As a fan of an NHL team that has employed some unusual and chaotic defensive options–from Ruotsalainen to Bergeron and beyond–this Joey Laleggia fellow is interesting.
- Penticton Vees Coach/GM Fred Harbinson. “I think he’s a great example of a person who has taken a slower path. He took the extra year of midget and it really helped him coming in having an outstanding rookie year for us. Instead of taking a year off early and going to college, he came back for his second year of junior.”
Laleggia passed through a couple of entry drafts before being selected, but he was certainly on the radar for NHL teams before the 2012 entry draft. Laleggia is listed at 5.09, 180 on the Denver Pioneers site, which I’m sure made him a NP on a lot of teams (Flames would be an example).
Why would the Canucks invite him? Why would Edmonton draft Laleggia? Skill. If Laleggia is going to have an NHL career it’ll be in a specialized “PP QB” role. Does he have the ability? Well, he sure looks good from here. Last season, Laleggia’s freshman year in Denver, he had quite an impact:
- led NCAA rookie defensemen in points (38), goals and assists (11+27)
- ranked 5th among all NCAA defensemen in points-per-game (.88)
- named HCA National Rookie of the Year, WCHA ROY, All-WCHA 1st All-Star Team, All WCHA Rookie Teeam, Inside College Hockey WCHA Freshman of the Year.
Smaller players have been having a bigger impact on the NHL draft in recent seasons, as if the lesson of Martin St. Louis (learned up close and personal by the Calgary Flames) took 15 years to learn. Undersized NHL defensemen included Francis Bouillon and MA Bergeron the last time the league dropped a puck in anger. However, the number of “Kris Russell’s” or “Taylor Chorney’s” far outnumber the success stories when it comes to undersized blue.
Is Laleggia good enough to make it? Hell if I know. Luck, coaching bias, injury and God knows what (Tom Edur–a very good NHL defenseman–quite to become a Jehovah’s Witness! Stuff happens, baby) will impact his career.
I like the draft risk, though. At #123 overall its a good plan to draft oversized wingers, goalies from East Jämsänkoski, and kids like Laleggia.
- Corey Pronman: Laleggia enters his third draft-eligible season after a very successful first WCHA season where he was named the conference’s Rookie of the Year. He’s a good skater with a great offensive mind who would be a nice shot in the dark pick in the mid-rounds due to his notable offensive upside. He flashes high-end hockey sense with his quick game processing and he’s really effective moving the puck out of his own end and controlling the blue line on the power play. Laleggia has solid puck skills as well, at times showing above average, but he is a much better passer than he is an individual creator. He skates well, moving fluidly in all four directions. His main weakness is his physical game, which is below replacement level. I’ve seen him listed at 5’10″, which is generous in my opinion as he looks pretty small on the ice, and he is not effective at all when he’s engaging. Despite his hockey smarts, I don’t see him as being effective defensively to any notable degree at the pro level.
Laleggia is 20, but he’s got 2 more years of college eligibility left after this one. He scored a goal and an assist last night and appears to be high octane offensively. I find him to be a fascinating prospect, especially after watching a dull AHL game on television last night. Whatever else big, lumbering players provide, entertainment value is not one of them.
Joey Laleggia will never be boring. Here’s hoping he makes the grade.