Since being selected by the San Jose Sharks in the fourth round of the 2023 NHL Draft, 123rd-overall, everyone’s favorite “Barbie Girl” goal song defenseman, Luca Cagnoni (CAN-YO-KNEE), has returned to the ice with the Portland Winterhawks and has looked better than ever.
Currently scoring 1.28 points per game, a career-high up to this point, Cagnoni has collected 32 points (5G, 27A) in his 25 games this season as of Dec. 8. Among WHL defensemen, he’s fourth in points.
Cagnoni has helped the Winterhawks to a 17-9-1-1 record, their .643 Points % good for third in the Western Conference. He and the team are playing with a lot of confidence: “We’re rolling from last year. It feels like just one season with how we’ve got basically the same team here.”
The Winterhawks lost just two overage players from last season, and while trades have changed the roster, Portland features just four rookie skaters and just three players in total who have ever appeared in games for another WHL team.
That familiarity adds to the routine that Cagnoni says he has been enjoying lately.
“It’s been fun and, obviously around the guys, you’re always laughing and having a good time so it’s easy to come to the rink.”
Of course, following the summer’s NHL Draft, Cagnoni’s routine from years past was changed a bit. He found himself heading to San Jose for development camp and then back to the Bay again a few weeks later for San Jose Sharks rookie and training camp.
Those experiences over the summer were, of course, a learning experience for the 18-year-old Cagnoni, who stated: “It’s another level of how good these players are, you know? Obviously, when you’re at the rookie showcase and stuff like that, you’re not getting the full NHL guys, you that’s a bit of a step down.
“Then, when you go to main camp and you see like, [Anthony] Duclair and [Tomaš] Hertl and you’re playing against those guys, they’re unreal, right? They’re top-notch and I think it’s another step you have to be ready for. Yeah, you’re hoping that you can show everything that you’ve got, and in a couple of years you can hopefully crack a spot, but it’s just good to see how good you have to be, how much time you put into the game, what they do off the ice, and stuff like that. It’s really cool.”
Speaking of Duclair, when asked if there were any players he was maybe a little bit in awe of during San Jose Sharks camp, he was quick to name the forward.
“It was kind of like that with Duclair. I watched him at World Juniors and things like that. It was just kind of surreal to see him on the same ice as me and we’re practicing together. So, I mean, that was a pretty big standout for me.”
Cagnoni says he did manage to have a couple of conversations with Duclair, but they were just small chats at lunch and times like that.
“Not too much, but it was a little bizarre at the moment.”
As far as getting out and about in San Jose, Cagnoni said he and some of the guys made it out to Santana Row.
“It was just kind of crazy to see how big a mall could really be. Other than that, we didn’t really do too much. Chipotle a couple of times, stuff like that.”
Oh? A Chipotle mention? Of course, it had to be asked. Was noted Chipotle Stan William Eklund along on these trips?
“He wasn’t with us,” Cagnoni laughed. “I was kind of with Musty and Halttunen and those guys when I was there.”
Considering the BC native named Chipotle as his favorite post-practice meal, perhaps there will be some Eky and Cags trips in the future. Perhaps even a sponsorship deal? *hint hint wink wink*
“That would really help out my bank account,” said Cagnoni about the idea.
Because I know you’re wondering, here is Cagnoni’s Chipotle order: “Bowl with white rice, pinto beans, double chicken, and then just some sour cream, cheese, and lettuce. That’s it. Give it a good shake and then [eat].”
THE FUN STUFF
If it’s someone’s first time visiting Portland, what activities should they make sure to do?
Luca Cagnoni: Obviously, come to a Winterhawks game and you’ve got the Blazers right beside us, which is pretty cool. You walk across the street and you get to see NBA players all the time. I also like the Nike headquarters here. My billets work for Nike which is pretty cool for me because I get to go and get those passes that you can’t really get and it’s huge. I would definitely try to get some passes at Nike and you’ll get a good 40% discount and just have a little shopping spree there, which is really nice.
What is your favorite Nike item you’ve gotten while there?
LC: I found a good pair of Jordans there that I thought I would not find. There was a drop that happened when I was just kind of walking through the store, so it was my first time ever doing that. It was pretty cool moment for me and I got a good pair of shoes for like $100 when they’re normally $200 so I was pretty happy.
Okay, if someone is visiting Burnaby/BC for the first time, what must-do items are on the list?
LC: Go downtown. I think our downtown there is so nice. You’ve got everything. You’ve got Robson Street, which is huge and you’ve got all those stores and stuff like that. If you’re a big hiker, you could go to Grouse Mountain and you can get some good views and stuff like that. There’s a lot to do there. I know BC a lot more than I know Portland. I haven’t really been to too many places here, but BC is beautiful. You can kind of go anywhere and find a good trail or get a good hike with a good view.
Favorite non-NHL Draft hockey memory?
LC: Probably when I was younger, playing for BWC. We went to the Quebec PeeWee International Tournament and that’s like the biggest PeeWee tournament in the world. You get to play against the best players in the world and get to see talent from everywhere. I remember there was an Italian team and all these teams were pretty cool to see. There was like 14,000 people watching our game and we were like 10 years old to 12 years old, so that was pretty cool. Then, obviously making the Top Prospects game last year was pretty surreal. Having it in my hometown was really cool for me.
(Fun fact: Former San Jose Barracuda defenseman Darren Brady also listed this Quebec PeeWee tournament as his favorite hockey memory, though Brady’s experience at the event was nearly a decade prior to Cagnoni’s.)
Who is getting Portland’s Teddy Bear Toss goal this year?
LC: I could see Josh Davies getting a greasy one, honestly. Just right in front of the net.
Teammates to watch as the season rolls on?
LC: I think you’ve got to keep on watching our goalie Jan Špunar, once he’s healthy again. Then kinda going into his Draft year, Diego Buttazzoni. I think he’s going to surprise a bunch of people.
(Through 16 appearances this season, Špunar boasts a 1.82 GAA and a .929 SV% to match an 11-3 record. Buttazzoni, through 26 games, has picked up 12 goals and 10 assists.)
We’ve previously discussed that your dad was a ball hockey goalie, was he the first goaltender you remember facing?
LC: Yeah. I would shoot on him when I was really young. I remember he would strap ‘em on every couple months or something like that. We’d have fun. You know, even when I was younger, he still couldn’t stop my shot. If he sees this, he’ll probably text me about it, but I mean, now it wouldn’t even be a competition. I’m probably going 10-for-10 on him.
I think we all need to see this happen.
LC: I’ll get him to strap ‘em on and I’ll video it.
What is the best locker room music right now?
LC: Honestly, if there’s Olivia Rodrigo on, or Taylor Swift, that’s what I listen to. There’s a lot of country right now and I’m not the biggest country fan. After I went to Nashville, I just heard too much of it, so you’ll hear me complaining about that if I hear any country.
Pancakes, waffles, or French toast?
What is the most-used app on your phone?
LC: Probably TikTok. I can scroll for a little too long. I put my phone on do not disturb now so I can peace out on there for a little bit.
What should San Jose Sharks fans expect from him if they tune into a Portland game?
LC: Hopefully they’re kind of tuning in to a couple of our games, watching a couple. You’ll see me out there still doing my thing, playing my game. I’ll be working on the power play and producing five-on-five. I’ve been throwing my body a little bit more this year, which is fun for the fans and people watching. They maybe didn’t get to see that side of me a couple years in the past. I mean, if you ever come down to Portland, you’ll see me drivin’. Come say hi.
(You didn’t think I’d actually for get the most important question of all…right?)
You know it had to be asked, if you had to pick a new personal goal song after Barbie Girl, what would it be?
LC: (laughs) Oh no… Probably “Teach Me How to Dougie”. Me and Diego Buttazzoni, in the summer we were living together for a little bit, that was kind of our song that we would jam out to in the car, so probably that one.
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