Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League have bolstered their net balance with the addition of 1998 birth year goalie Emanuel Vella from the Mississauga Steelheads, Hockey News North has confirmed.
Firebirds general manager Barclay Branch was able to obtain the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Vella for a fifth-round draft pick in 2019.
The acquisition of Vella, who will be one of Flint’s three overage players, provides the Firebirds with a goal-tending partner for 2001 birth year youngster Luke Cavallin.
Cavallin, who was Flint’s second round pick at the 2017 OHL priority selections draft, gained valuable experience as a 16-year old rookie in 2017-2018 by appearing in 31 games for the Firebirds, who finished in last place in the Western Conference and missed the playoffs.
As for Vella, the big fella has had a checkered OHL career to date.
A third round pick by London at the 2014 OHL draft, Vella played in just 13 games for the Knights over parts of three seasons. He was then traded to the Owen Sound Attack and played in only eight games for it.
But Vella came into his own after being dealt to Mississauga last season.
Sharing the crease with Jacob Ingham in Mississauga, Vella posted a record of 17-10-1 to go with a 3.28 goals against average and .896 save percentage.
Vella’s win-loss record of 17-10-1 is all the more impressive considering Mississauga finished in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with a mark of 33-32-3, just above the .500 level.
Meanwhile, as the Firebirds general manager, the aforementioned Branch noted the character of his new goalie.
“Emanuel is a high character person who brings an abundance of experience and leadership to our group,” Branch said of Vella, who was Mississauga’s nominee in 2017-2018 for the Dan Snyder Memorial Trophy, which is awarded annually to the OHL’s Humanitarian of the Year.
From his end, Vella is looking forward to playing for Flint.
“It’s very exciting. The team is on the upswing and there’s a lot of high-end young talent in Flint,” noted Vella. “It’s a big hockey opportunity. I’m just looking forward to developing a winning culture in Flint.”
Vella recently attended the National Hockey League development camp of the New York Islanders.
PHOTO: Emanuel Vella is headed to the Flint Firebirds by way of a trade with the Mississauga Steelheads.