Getting to Know ... Casey Pierro-Zabotel

Photo: Amanda Hertel  Gwinnett Gladiators forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel leads the team and is fourth in the ECHL with 27 points in 20 games this season.

Photo: Amanda Hertel Gwinnett Gladiators forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel leads the team and is fourth in the ECHL with 27 points in 20 games this season.

In his fourth season as a pro, forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel leads the Gwinnett Gladiators and is fourth overall in the ECHL with 27 points in 20 games. Pierro-Zabotel was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the third round of the 2007 draft and played two seasons in their minor-league system before being traded at the start of the 2011-12 season, The 24-year-old played in Bakersfield last season before joining the Gladiators this year.

In this installment of "Getting to Know ...", Pierro-Zabotel talks with staff writer Christine Troyke about a variety of topics, including how to pass the time on a 19-hour bus ride, being linemates with Evander Kane and the length of his last name.

CT: What's your hometown (Ashcroft, B.C.) like?

CPZ: It's kind of a small town that has one arena and everyone knows each other. It's probably around 10-15,000.

CT: Is it up near Kamloops?

CPZ: Yeah, about an hour from there.

CT: How old were you when you left to go play hockey?

CPZ: My first year in junior, I was 16. I've been away since then.

CT: Was it hard to leave?

CPZ: Not really. I only went about 45 minutes down the road so it was easy to still see my parents a lot. They tried making almost every home game.

CT: Was the jump from BCHL (junior A) to WHL (major junior) a big one for you?

CPZ: At first, I had to get used to it. Guys were a little bit bigger and stronger. But I adapted pretty well, I thought.

CT: How old were you when you played your first WHL game?

CPZ: I was 19.

CT: So you at least had some years to grow. Because the WHL is a hard-hitting league. You've got to be ready to take some abuse to play there.

CPZ: Definitely. It's a different style than out east. There are more defensive players. They're bigger. Tougher.

CT: Was that the same year you were drafted?

CPZ: I think it was the year before that I was drafted.

CT: Were you excited to be drafted? The third round is pretty good. Pittsburgh was sort of on its upswing at that point.

CPZ: Yeah, that's when things started to get turned around there so I was really excited to get a job with them. It's a good organization.

CT: Did you hang around the house waiting for a call on draft day or get out and do something instead?

CPZ: I was just hanging out with family.

CT: Twice in junior, once for Merritt (BCHL) and once for Vancouver (WHL), you went over 100 points for a season. What made those years so productive for you?

CPZ: I think it was my work ethic. I had a hard-working summer and that first time in Merritt, I had a couple good linemates I really clicked with. Things took off right from the start and didn't stop. It was kind of the same thing in Vancouver. I had the best winger in the WHL with me, Evander Kane.

CT: Did you guys play both seasons together?

CPZ: Yeah. As soon as I got there, we played together and we clicked right away. That was really lucky for me, I guess.

CT: Playing in the WHL, you get used to long bus rides. What was the longest one you remember?CPZ: I think it was 19 hours to Regina, Saskatchewan. We played a game there and then actually the next day we had to bus to Manitoba.

CT: There's a few long road trips in the ECHL. What's your preferred method for passing the time?

CPZ: I like to either read a book or watch a movie on my iPad mostly. It's pretty good because we sometimes leave late at night so I can sleep through most of the bus ride.

CT: The second year in Vancouver you made a pretty deep playoff run, into the third round. Did you feel like the championship was in your grasp?

CPZ: Yeah. That was one of the toughest times I've had as a hockey player, losing to Kelowna in the sixth game. That was a tough loss for me and for the whole organization. We had high hopes that year.

CT: The season before was good as well, too, right?

CPZ: We lost in the second round to the team who actually won the Memorial Cup (for the overall major junior champion), Spokane. Both years we had record-setting points and we thought we were going to do that. But we got upset.

CT: What was your first pro game like?

CPZ: It was pretty exciting. I was actually nervous that game. I think it was in Wheeling and it was a pretty fast-paced game. I didn't know what to expect coming to the ECHL. I'd heard a lot of stories about it. There were actually a few fights in the game so I guess the stories were true.

CT: As a rookie you played 49 games for Wheeling and nine for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the AHL. Did you spend some time sitting out up in the AHL?

CPZ: I think I went up for about a month and a half and I only played three or four games before I went back down. I got called up again and same thing. I was there for a while, I just only got nine games in.

CT: Were those nine games helpful for you though?

CPZ: It definitely helped me out how the league works and what I have to do to play in the league.

CT: You went out West (to Bakerfield) last season. How did that happen?

CPZ: I was traded from Wheeling. It was a pretty good situation. The team was in last place but I had a lot of fun.

CT: You've now played in the three major regions of the ECHL. Are there big differences?

CPZ: Up north the arenas are a little smaller and a little bit older. So you really have to work hard at a high-paced tempo. Down here in the South, the arenas are a little bigger so it's a more free-flowing game. I think out West it's the same thing. They have really nice arenas, but they play a different style. It's a little more run-and-gun.

CT: Do you have a preference?

CPZ: I like the east a lot better.

CT: Who are your roommates?

CPZ: I don't have any. I'm married.

CT: So probably better than living with one of the guys.

CPZ: (laughing) For sure.

CT: When did you get married?

CPZ: When I was 20.

CT: Is your wife from your hometown or did you meet while you were playing junior?

CPZ: She's from Kamloops, which is kind of where I played hockey.CT: Do you have a preference on music?

CPZ: Most of the time, I'm country. But sometimes I like to listen to rap.

CT: Are there any TV shows you try not to miss?

CPZ: Right now, I like to watch "The Office." "Duck Dynasty" is one of my favorites and I actually just started watching "The Walking Dead," which is really good.

CT: How do you feel about your Mo-vember 'stache?

CPZ: I think it's come in real nice. I like it a lot.

CT: Who has the worst one?

CPZ: I think Cody Carlson has one of the worst.

CT: You're pretty easy to spot on the ice because your name runs shoulder to shoulder. Did you get tired of writing it all out when you were a kid?

CPZ: I did. I'd either put 'PZ' or put one and initial the other.

CT: What nicknames do you have?

CPZ: I've got CPZ or Zabby.