’t light up the score sheet night in and night out, necessarily — but he’s a very solid defensive center, and it won’t take long for his defensive game to catch up to upper-level hockey, he just needs to show he can be productive on offense in a steady manner. One really positive thing for Louie last season was his goal-assist ratio; sure, the goals were down, but he admitted that he was working harder to focus on defense and setting his teammates up. And it worked. Carl Hagelin and Chris Brown both saw their production increase when paired with Louie.

…we tabbed Louie as a Devin Setoguchi-type player. While he might not have the same scoring streak as Setoguchi, he’s a tremendous passer, much like his teammate Matt Rust (Florida Panthers draft pick). Both are good skaters who really show up in big games. Just as Setoguchi seems to show up around playoff time for some of the team’s biggest goals, Caporusso will be the best player on the ice when his team needs it most. He’ll find the right spot to be in.  I don’t see the increased [pro] schedule messing Caporusso up at all. Granted, the college schedule consisted of just Friday, Saturday and Sunday games, but it still is a similar length to the pro season. Michigan played eight months of hockey last season, so you still need longevity even if you’re only playing 40-50 games. And the way Red Berenson runs his squad, they’re not getting too many off-days during the year. And for Caporusso in particular, he admittedly isn’t a great practice player. He told me once he sometimes wonders if coach will let him stay dressed for the game that weekend. It’s all in jest, of course, but Louie is very much a big-game player. While we mentioned his inconsistency earlier, the plus side of that is when the red-letter games arrived, so did Louie. His playoff performances at Michigan were what earned him a special place in town, and when the best competition faced off with Michigan, Louie was the key center on the top line. And looking at the schedule, Louie carried the Wolverines to some pretty great places.

I’ll run the risk of being cliché and simply say that Caporusso is a winner. In four years at Michigan, the team lost the Regional opener (2010), lost the Regional final (2009) and reached the Frozen Four twice (2008, 2011).  Caporusso did just about everything for Red Berenson. As an assistant captain during the 2010-11 season, he centered the top line, was on the first PP unit, the second PK unit and was Berenson’s go-to centerman — along with Rust — on the defensive end of the ice. The numbers aren’t so high in Louie’s stats, but Red is very keen on keeping his centers out high to be ready to transition to the back-check and be the first forward back on defense. On offense, Caporusso was mainly used to dish the puck to the wings, minimizing his scoring chances that he might have taken earlier in his career. He spent a little time on the wing, but was happy to get back to center, saying he liked to be able to touch the puck more as a playmaker.  It’s all a progression, of course, and he’s made strides in many ways. He turned from a pure scorer into more of a set-up man who shows his scoring flair when it’s needed. The way he said it in March, he transitioned from just a prolific goal scorer to a more “complete player.” From what we’ve seen, he works well with his teammates, taking advice and criticism alike, and he was very excited to be signed by the Senators this spring. He should be ready to go.  I do think Caporusso has the skill set to make it at the NHL level. I think he could be a regular on probably a third line, maybe even second, where he can find some room to get his legs moving and make some plays on the open ice. He’s a steady enough performer that along with his strong defensive skill, he can really make some quick improvements and be a big part of an NHL team down the road. I’d keep my eye on this kid” the complete interview can be found here: senshot.com/2011/07/28/ prospect-profile-louie-caporusso).

There’s no question that Caporusso will start the year in Binghamton.  There’s lot’s of competition for him both as a center and a winger in the AHL, but I believe he’s more likely to play center than wing due to his size.  Being solid defensively helps and I anticipate he’ll play in the bottom six.  There’s no guarantee he’ll get powerplay time, but if he stays healthy and remains consistently in the lineup he should produce 20-25 points.

An interview with Caporusso from 2009: video.senators.nhl.com/videocenter/console?id=45461
Caporusso talking about his Michigan experience: senators.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=555183
His profile on Hockey Futures (it’s dated, but has some analysis): www.hockeysfuture.com/prospects/louie_caporusso
Scores the winner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPcaPsAJdRM
Caporusso is on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/caporusso89

The next (and last) rookie profile is Mika Zibanejad.

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