When Frank Corrado turned pro in 2012 he felt he could make the jump to the NHL right away.
Four years later, the 24-year old Corrado said the 20-year old version of himself was wrong.
That ability to look back and acknowledge mistakes is an example of how Corrado’s mental development has improved along with the physical side. While the 20-year old Corrado may have had the physical tools to compete in the NHL, he wasn’t ready mentally.
“When you’re 20, you can skate with everyone, shoot with everyone and do all of the skills,” Corrado said. “But how do you put it all together? How do you bounce back if you get scored on? How do you handle facing the other team’s top line?
“There are a lot of factors that go into being NHL ready, and it’s something that comes with time and maturing.”
Today, Corrado feels he has gained the experience to go along with his skillset to make him truly ready to play and succeed at the next level. The fifth-year pro has already logged 74 NHL games in his career, along with 150 in the AHL.
But just as important as the games are when it comes to experience, so is the adversity that Corrado faced along the way.
Last season he endured being a healthy scratch with the Toronto Maple Leafs for a stretch of 2 1/2 months. Before that, Corrado spent two seasons with the Vancouver organization — who drafted him in the fifth round in 2011 — but could never stick with the NHL club.
During his seasons with the Vancouver and Toronto organizations, Corrado was thrust into the spotlight of two major hockey markets, facing a throng of media and lofty expectations.
Looking back, Corrado said he’s endured a lot of “bumps and bruises” during his career, and they weren’t always of the physical variety.
“I’ve had a lot of minuses, a lot of lonely nights where you feel pretty crappy leaving the rink,” he said.
While Corrado availed himself well during his time in the AHL, he couldn’t make enough of an impact to stay in the NHL with Vancouver or Toronto. While a lack of playing time didn’t help his case, Corrado also battled with a lack of direction early in his career. As a high-scoring defenseman in juniors, Corrado admits he pressured himself to produce the same numbers as a pro.
Now, with more experience under his belt, Corrado’s path as a player is clearer.
“I don’t think the thought that I’m never going to put up huge numbers is in my head anymore. I know what kind of defenseman I’m going to be now,” he said.
With the Pittsburgh organization, Corrado has refined his game as a blueliner that is hard-nosed, tough down low and solid defensively. The approach has worked as he has already earned two call-ups to Pittsburgh this season, in addition to two games with the big club last year after he was acquired from Toronto at the trade deadline in March.
Immediately after the trade, Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford said Corrado would see games with the NHL club at some point, and so far he’s been true to his word.
Corrado has already played in three games with Pittsburgh this season but, despite Rutherford’s promise, he knows any time in Pittsburgh will have to be earned.
“In hockey, no one owes you anything. (Pittsburgh) doesn’t owe me anything,” Corrado said. “I’m super grateful this team was willing to take a chance on me and bring me over, and when you get rewarded with a call-up it’s something you’ve earned.”
No matter what level Corrado spends his time, he said his bigger goal is to simply play as many games as possible. He hasn’t played in more than 46 games during any of the last three seasons, and playing more is the only way Corrado said he can achieve his full potential.
It also helps that the Corrado has a better grasp on what his potential is today then when he was just breaking into the pro ranks.
“If you asked me when I was 21 I would’ve told you I’m NHL ready, but I probably wasn’t,” Corrado said. “As the years have gone by I feel like this is the most ready I’ve been to make the jump. I feel more mature and more ready than in the past.”