Combination of reuniting with Grand Rapids teammates, Augustana coach convince forward to commit to Vikings
Joey DelGreco is the third former Grand Rapids player to verbally commit to play for the new NCAA Division I program.
As Joey DelGreco was going through the recruiting process, a few conversations and circumstances began to add up.
DelGreco knew that two of his teammates from Grand Rapids High School had already committed to play hockey for Augustana University. After he had conversations with Vikings head coach Garrett Raboin, DelGreco decided to follow them to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for college.
DelGreco, a 19-year-old forward, committed to play for Augustana on Nov. 27 and is looking forward to playing with former Thunderhawks teammates Hunter Bischoff and Garrett Drotts.
"Garrett and Hunter have been some of my closest friends growing up and still are," DelGreco said. "I'm still super close to them. It's kind of surreal because me and Garrett have been playing on the same line in hockey since we were mites.
"Being able to play college hockey together someday is ... just surreal to think about. I would have never (imagined it) in a million years," he said. "It wasn't the deciding factor. I didn't choose the school because of guys like Ben (Troumbly), Garrett and Hunter. But it definitely helped because having that connection and being able to play with them again is pretty cool. The biggest reason I chose Augustana was the trust in the coaching staff and that they're going to put the program in the right direction and, hopefully, have success at the Division I level."
I am extremely honored and excited to announce my commitment to play Division 1 hockey and further my education at Augustana University! I would like to thank my family, friends, teammates, and coaches who have helped me along the way. #AUhockey pic.twitter.com/ZEIiknPOrg— Joey DelGreco (@delgreco_joey) November 27, 2022
Good first impressions
Augustana is building an arena and will begin their first season of NCAA Division I hockey in the fall of 2023. DelGreco is the 10th player to commit to the program since Raboin was named head coach in April.
Raboin, a former University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State assistant coach, has picked up commitments from seven players from the state of Minnesota.
"I just met Garrett a couple weeks ago at one of my games," DelGreco said. "I saw right away that he was a really good guy and I've heard that his coaching style and everything about him has been great. When I talked to him right away, it was pretty easy to see his goals in mind for Augustana and that he was going to start the program in the right direction."
DelGreco is playing his first full season of juniors with the the Oklahoma Warriors in the North American Hockey League. He played two games with the then Wichita Falls Warriors after his high school career ended last season.
"We had him come out and play as an affiliate player because we wanted to get him out here and let him see what our organization was all about," Warriors coach Garrett Roth said. "We had been watching him for a number of years and knew that he was going to be a really good player at the junior level (and) collegiate level.
"We didn't know if he'd play in our league because he might get that opportunity to play in the USHL right away. But we knew that he's a difference maker and a high-character kid that you want to have in your locker room if you can get him."
DelGreco has proven that to be true in the early going. He leads the Warriors in power-play assists (7), has six goals (two game-winners), 14 assists, 20 points and is a plus-10 in 20 games. DelGreco is averaging 17 minutes, 21 seconds per game and is winning 54% of his puck battles.
"He's a competitor and he loves to win and does everything he can to help the team have success," said Roth, a former Bemidji State player who is in his third season as Warriors head coach. "He's a puck hound with a high hockey IQ and is able to slow the game down to his pace and makes other players better."
Big senior season to life in Oklahoma
DelGreco is listed at 5-foot-10 and 163 pounds and played three seasons of varsity hockey at Grand Rapids. His senior season, he led the Thunderhawks in goals (25), assists (43), points (68), power-play points (22), power-play assists (15) and short-handed goals (2) in 28 games. Grand Rapids reached the Section 7AA championship game where it lost 3-1 to eventual state champion Andover.
The Warriors are based in Oklahoma City, which is about 960 miles south of Grand Rapids. He said he is enjoying his time there, but admits that there are some cultural differences.
"I kind of wanted a new experience away from home, experience something new," DelGreco said. "It's been working out great. Couldn't ask for anything better.
"It's a lot different because up in Rapids — it's a huge hockey town and Minnesota is a huge hockey state. Everyone either played or watch it or at least know about it a little bit. Down here, it's not very big on hockey, but it's pretty cool getting a chance to meet some of the kids that are starting out playing hockey down here. Having this NAHL team in Oklahoma City will help it get bigger."
Oklahoma City had a Central Hockey League minor league team (Blazers) from 1992-2009. This is the first season for the Warriors in the city after playing two seasons in Wichita Falls, Texas.
While he is enjoying his time with the Warriors, DelGreco admits that it feels a bit odd to be playing hockey and it has not snowed yet.
"You usually see the snow by the start of hockey up in Minnesota, so it's a little weird," he said. "I like getting to play golf all year round down here."
DelGreco played on the varsity golf team at Grand Rapids and his sister, Dani, played golf for the University of North Dakota from 2013-17.
While he is enjoying playing golf at this time of year, he admits that he is adjusting to playing a lot more hockey at the junior level after playing high school hockey.
He's very genuine in his approach. You can tell that it means a lot to him to be a hockey player.
"You put a lot more time and work into it, which is good," DelGreco said. "It's a long season and it's a bit of a transition coming from high school hockey, where you're only playing one or two games a week and it's not nearly as long a season (as juniors).
"But being around my team and seeing how much every player is committed to the game and it makes me want to work even more. It's definitely helping my game and getting me better every day. I show up to the rink ready to work."
He's a player who leads by example and Roth said he has been a great fit with the team.
"He's a great kid, comes from a great family, is a great teammate and he has a good personality," Roth said. "He's kind of quiet in his approach at times. But when you're able get him one-on-one, he's really deep. You can tell that he has a passion for the game and wants to do anything he can for his development path and get better every day.
"He's very genuine in his approach," Roth said of DelGreco, who is playing wing after playing center in high school. "You can tell that it means a lot to him to be a hockey player."
DelGreco, who had other offers, also said that he is relieved to have his college decision made. Roth said that Augustana seems to be the right fit.
"He'd had a lot of (recruiting) interest," Roth said. "It just felt right at Augustana. He's a kid who really enjoys the player-coach relationship and wants to go somewhere where it's built on culture and wants to do things the right way. He's very confident that Rabs is going to do a great job there and he felt extremely comfortable with the conversations they had. He wanted to be a part of doing something special."
DelGreco said that he is likely to play the 2023-24 season in juniors before joining the Vikings.