Dale Hunter glows when talking about Jarred Tinordi. He coached the big defenseman for a season-plus with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
"He's a defensive defensemen, moves the puck and he's tough," the Washington Capitals' coach said. "And a very good skater — better than his dad. Sorry, Mark."
Hunter and Mark Tinordi played together for five seasons in the mid-1990s, but both are now much more interested in Jarred's exploits. On Monday night, Tinordi will make his world junior championship debut as alternate captain for the United States.
Jarred Tinordi, a native of Millersville, Md., near Fort Meade, is a natural leader like his dad, according to Hunter.
"You never know how that works out. You never know if you have that much influence on him. He's always been into the game from a little kid — he always cared more about his teammates than he did himself," Mark Tinordi said in a phone interview last week. "I think he was just born with that leadership that he wanted his teammates to do better than he did. He started at Pee Wee; he was the captain. I can't really take any credit for it; it was just in him to start."
Jason Zucker is the U.S. captain, but the team will likely lean heavily on the 19-year-old Tinordi as part of the leadership group. Tinordi was Hunter's captain for London this season.
Owners Dale and Mark Hunter — the general manager and now the coach, too — wouldn't want it any other way.
"He's one of those guys that they care about winning and losing, they care about their teammates, and that's how you win games," Dale Hunter said.
The 6-foot-7, 212-pound Tinordi is a blue-chip NHL prospect, the 22nd pick in the 2010 draft by the Montreal Canadiens. He could have played on scholarship at Notre Dame but chose to go to London, where the Hunters built a model OHL franchise. Mark Tinordi credited Hunter for a lot of his son's growth.
"Jared's not a finesse player, he's a hard worker, and he's kind of like Dale. He's a good leader and he works hard for his ice time," he said in November. "You have a guy like that teaching you every day how to be a pro, you learn a lot from that."
Jarred Tinordi has made big strides in a year, too. After playing for the U.S. national development team and the under-18 world junior team, he didn't make the U.S. world junior team last year, unlike other young NHL-caliber defensemen such as Simon Despres (Penguins), Justin Faulk (Hurricanes) and Nick Leddy (Blackhawks).
But he learned a lesson about how to approach the entire situation.
"Last year he was kind of burnt out when he went in August, and it didn't go very good for him. This year, the summer was a little bit more relaxed," Mark Tinordi said. "He was a lot more prepared to go to that camp in August and get a good showing there. That was a key."
Tinordi has seven points and 49 penalty minutes in 20 games with the Knights after putting up one goal, 13 assists and 140 penalty minutes last year — his only full season under Hunter. Mark Tinordi agreed with his ex-teammate's assessment of his son, but he added another caveat.
"He's definitely a better skater. He's a better skater, but he's not as tough," he said with a laugh. "You can tell him I said it — he's not as tough. But you don't have to be in today's game."
Size and strength, which Jarred Tinordi has plenty of, should be enough. And his instinctive leadership abilities can't hurt, either.
"He takes it seriously, and he wants to win," Mark Tinordi said. "I'm pretty proud of him."
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