One might look at it on paper and think Luciano Aquino is on the scrapheap. In the final year of his contract, the NHL’s New York Islanders assigned him to the six-team International Hockey League instead of one of their top minor-league teams, not exactly convincing evidence that they foresee a future for him in the organization.
Aquino, however, isn’t bemoaning things, wishing he were in a more highly regarded circuit like the ECHL. Not for a second.
“This is much better, I’d say,” Aquino said, as the Fort Wayne Komets prepared to open their 56th season Saturday against the visiting Port Huron Icehawks. “Fort Wayne has got a great history. A lot of great players came out of here. You do well here, you can get places. You’ve just got to play well where you’re at.”
Aquino, a 22-year-old right wing, has landed on the top line alongside Colin Chaulk and Jason Sessa.
“He’s a young exciting player,” Chaulk said. “He skates hard and shoots the puck hard.”
Aquino, from Mississauga, Ontario, was selected by the Islanders in the seventh round of the 2005 NHL entry draft in the midst of a sterling junior career that saw him tally 53 goals and 143 points in 97 games with Brampton of the Ontario Hockey League.
Since then, he’s played 22 games for Bridgeport of the American Hockey League, scoring two goals and five points. In 36 games in the lower-level ECHL, with Trenton, Pensacola and Utah, he had eight goals and 30 points.
Take that experience, add it to some NHL training camps, and Aquino has seen things many of his peers haven’t. But Aquino doesn’t believe he’s guaranteed playing time because of that.
“Even here, everyone’s fighting for a job,” said Aquino, 5-foot-10, 200 pounds. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the NHL or over in Europe, you’ve still got to fight for a spot. The competition never stops.”
Aquino knows a good showing this season could open some eyes with higher-level teams, especially since he’ll be a free agent next summer.
“It’s always on your mind, but you’ve got to forget about it and play the game. It’s just a game, at the end of the day,” he said. “I’m not too worried about (being scouted). I just want to have a good time here, play well and win a championship. That would look good for me, too.”
Aquino’s philosophy on the ice is simple – work hard.
“Never give up on plays,” he said. “I think that’s the problem sometimes, people give up on plays and that’s where you get the goals or the assists. Playing with Colin and Jason, they’re great players to (skate) with, and I’m just a hard worker.”
And that can’t be measured on paper.