Tomahawks name Vellucci captain as NAHL season opens

Sep. 9—The son of a Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach, Ryan Vellucci has provided leadership and a solid work ethic as he begins his third season with the Johnstown Tomahawks.

Those traits influenced coach Mike Letizia's decision to name Vellucci as the Tomahawks' captain before Friday's North American Hockey League season opener in Danbury, Connecticut.

Defenseman Ethan Perrault will serve as assistant captain.

"Our decision to name Ryan captain for this season was really a testament to the leadership he has displayed since Day 1, as well as his hard work and commitment to the team during the offseason," Letizia said.

During the 2021-22 season, Vellucci scored five goals and 16 points in 60 games. He initially joined the Tomahawks for four games and had two assists late during the 2020-21 season.

"He took this summer to better his overall game and I think that has been evident every day he has been back in Johns- town, really starting with main camp in July," Letizia said. "As a coaching staff, we thought that was leadership in itself and along with the other positive traits he was demonstrating, we felt confident naming him our captain."

Vellucci's father, Mike, is an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, working with the forwards. Coach Vellucci was instrumental in helping Letizia and the Tomahawks participate in a practice at the NHL team's UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry last season.

Mike Vellucci is a former GM/coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and had more than 20 years of coaching experience in the American Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and NAHL.

His son has displayed a similar knack to lead.

"As a rookie last season, he played a bit of an unheralded role as a big member of the PK (penalty kill), blocking a ton of shots, and doing so many of the thankless things it takes to win that don't always appear in a box score," Letizia said.

"With that, he was constantly a positive teammate, supporting and picking up everyone when needed, and being an outstanding citizen off the ice. He is a team-first guy through and through."

Perrault is entering his second season in Johnstown after the 6-foot-3 defenseman had 16 assists and 17 points while producing a plus-18 rating. He had a goal in the first-round playoff series against the Jamestown Rebels.

"Ethan was another rookie for us last season that was truly one of our most consistent players," Letizia said. "He is a workhorse for us night in and night out. Ethan is easily one of the hardest working guys in practice as well, and never takes a day off. His desire to improve daily is contagious.

"We think he is someone that can be a lead-by-example type assistant captain, but also has the will to hold guys accountable of staying within the framework of our beliefs and standards."

Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.