North Xtra: Cheswick native Liberati ready to begin pro career


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One day in elementary school, Cheswick native Miles Liberati was learning about subject complements and wrote two sentences showing his understanding of the topic:

"Steve Yzerman is a professional hockey player."

"Miles Liberati is not a professional hockey player."

His teacher's response to the latter sentence -- "Someday he will be" -- is now one step closer to being prophetic.

Liberati, 18, was selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the seventh round (pick 205 overall) of the NHL draft on June 30.

"When [I got drafted], I really just didn't know what to do," Liberati said.

It was up in the air whether Liberati, a 6-foot, 195-pound defenseman who played for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League last season, would be drafted.

The NHL's central scouting rankings had him ranked at No. 150 among North American skaters at the end of the past season and this was just his first year eligible for the draft.

"We hadn't expected it," said Liberati's mother, Carin. "His agent said teams were interested, but he didn't have enough of a feel for whether he'd get picked. He said next year would likely be Miles' year."

So on draft day, the Liberatis didn't start watching until the fourth and fifth round, mostly to see if any of Miles' teammates and friends had been picked.

When the draft got to the final round and pick No. 204, Liberati received a text message from Knights assistant general manager Rob Simpson that simply said: "Congratulations."

"After he received the text message, he just turned to us and said, 'I think I just got drafted,' " Carin said. "We just sat there for a moment and then asked him why he thought that and he told us about the text message.

"We didn't want to jinx it, so we just sat there and watched the television and then we saw his name come up. It was just surreal."

Liberati's younger brother, Mario, ran out of the room and returned with a gift for his brother -- a Vancouver Canucks hat that had been unused for years.

It's a long way from the pee-wee games he was playing in kindergarten with the Pittsburgh Amateur Penguins.

Liberati learned how to skate from his father, Danny, at the age of 4. He played for the Amateur Penguins through the fifth grade before changing teams to try to get more exposure.

But he didn't enjoy the team he played for his sixth-grade year and decided to step away from hockey.

"He just didn't have a good feeling on that team," Carin Liberati said. "So we were ready to go to practice one day and he said, 'I'm done. I don't want to play anymore.' "

Liberati got the itch to play again toward the end of the season and caught on with Central Catholic's freshman hockey team, playing with them through seventh grade.

He returned to the Amateur Penguins the next two seasons before playing for the Pittsburgh Viper Stars in 10th grade. He attended Central Catholic his first two years of high school, but did not play for the school team.

After his sophomore season, he was drafted by London. But before playing for the Knights, the team wanted him to fine-tune his game at a prep school in Toronto called The Hill Academy.

"The first four months were tough," Liberati said. "I was very homesick. But once I got to know the team, I had a really good year."

He moved on to the Knights last season and scored nine points in 42 games. He will return there next season, with his rights kept by the Canucks for two seasons.

He participated in Vancouver's developmental camp in July, running through multiple workouts and scrimmages each day with the Canucks' other prospects.

"I was pretty nervous," Liberati said. "I was one of the younger guys there and wasn't sure what to expect. But I knew [2013 first-round pick] Bo Horvat, so I hung out with him a lot. And then I got to know the other guys and it was a great experience."

It also further whetted his appetite to get to the NHL in the future.

"It's a huge motivator," Liberati said. "One day I could be up there. I realize now that I just have to work harder these next few years."

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