They may be leagues apart right now, but that's a mere technicality for Mike and Mark Santorelli. Dominant in the AHL and WHL respectively, the pair will soon suit up together for the Nashville Predators- and maybe they should for your fantasy team.
The Santorelli story started for Nashville at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. The BCHL had been in existence for more than 30 years by that point, but spotty success at developing NHL players had caused the league to languish in obscurity. That all changed in '04. 18 year-old budding power forwards Travis Zajac and Kris Chucko were all the rage in the prospect world, good 'ole Canadian boys with other-worldly production. Zajac's 112 points and 110 PIM merited him the 20th overall selection by the New Jersey Devils, while 161 PIM and 87 points drew the attention of the Calgary Flames at 24. Followed by ever stronger and stronger BCHL draft classes that culminated in 2007 with Kyle Turris , Riley Nash and five other selections, 2004 will always be remembered as the year British Columbia shot back onto the Junior A map.
But Zajac and Chucko weren't alone. In fact, statistically, they had strong competition by another 18 year-old. A stick of a forward with no real physical game, Mike Santorelli nevertheless was Mr. Everything for the Vernon Vipers. The team's points leader by nearly 30 points, Santorelli powered the Vipers to second in their division. The Vancouver native's 43 goals tied Zajac's for the most by an 18 year-old, and his 96 points were nine more than Chucko.
While his combination of offensive flair, size and physical play were nowhere near as impressive as Zajac or Chucko and thus not quite worth a first-round spot, going anywhere in the top ninety would have been acceptable for Santorelli. Instead, he dove. It would be midway through the sixth round by the time the teen was selected, joining the Nashville Predators with their pick at 178th overall. With a scholarship to Northern Michigan University, thePreds were content to let Santorelli develop for four or so years.
Or, rather, would have been content. But since arriving at NMU, the pick has panned out far better- and faster- than anyone expected. Second on the team in goals as a rookie, Santorelli repeated that feat in 2005-06 before scoring a remarkable 30 goals in 41 games last season. More than double his next-nearest teammate, the now 21 year-old lead the highly-competitive CCHA in goals.
It was this success- coupled by their own WHL scouting- that convinced the Predators to dip back into the Santorelli gene pool at the 2007 Draft.
By now, everyone should know the name Mark Santorelli. Undrafted in 2006 after a 55-point campaign for Burnaby of the BCHL, the expansion Chilliwack Bruins presented an opportunity for the gifted but raw forward to break into major junior. The 18 year-old took it and ran, posting 82 points as a Dub rookie in 2006-07. But despite racking up 13 more points and 16 more assists than the next-nearest player on the Bruins,Santorelli fell all the way to Round 4 as a re-entry. Knocked for his awkward skating and tweener frame, Mark's big heart and tremendous work ethic nevertheless drew the attention of the Preds. And it didn't hurt that the natural playmaker would be joining his brother- a natural scorer.
So where do the two brothers stand now? Well, while Mike has quietly been very good- his seven goals is second-most for the BabyPreds as a rookie pro- since June, Mark has been the talked-about prospect in the Dub. Just last night, the 19 year-old notched a hat-trick, boosting his season totals to 12-36-48... in 29 games. Save for six players, Santorelli's 36 assists are more than anyone has points.
How do the two brothers stack up now- and in the future?
Category Mark Mike Edge
Age 19 21 Mark
Comments: Mike was above-average at the same age; Mark is a WHL superstar.
Height 6'1 6'0 Tie
Comments: Height never hurts to have, but it's such a small difference.
Weight 185 194 Mike
Comments: Mark needs to bulk up for the pros; Mike's been doing it for three years... although he still needs a bit of work.
Scoring B+ A Mike
Comments: Mark gets lots of goals through positioning and going into the trenches, but Mike is a pure sniper. Goalies cringe when he gets in close.
Playmaking A+ C+ Mark
Comments: No contest. Mark is one of the best setup men in the CHL, while Mike has had more goals than helpers three out of the last four years.
Skating B A+ Mark
Comments: No contest. Mike's speed and acceleration are in the top ten percent. Mark was an awkward, inefficient skater up until this summer- he's since improved to average.
Vision A+ B+ Tie
Comments: While Mike excels at watching the play to determine where to go next, Mark is just a little better.
Clutch A+ A+ Tie
Comments: When the game is on the line, either Santorelli is valuable to have.
Potential A B+ Mark
Overall A B+ Mark
Comments: Both brothers are dynamic offensive forwards who are willing to do anything to win and produce, but Mark gets the edge both now and in the future. He has the ability to command the ice with his hands, vision and passing prowess. Mike's speed and goal-scoring are top-shelf, but if he can't score, he isn't able to contribute in as many other ways as his younger brother.
Conclusion: Mark has the potential to be a top-line pivot ala Marc Savard, while Mike is a selfless, speedy scorer in the Paul Kariya mold. He should be a second-line forward who can play on the first unit when needed. Combine the two, and you have one of the best brother-brother combinations the NHL has seen in modern times. This is a case of the sum being greater than the parts when the parts are already great. But be forewarned: the two have only very informal experience playing with each other. While their skills compliment each other and their instincts should as well, it will take some time for them to become accustomed to one another. The relationship could look a little something like the one Mark has with current Bruins teammate Oscar Moller, another gifted finisher.