By Matt Stefano
He didn’t get drafted by an NHL team this past July, but he’s still going to hit the ice with an NHL team come September.
Former Soo Thunderbird and current Soo Greyhounds star defenceman Robert Calisti has been invited to the Florida Panthers Development Camp, which will take place from September 10-14 at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs, Florida.
Calisti and the Panthers will then also be participating in the Tampa Bay Lightning-hosted Prospect Showcase Tournament, which will take place in Wesley Chapel, Florida from September 18-21.
“It’s an exciting time of year for players, especially when they get the opportunity to participate at an NHL camp. We are coming off an unusual year and it’s a great opportunity for Robert to show where he stacks up,” said Soo Thunderbirds head coach and co-owner Cole Jarrett.
Calisti, who is a native of Toronto, Ontario, spent one season with the Soo Thunderbirds back in 2017-2018, where he led all Thunderbird blueliners in goals with 6 and set up 14 others in 33 regular season games.
During the 2017-2018 regular season, Calisti also led all Thunderbird blueliners in power play goals with 4 and shorthanded goals with 1.
The Toronto, Ontario native was then top point getter for the Thunderbirds during the 2018 postseason, as he led the team in scoring with 10 points, including 2 goals and 8 assists in 13 playoff games.
Following his season with Thunderbirds, Calisti then earned a full-time roster spot with the Ontario Hockey League’s Soo Greyhounds in the 2018-2019 season, where he scored twice and set up 5 others in 59 regular season contests.
“Watching Robert play pre-covid with the Hounds, you can see the confidence he has in his ability with the puck,” Jarrett said. “You can see that one year he had to develop at the Junior A level against bigger and stronger players had a positive impact on his transition into the Ontario Hockey League.”
In his second full season with the Hounds in 2019-2020, Calisti then led all Hound blueliners in goals with 18 and points with 50 through 64 regular season games, and was also the recipient of the Pino’s Award as the Greyhounds Most Improved Player.
Despite not suiting up with the Hounds last season due to the OHL season being cancelled (Because of COVID), the twenty-year-old still got a little taste of professional hockey as he suited up for one game with the American Hockey League’s Belleville Senators back on March 15.
That day, Calisti picked up one assist for the Senators in their 3-2 loss to the Laval Rocket at the Bell Centre.
“We talk about it all the time, each player takes their own path. It doesn’t matter where you are playing, the goal is to get better everyday and keep building that passion for the game. Robert’s success in the OHL and last season during COVID should give him a lot of confidence heading into camp with the Panthers,” Jarrett said.
At this year’s camp, Calisti will also be joined by his former Soo Greyhound teammate Jacob LeGuerrier, who has just graduated from the Hounds this past season.
LeGuerrier, who is a 2000-birth-year blueliner, played in 226 career games with the Hounds and notched 12 goals and 64 points.
(Photo of Robert Calisti with the Thunderbirds credit to James Egan’s Sports Photography)