Mavericks sign 'dominant talent' in Estephan

By Bill Althaus
Giorgio Estephan

Giorgio Estephan has been doing his homework in Edmonton, Alberta, after he agreed to a contract with the Kansas City Mavericks.

The talented 6-foot-1, 196-pound forward has been reading about the Kansas City area, the Mavericks organization and all things related to Eastern Jackson County.

“I like barbecue,” Estephan quipped by phone, “so it looks like I’m coming to the right place.”

On a more serious note, he added, “After talking to Coach (Tad) O’Had I know I’m going to the right place. He wants to win as much as I do, and I believe we have the talent this year to have a great team.”

Estephan joins the Mavericks after appearing in 44 games for the ECHL’s Newfoundland Growlers last season, where he totaled 52 points on 18 goals and 34 assists. He also played eight games with the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies last season and tallied a goal and an assist.

Estephan has won two championships in his career, the most recent being with the Growlers during the 2018-19 season. He had 53 points with 20 goals and 33 assists in that 2018-19 regular season.

“I’m telling you, just wait until our fans see Gio play,” O’Had said. “He has arguably been the most dominant talent in the ECHL over the past two seasons.

“He’s accumulated 100-plus points in two seasons with the Newfoundland Growlers and was a key reason for the Growlers’ Kelly Cup Championship. 

“Kohl (Schultz, the Mavericks assistant coach) and I were talking to him the other day on the phone and when we got off, we just kind of looked at each other and said, ‘What a great kid!’ He asked all the right questions, he can’t wait to come to Kansas City and he represents everything that I love about hockey.

“We were won over by him with our phone calls and his desire to advance his game to the next level.”

During the 2018-19 Kelly Cup playoffs, Estephan, 23, recorded 24 points on nine goals and 15 assists in 23 games. Additionally, he was named an All-Star in the 2019 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic.

“He is a student of the game and he is so talented, yet he is passionate about getting better, about learning more about hockey," O'Had continued. "He has tons of skill, offensive prowess and has the speed, agility and stick skills to open up time and space. 

“He loves to improve and is always looking for ways to sharpen his sword. He can completely take over a game and loves to be depended on. His best hockey is in front of him and our fans will love his speed, physicality, work ethic and overall love for the game.”

Estephan, a sixth-round draft pick (152nd overall) of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres in 2015, is looking forward to bringing his skills to Kansas City.

“I can’t wait to build a relationship with my linemates, create that chemistry that is so important,” Estephan said. “And I’ve heard great things about the fans in Kansas City. I have a routine before each game where I just go sit in the stands and collect my thoughts.

“I encourage fans to come up and say hello. I don’t know how things are going to work with the COVID situation, but I want to meet our fans and be available for any appearances the Mavericks might have for me.”

That comment is no surprise to O’Had.

“This is a player that our fans will love and will see grow and continue to advance his career above and beyond,” O’Had said. “Gio is a major addition to the Mavericks lineup and a player we can see in the NHL in three years or so. He wants to work on his game and become even better than he is right now and that’s what we’re here for.”

The Mavericks also announced Wednesday it had traded forward Matt Schmalz to the Reading Royals for future considerations. Schmalz totaled 14 points on six goals and eight assists in 20 games with the Mavericks last year. The former Los Angeles Kings fifth-round NHL draft pick also played 13 games for the Indy Fuel and 19 with the Worcester Railers last season.