I can vaguely remember when Jake Lucchini scored his first goal as a Trail Smoke Eater.
The 17-year-old Trail product checked off that milestone in a 3-2 victory over the Powell River Kings on Sept. 30, 2012.
Lucchini put the Smoke Eaters up 2-1 in the second period, when Connor Collett slid a pass by a diving Kings defenceman onto the stick of the BCHL rookie, who coolly walked in and slipped it past the Powell River netminder.
“It felt good to finally get it off my back,” Lucchini told the Times at the time. “Sandler made a good play in our D-zone, and then Collett just made a great pass to me and I just tried to get the goalie to open up and I slid it in.”
Cue it up 10 years and three months later, now an Ottawa Senators forward, Lucchini started 2023 on a high note, scoring his first NHL goal against the Buffalo Sabres on New Years day.
Lucchini injected energy into the Sens second power play unit, and lifted a nifty backhand pass from Derrick Brassard past former Sens goalie Craig Anderson for the game winner.
“I was a little nervous when it kind of squirted out. Knowing that you have a chance to score your first goal, you get pretty excited. My eyes opened up pretty big,” Lucchini said Sunday evening following the game. “Obviously, it’s something I dreamed about my whole life.”
Lucchini celebrated what is likely his best and last first-goal moment, as his teammates surrounded him, his smile so big he lost his mouth guard mid-celebration.
“You don’t know exactly what it’s going to be or how it’s going to happen,” Lucchini said. “It’s hard to put into words, honestly. You just dream about it.”
Lucchini made his NHL debut on Dec. 14, and has played minutes in six games since. The 13:39 of ice time the Smoke Eater alumnus saw on Sunday (Jan. 1) against Buffalo was by far the most he’d received in any of the previous NHL games. Lucchini played on a line with Dylan Gambrell and Parker Kelly and the trio made an impact, controlling the play, and generating a handful of quality scoring opportunities.
Lucchini has made a habit of taking his game to the next level at whatever level he competes. In his first year in Trail he tallied eight points in 55 games, and in his second year he improved three-fold scoring eight goals and tallying 26 points.
But in his third year, it all came together. Lucchini stepped up and filled out, was named captain, became stronger on and off the puck, and excelled at both ends of the ice. He led all Trail scorers and finished fourth overall in BCHL scoring with 35 goals and 82 points, earned a spot on the second All Star team, a league MVP nomination and a commitment to Michigan Tech.
There his arrival went unheralded, but he soon made an impression. He was voted to the WCHA all-rookie team, led the Huskies in scoring his Junior year, was named co-captain his senior year, and led the team to two WCHA championships.
His transition to the American Hockey League looks similar. Undrafted, he started his career with Wilkes-Barre/Scanton Penguins, before being traded to the Laval Rocket. After a tough Covid year in Laval in 2020-21, he was traded to Bellville.
Since joining Ottawa’s AHL affiliate, his game has taken off, leading the team in scoring with 20 goals and 51 points in 72 games last season, and was on pace to surpass those numbers this season when he was called up by Ottawa.
While some may doubt his ability to stay with the NHL team, for all who know Jake and has seen his skill on the ice, and his character and work ethic off it will wager that even bigger things await the 27-year-old rookie.
Understandably, his phone exploded with congratulatory texts and messages after the game, with his mom Sandy there at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa to witness another milestone.
“It was so special and with the crowd…there’s so many people…and it was such an exciting game,” said Lucchini. “To have a positive impact like that was important for me.”
Apparently, a 27-year-old NHL rookie scoring a first goal is rare these days, but for Jake, it’s just part of the greater plan – and if the Sens play their cards right, there will be many more to come.