Four years ago, Vinny Saponari was among the hottest hockey prospects in the country.
The Atlanta Thrashers saw the potential in the Georgia-born Saponari and selected him in the fourth round of the 2008 Draft but he opted to play collegiate hockey to further hone his skills.
Saponari's college career started with a bang, helping Boston University to a national championship as a freshman in 2008-09, scoring eight goals and nine assists in 44 games for the Terrier.
But his stint at Boston University ended a year after when he was kicked out of school after he went out drinking with some teammates on St. Patrick's Day, two nights before a conference playoff game, a violation of team rules.
When he didn't show up on time for a punishment bike ride, longtime BU coach Jack Parker kicked Vinny and his older brother off the team for "conduct unbecoming of a Boston University hockey player."
"Personally, it hurt a lot, because I loved it there," Saponari said. "They were so much a part of my life. I won a national championship there. It was my school."
Saponari's hockey career took a dive as he found himself playing in the United States Hockey League.
"I was young and a little immature at the time," Saponari acknowledged. "I made some mistakes. I definitely would change that. But it's worked out well for me in the end."
Saponari won another championship in the USHL, before joining Northeastern University this past season. One of his seven goals and 23 points was the overtime winner against his former school.
"It's been a rollercoaster. I've had a lot of ups. Some downs. And learned a lot, had a lot of experiences. I would never take any of it back," he said.
Now, Saponari is ready to meet the challenge of making it to the NHL when he joined the Winnipeg Jets development camp along with 35 other prospects
"I'm better than on track. I've got a good chance. I'm still young. I still haven't hit my peak years. Where I'm at in the game is pretty good right now. I'm pretty confident I can make it," Saponari said.
"He's a really mature kid," Jets coordinator of player development Jimmy Roy said of Saponari. "Things happen. Everybody makes mistakes. The biggest thing is if you learn from them.
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