It is destination unknown for Mason Chitaroni relative to the 2020-2021 hockey season. That is, the 15-year old defenseman with the world-class speed — he does not turn 16 until October 2 — could be playing in the Ontario Hockey League, the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, or for any one of four teams in the Greater Ontario Jr. Hockey League when the 2020-2021 campaign gets going.
For starters, Chitaroni is a prospect of the London Knights after the perennial OHL powerhouse took the 5-foot-10, 150-pound defender in the fifth round, 99th overall, at this year’s priority selections draft from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Midget Hockey League.
Making the Knights as a 16-year old rookie would be a tall order for Chitaroni. Besides London being able to return five defensemen — not including overagers — from last season’s team, the Knights took two defenders ahead of Chitaroni at the 2020 priority selections draft.
Should the Knights sign Chitaroni but opt to keep him close to London with an affiliate club, they could line him up to play with any one of four nearby teams in the GOJHL — the London Nationals, Komoka Kings, St. Mary’s Lincolns or St. Thomas Stars.
Or, the Knights could allow Chitaroni to return to the Sault Ste. Marie area and play in the NOJHL with, for example, the Blind River Beavers.
Chitaroni played in three games for Blind River as an affiliate player during the 2019-2020 season and greatly impressed Beavers coach-general manager Kyle Brick.
In fact, Brick told Hockey News North that Chitaroni “has speed and smarts that are off the charts. He has a hockey IQ and a sense for the game that is unbelievable. He is not only going to play in the OHL at some point but he is going to be star in the league.”
Meantime, Chitaroni — who is originally from the small northwestern Ontario town of Marathon — is working out on his own, in the family basement and in the garage while jogging alone through his Sault Ste. Marie neighbourhood.
“I am riding the bike, lifting weights, working on my flexibility … I am on my roller blades and I am running about eight kilometers every second day to get my cardio up,” Chitaroni told Hockey News North.
The son of former Sudbury Wolves, OHL standout Terry Chitaroni, the youngster said that while he talks a lot of hockey with his dad, he prefers to train on his own inside and outside the family home.
“I want to be self motivated and self determined,” he noted.
With hockey — and sports in general — on the sidelines due to the COVID-19 global crisis, there is uncertainty as to the start of OHL training camps and the 2020-2021 regular season itself. But Chitaroni has given a lot of thought about what is ahead.
“I want to show London that they made the right choice in drafting me,” he said evenly.
“I want to go there and show them what I can do … and I want to be in the best shape I can be and then let them decide what their plans are going to be for me,” Chitaroni added.
Regardless of where Chitaroni plays next season, Jamie Henderson, who coached the youngster with the Jr. Greyhound midgets during the 2019-2020 season, said London has as its OHL property “a highly motivated player who has a real upside.
“I have said this before and I will say it again and that is, Mason can flat out skate with the best 2004 birth year players anywhere and he really improved over the second half of this past season,” Henderson added in further praise of Chitaroni, who notched six goals, 13 assists, 19 points in 38 games for the Jr. Greyhounds during the 2019-2020 regular season and was named the top minor midget defenseman in the Great North loop.