Experienced Cimarusti enjoying hockey's scouting spotlight
He first skated at age 2, took his first hockey-tot lesson at age 4, and his hockey career now stands at 13 years.
Jake Cimarusti, 17, is a Stevenson junior with two years of varsity experience, along with a JV state championship as a freshman. He tallied the game-winning goal for that state title in double overtime.
Now he's primed to play with some of the state's best players.
Cimarusti was selected to play for the Illinois High School Showcase Team in the 2015 America's Showcase, which started Thursday and runs through Monday at the Robert Morris Island Sports Center in Pittsburgh.
Illinois is the defending champion of this elite-level event that has been running for 26 years.
Formerly called the Chicago Showcase and held locally, it was renamed to USA Hockey America's High School Showcase and for the past few years has been hosted by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League.
Twenty-four boys teams from across the U.S. representing 43 states are showcasing their talents to scouts from every major hockey institution in the country.
The purpose of the event remains the same: to allow high school hockey players from around the country who do not traditionally get scouted due to geographic and budgetary constraints within the scouting circles, the opportunity to compete against the best of the best during a five-day period and be seen by scouts, coaches, and others.
"It is pretty special (being selected for the Showcase team)," said Cimarusti, who lives in Buffalo Grove. "It is nice to be recognized as one of top players in the state (and) I look forward to representing Illinois and hopefully we can be as successful as the previous years."
Cimarusti had a second-period goal, as Illinois skated past California Orange 5-1 Thursday. He netted a short-handed goal Friday in a 5-0 blanking of Team Indiana. Team Illinois plays Missouri Blue today.
Cimarusti, a left-handed-shooting forward, was admittedly a bit nervous heading into the tournament, mostly because of the scouts who will be perched in the stands, watching every pass, shot and critical play in the elite event.
"I am trying to stay calm because all I can do is play my game, work hard and help my team anyway I can," said Cimarusti, who also has extensive at-home practice to rely on. His dad, Tim, has been building an ice-rink in their backyard for the past 10 years.
Cimarusti played a lot of defense early in his career, but transitioned to forward due to his ability to score, as well as his speed and playmaking ability. Cimarusti has seen considerable team practice shifts with talented forwards Tommy Feldman and Bobby Ernsting, both from state runner-up Benet Academy, and "we seem to (have) some chemistry between us," he said.
Other forwards on the Illinois Showcase Team include Troy Nelson (Naperville Central), Nick Pietro (Glenbard North), Adam Czarnecki (St. Viator) and Anthony Iacullo (Barrington). The team's defense includes senior Crosley Duckmann from Maine West, along with seniors Kyle Slovis and Chad Yale from state champion (Red Division) Glenbrook North, and others.
The goalies are Jack Junge (New Trier), Brad Neal (Neuqua Valley) and Marcus Kunzmann (Barrington).
Dave Dyson from Oak Park-River Forest is the head coach, assisted by Jon Grzbek (Benet), Jeff Nelson (Naperville Central) and Brian Noonan (formerly Naperville North).
"We have some returning players who have been through this last year. and with the coaching staff we have, I believe we can be as successful as the team has been in the previous years," Cimarusti said. "We have a highly skilled team this year and we know we have the target on our backs. We can move the puck quickly and we have a lot of speed up front. Our defense includes many of the players I hated going against all year and our goalies are incredible."
Cimarusti is uncertain of his hockey plans for next season as he is open to playing for a Junior league team.
"Everyone thinks that, since I am a smaller player, I am just about speed and stickhandling," Cimarusti said. "But I don't shy away for the physical aspect of the game.
"I call myself a playmaker."
Cimarusti was Stevenson's top forward this season with 34 goals and 19 assists in 46 games played, including 3 power play tallies.
"I get the vibe that everyone in the (Illinois Showcase team) locker room is striving for the same goal," Cimarusti said. "It is pretty special to experience that."