Thomas Santaniello will skate his senior season for Lake Forest High School after playing for the Milwaukee Jr. Admirals last year, helping drive excitement for the Scouts heading into the 2023-24 Scholastic Hockey League season.
Santaniello, 17, who lives in Lake Bluff, is quick to stress LF’s lofty goals for the upcoming season. “I strongly feel that Lake Forest can be a top three team in the SHL. We have a lot of chemistry and skill, that other teams don’t have.”
Santaniello also formerly skated for the Highland Park Falcons – and has had a successful career. Just consider:
“Thomas is a 200-foot player who not only has a scorer’s touch but also is tenacious in the corners and not afraid to play a physical game,” said Lake Forest head coach Steve Sarauer. “I expect Thomas to be a leader on and off the ice; he will be instrumental to our success.”
Santaniello said last season with the Jr. Admirals was “very successful.”
“We had a team of really skilled players and we made a good run throughout the whole season, challenging every team that we played. Our team was very close spending a lot of time on the road, with bus travel to tournaments; a lot of my good friends were made while playing on that team and I plan to stay in contact with some of them,” he said.
Santaniello is a skillful and creative player, always looking to try new moves, especially since today’s generation of players “seem to come up with the craziest trick plays and ways to handle the puck,” he said, “and I try to mirror that into my game.”
He reads the game well with a keen ability to scan the ice for opportunities.
“I want to get the high school experience, represent my high school playing the sport I love (with) my close friends,” Santaniello said. “I‘m extremely excited to play with my classmates, a lot of my current and childhood friends are on the team and I can’t wait to join them this season and share a lot of great experiences.”
The SHL, he acknowledged, will be a challenge, especially with defending state champion New Trier Green, state runner-up York and such perennial powers as Glenbrook North, Glenbrook South, Saint Viator, Stevenson and others.
“I’m excited to play against the other strong Illinois high school players; I’m looking forward to playing against old teammates and friends from my youth,” he said.
Santaniello said the pressure he feels for this season is self-imposed. “I put pressure on myself to show up every game; I want to show up for my team and meet the expectations I have for myself and to honor the coaching and training I’ve had,” he said.
His goals this season are high: win state, collect 75 or more points and earn All-State accolades.
Santaniello said his stardom on the ice is credited to Gurnee-based Beyond The Edge and its advanced hockey training anchored around a 4-point approach: accountability, discipline, commitment and honor.
“The guys at BTE have helped me tremendously, spending hours on synthetic ice and in the gym, changing my game and helping it grow exponentially, changing my attitude and mindset to always want more and better for myself,” he said. “Also, some of the great Falcon coaches from when I first started, helping me develop skill and learn how to be a part of a system and a team,” were influential.
Santaniello’s favorite hockey moment to date was winning state “and celebrating that success with my teammates,” he said. “It means a lot to look back at that and see the success we had.”
Santaniello is undecided on his college plans, though he wants to study finance and play hockey at least at the college level.
Slapshots With … Lake Forest’s Thomas Santaniello
First Game: “I remember sitting in the penalty box after my first shift. I was unaware of not being able to hit as a squirt and I remember just taking the body, and being unsure why I was in the box.”
Off The Ice: “I usually stick to strength (training) and do speed and agility work that can directly translate to the ice.”
Hobbies: “Golfing … it doesn’t directly help me on the ice, but it promotes self-discipline and mental toughness, while also showing the athleticism I gained from hockey.”
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Connor McDavid
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Mighty Ducks
Favorite Pre-game Meal: “I don’t eat anything before games.”
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Theo Von
Prediction Time, The 2024 Stanley Cup Champions Will Be: New Jersey Devils
Best High School Uniform (other than LFHS): Loyola Academy’s yellow jerseys