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.