As a centre who's toning up his two-way game, Mike Amadio could not have asked to have his work more cut out for him.
The Sault Ste. Marie native has fit well into his role of second-line centre with the North Bay Battalion, helping the club reach the OHL final in its first season since moving north. Now Amadio will be trying to match up in the final with the powerful Guelph Storm's rotating cast of premier pivots, including fellow 17-year-old Robby Fabbri and Dallas Stars first-rounder Jason Dickinson.
"I think it's going to be a great challenge that's definitely going to bring the best out of me and all of our guys' games," says Amadio, who was No. 68 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters. "We know they're a very skilled and talented team and we're just going to have to work that much harder going into this series.
"I would say my offence is my biggest asset, my playmaking ability," adds the 6-foot-1, 192-pound Amadio, who had two points in North Bay's critical Game 3 win over Oshawa in the Eastern Conference. Being able to find the open man all over the ice. I'm working on very responsible in my own end and just being consistent game in, game out. Just providing consistent offence."
The Battalion typically breaks in 16-year-old rookies very gradually, yet Amadio was able to earn a regular shift last season after coming in as a late second-round selection. The club's move to North Bay allowed his parents, Bojana and Paul, to make it out to more games and also helped Amadio find a more comfortable setting while he continued maturing. He finished with 12 goals and 38 points over 64 regular-season games while finishing plus-15 in coach Stan Butler's puck-pressuring, team-oriented structure.
"I'm definitely feeling more at home here," Amadio says. "The fans [at North Bay Memorial Gardens] are great too. They're behind us every game and they kind of spark some momentum changes for us during the games too."
Back in the Soo, Amadio often trained with his minor hockey teammate Blake Speers, who had a promising rookie season with the Western Conference's Greyhounds. Having a mutual respect for each other helped Amadio develop his competitive juices, which he'll need in the series vs. Guelph.
"Just being able to match his intensity and seeing how hard he works has been a great experience for me."
1. You have to be yourself, but which NHL player do you study closely?
"I really like the way [Battalion alumnus and Colorado Avalanche forward] Matt Duchene plays. He's good in his own end and he has a ton of skill in the offensive zone. I try to model my game after him and what he brings to the table."
2. Any 18-year-old has to get bigger, stronger, faster, more agile — but when you really focus on small components of the game, where you do you feel you need the most work?
"I think I can work on my explosive starts, still. Just being able to win a [puck] battle and lose the guy right away and shake him off and continue with my stride."
3. Aside from your current coaches and immediate family, whom do you really thank for helping you get this far in competitive hockey?
"I'd say Mike Hall and all my minor midget coaches [with the Sault Ste. Marie North Stars]. They really helped me with getting me to where I am today, pushing me to my limits and always expecting the best out of me."
4. What is your favourite road arena in the league?
"Probably London, because they get so many fans. I just love playing in an arena that boos you. It probably makes you want to play a little bit harder, to not give them a reason a cheer."
5. Favourite movie and/or TV show?
"I like Step Brothers as my favourite movie and I'd have to say Community is my favourite TV show."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.