Joey Macchione is a prime example of good things coming in small packages.
The 16-year-old Mississauga native is listed at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds — even that seems a stretch — but the shifty winger hasn’t let a lack of size keep him from being one of the most impressive and productive rookies in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Macchione has eight goals and 23 points in 23 games for the Fort Erie Meteors where he has impressed from Day 1.
“He practised once and we signed him,” Meteors general manager/coach Nik Passero said. “He’s very skilled. In our big rink, he’s a threat.
“It took him maybe three weeks to get used to playing with older guys. He wants to learn and he’s a sponge. He’s aggressive, he has a little bit of old school in him.”
Macchione, who only turned 16 recently, takes his lack of size in stride.
“I have always played with older guys,” he said. “I played up a year my whole life so coming in I knew it would be a little bit of a struggle trying to keep up with guys five, six years older than me at the time but I wanted to battle through it and produce as much as I can.
“I’m just glad I could come in here and make a difference for the Meteors and help us out and try and be the best guy I can when I’m out there and try and work as hard as I can.”
Passero has used Macchione in all situations.
“He’s a light kid but he chirps with the best of them. You wouldn’t know he’s a 15-or 16-year old. He’s very involved and gets right in there,” Passero said. “It is impressive, the numbers he is putting up. He was playing with Pugs (Antonino Pugliese) for a little bit and obviously that doesn’t hurt anyone but for the last little bit he hasn’t and his numbers haven’t gone down.”
Macchione was Kitchener’s 13th round selection (257th overall) in the 2021 Ontario Hockey League draft, which didn’t sit well with him.
“I went later in the draft which kind of pissed me off because I thought I deserved to go a little higher than I did,” Macchione said. “I missed out on a lot of ice time (last year during COVID) so it was really challenging. One of the first times back on the ice was at Kitchener’s camp and I had a sinus infection so it was a really tough challenge and a tough battle but I’m glad I was able to push through it.”
Macchione arrived in Fort Erie thanks to the recommendation of Rangers scout Mike Bukator, who sent the Meteors Pugliese last year. Pugliese has become an explosive offensive threat for the Meteors and also scored a pair of goals in nine games with the Rangers this season.
“Definitely seeing Pugliese go up and down in the lineup, it does hurt us a little bit not having him every now and then, but it pushes me to be a better version of myself,” Macchione said. “Hopefully I can join him the following year up there or this year for the playoffs. If I can’t then next year, for sure.”
Passero feels Macchione has all the tools to play at the next level.
“I think Mach is in the same boat (as Pugliese),” Passero said. “He just has to get physically more mature. If you look at Pugs, he’s a man. I think Joey has to get more physically mature. I think he’s got it in him. He doesn’t get pushed off the puck or anything but they play a 68-game schedule and their 20-year-olds are a little bit meaner than our 20-year-olds.”
Macchione, who is billeting with Meteors defenceman Rylan Masterson and his family, said he took to hockey early, but not before his father Dom gave him a golf club first.
“When I was growing up my dad always wanted to make me a golfer but I always lowered my hand on that club so he decided to get me a mini stick and away I went with hockey,” he said, with a smile.