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'The kind of kid you win championships with'

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'The kind of kid you win championships with'

When the Capitals took Thomas Di Pauli with the 100th pick overall of the NHL draft on Saturday in Pittsburgh, they knew they were getting a two-way center with a tireless work ethic.

What they may not have known was the long, difficult path Di Pauli took to get to Consol Energy Center, a journey that began in Italy, near the Austrian border.

Thats where Di Pauli and his older brother, Theo, were born and raised. They began playing hockey when Thomas was 3 and Theo was 4 and as their love for the game grew, so did the need to go somewhere their hockey skills could be nurtured.

So when Thomas was in seventh grade, he and Theo moved to Woodbridge, Illinois along with their mother, while their father, a financial consultant, remained in Italy.

My parents sacrificed a lot, Di Pauli said Saturday, moments after being taken by the Capitals with the 10th pick of the fourth round. My dad still has to travel back and forth because of his job. Im really appreciative of what theyve done.

Thomas and Theo were teammates on the Chicago Mission, a youth team in Illinois, until two years ago, when Thomas recorded 33 points in 38 games for the Mission and was invited to Ann Arbor, Mich., to try out for the USA Hockeys Under-17 team.

Di Pauli still recalls the day he was called into the coachs office and told he would be representing his new country.

It was incredible, he said. Even getting selected to the tryout camp was a huge honor. I remember driving in the car with my mom after I got picked. It was the first step toward accomplishing my dream.

The next step in fulfilling that dream came with the U.S. Development Program, where he carved a niche as a shut-down center who could contribute key goals. In 51 games last season, Di Pauli recorded 10 goals and 10 assists and emerged as one of his teams leaders.

Tommys just a warrior, said Team USA U-18 coach Danton Cole. He plays extremely hard. Hes a talented kid. Hes probably one of the best faceoff guys weve had come through and he can play the wing a little bit.

Hes just very tenacious. Hes the kind of kid you win championships with, thats probably the best thing you can say about him. He was very popular in our locker room because of how good a kid he is and how hard he works. You always say you want guys who care about their teammates success more than they do about themselves and thats the kind of kid Tommy is.

Ironically, one of Di Paulis teammates, Austin Wuthridge, was taken by the Capitals with the 107th pick of the draft and the two will remain teammates at the University of Notre Dame, where they are attending summer school together.

Di Pauli said he understands he is just one of 211 players selected by NHL teams over the weekend and that a very small percentage of those players will realize their dream of playing in the NHL. Still, he believes the road he took to get to Pittsburgh might give him a slight advantage.

At this point I think everybody has been working all their lives to get to this, he said. But I think Ive worked extremely hard and sacrificed a lot of my high school life, being at the rink all day, finishing home and going right to the rink.

It all paid off on Saturday and Di Pauli says he owes it all to the selflessness of his parents.

It means the world to me, he said. Im absolutely a hundred percent grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to pursue my dreams that Ive always had. Without them I wouldnt be sitting here. I wouldnt be close to being where I am.

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Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals don't get Penguins for home opener, but Penguins will host Capitals in theirs

The Capitals found out who their opponent will be for the home opener on Oct. 3 and it's not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And you know what? That's OK. Winning the Stanley Cup was awesome and the banner raising will be an incredible scene regardless. 

Plus, the Penguins need that night off because they have to get ready for their own home opener on Oct. 4 against...the Caps?

Wait, what?

In 2016, the Capitals were in attendance as the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner. That had to sting considering Pittsburgh eliminated Washington in the playoffs.

It has not become a tradition to make rivals watch as teams raise banners and there's nothing that said the NHL had to schedule the Penguins for Washington's home opener. But it does seem odd that the NHL is going to make the defending Stanley Cup champions play a back-to-back right out of the gate with the second end coming against their archrivals in Pittsburgh.

Hey Caps, it's the NHL here. Congrats again. Vegas is a hell of a city, am I right? So, listen...we thought about it and decided you won't get to raise your banner against your rivals. Sorry about that. We tried and we couldn't get them for your first game. Good news though, we moved it all the way up to the second game, we just couldn't get it any sooner than that. You'll be playing them the second game of the season...the night after your home opener...in Pittsburgh...for their home opener. Anyway, good luck on the repeat.

Makes sense.

Look, if Washington can't have Pittsburgh for the home opener fine. It would have been nice, but it's really not a big deal. Raising the banner will be special regardless of who the opponent will be. But don't turn around and make the Caps play in the Penguins' home opener the very next day.

The schedule makers did the Caps no favors with this one.

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Date for Capitals home opener, banner raising announced and it's not against the Pittsburgh Penguins

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Date for Capitals home opener, banner raising announced and it's not against the Pittsburgh Penguins

Just before the Caps turn the page on their Stanley Cup championship season and open a new campaign, they will raise a championship banner to the rafters of Capital One Arena in the home opener. We now have a date for that banner raising.

The Capitals' home opener will be on Oct. 3, but if you were hoping Washington would raise the banner against the Pittsburgh Penguins, you're going to be disappointed.

Instead, the Boston Bruins will be the Caps' first opponent at Capital One Arena for the 2018-19 season.

The Capitals opened the 2016-17 season in Pittsburgh when the Penguins raised their Stanley Cup banner from 2016. That was rubbing salt in the wound as not only are the Penguins Washington's biggest rival, they also eliminated the Caps in the second round of the 2016 playoffs en route to winning the Stanley Cup.

The fact that the Caps had to endure that banner raising led to speculation that the NHL schedule makers would perhaps return the favor and bring the Penguins to Washington as the Caps prepare to raise their first championship banner.

Alas, that was not the case. It's totally understandable though. The Penguins need that night off so they can prepare for their home opener on Oct. 4...against the Capitals.

It is not typical that the NHL forces teams to play their rivals in a home opener during a banner raising ceremony and it should be noted that the Caps were not in Pittsburgh for the Penguins' 2017 home opener after Pittsburgh's second straight Stanley Cup. The 2016-17 season appears to be little more than a coincidence.

Still, having the Caps play in Pittsburgh the very next night seems like an odd quirk.

Seeing the Caps raise the Stanley Cup banner on Oct. 3 will be no less sweet without the Penguins in attendance. But it would have been nice.

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