New management means change in all areas. We should see a major overhaul of the minor league roster next summer, and this year tweaks are taking place in the minors, too. One of the recent adjustments involved Joey Laleggia, former Penticton Vee and Denver Pioneer defender. He spent some time at forward during December, and was impressive. Perhaps he will emerge as a throwback ‘utility’ player who can help front and back. There is a long way to go before we have our answer.
PREVIOUSLY NO. 17 ON THE WINTER LIST
- December 2004: L Alexei Mikhnov (2) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2005: L Alexei Mikhnov (2) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2006: C Jonas Almtorp (0) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2007: G Jeff Deslauriers (62) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2008: D Johan Motin (1) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2009: D Cody Wild (0) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2010: L Teemu Hartikainen (52) (GM: Kevin Lowe)
- December 2011: D Dillon Simpson (0) (GM: Steve Tambellini)
- December 2012: D Colten Teubert (24) (via trade, GM Steve Tambellini)
- December 2013: L Anton Slepyshev (11) (GM: Craig MacTavish)
- December 2014: L Anton Slepyshev (11) (GM: Craig MacTavish)
None of the men ranked No. 17 on the winter list have played 100 NHL games. I am not familiar enough with other franchises to know if any of them have the kind of depth required to deliver legit players from these depths, but my guess is that kind of depth is rare if it exists at all.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- 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.
- Stu MacGregor: “Joey Laleggia is not a big guy, but he skates well, moves the puck intelligently. Quick-pass guy. He gets the puck up ice. Real good hockey sense.”
- Jonathan Willis:“This is another nice late-round pick. Because Laleggia is a college player, he’ll have more time to fill out and develop his game than a drafted defenseman typically does. This is a long-term pick, a player that might significantly outperform his draft number down the line. It’s a very similar selection to the Zharkov pick in that he’s a boom-or-bust guy who if he does turn out can turn out in a big way. Realistically, a Marc-Andre Bergeron-type career would be a very good return on this pick.”
- ISS: Lots of heart, Undersized D but effective. Good Skater with Mobility, shows offensive flare. Excellent on PP, patient and poised on the point.
- Lowetide blog: Math tells us he’s too small in one column and says ‘sacrebleu’ in the offensive column. His offensive numbers at Denver (43, 11-27-38) were exceptional, but his size (5.10, 180) is on the wrong side of Taylor Chorney. You don’t get 6.05 defenders with this skill in the 5th round, and Lalaggia turned 20 at the draft so he wasn’t exactly at the top of his class as a 17 or 18-year old. It also took a weak draft and 122 spent bullets for him to land.
PREVIOUS RANKS ON THE TOP 20
- Summer 2012: 20
- Winter 2012: 15
- Summer 2013: 23
- Winter 2013: 29
- Summer 2014: 35
- Winter 2014: 14
- Summer 2015: 12
- Winter 2015: 17
Laleggia’s ranking has seen a wide range over his four years, mostly because he is a difficult player to slot. Clearly one of (if not the) best offensive defenseman on the list, it would be folly for me to suggest there is any real knowledge of his ability to play defense in pro hockey. College kids are very difficult to project, and in fact the Oilers themselves have had a difficult time figuring out if they like this player type.
- Craig Button: “LaLeggia has become a top defenceman for the Pioneers and is one of the best college defencemen in NCAA hockey. He’s very steady, smart, is able to play lots of minutes in important situations and can contribute in multiple areas. He reads the play extremely well, jumps into the attack and generates a lot of opportunities.” Source
- Denver University coach Jim Montgomery: “There’s two ways I think he’s become better. Defensively, he eats people up now with the way he plays his position and uses his legs and stick to defend. The second thing, I’ve just been really amazed by his will to win here, expecially in the last six weeks. He’s raised his mental game and his intensity to another level.” Source
- Lowetide, on a possible recall during the season: Like Hunt, the skill set is a reasonable match for Schultz offensively, and Laleggia is 23 so we’re not talking about an extremely young player. He is a first-year pro and doesn’t have draft pedigree, I’d think a recall is unlikely. Sourc
- Laleggia on the Oilers: “I’ve been told I’m going to fit in pretty well. I think there’s a pretty good opportunity waiting for me when I get there.” Source
- Condors Coach Gerry Fleming: “He’s tenacious on the puck, strong on the forecheck, he’s such a good skater that he creates separation in the zone which frees up the other guys, and he takes the puck to the net.” Source
This is interesting… Joey LaLeggia playing forward. https://t.co/7QDRTSkKTZ
— Nick Bracken (@nickbracken303) December 5, 2015
Laleggia has an attractive resume as he enters pro hockey but there are things that make him a question mark for an NHL career. Edmonton has shown an increasing bias toward size among their defensemen, and are procuring substantial talents at the position.
In order for Laleggia to push through to the NHL he will need to prove two things. First, an ability to defend despite a lack of size. Torey Krug managed it for Peter Chiarelli’s Boston Bruins and the two men are basically the same size.
Second, Laleggia will need to show he can make a difference offensively—including power play. Everything on his resume implies he is bona fide in this area and this year he needs to show it at the pro level. He is not a lock or even a strong bet, but he owns an AHL job and has an organization that continues to invest in him. After that, it is about hard work, luck, good health and endurance.
THE 2012 DRAFT
- Nail Yakupov, No. 1 overall. The 2015-16 season is the most encouraging we’ve seen from him since his rookie year. Injured now, he was flourishing with McDavid. Graduated to the NHL.
- Griffin Reinhart, No. 4 overall. The Oilers always liked his size and defensive acumen. Fighting for an NHL job this season, has a future in the league but there are a wide range of views on what that future might look like. No. 5 prospect, Winter 2015. (acquired summer 2015).
- Mitch Moroz, No. 32 overall. Finally getting some AHL time and showing a pulse. A candidate for the Winter Top 20.
- Jujhar Khaira, No. 63 overall. Stepped up offensively in his second AHL season, playing so well he received his first NHL callup. Has played very well in early games, earning substantial minutes on a skill line. No. 12 prospect, Winter 2015.
- Daniil Zharkov, No. 91 overall. Injured during a tryout with the AHL team. Not officially in the organization.
- Erik Gustafsson, No. 93 overall. Productive defender in Europe, Oilers passed on opportunity to sign him. Signed with the Chicago Blackhawks and has played in the NHL this season. No longer in the organization.
- Joey Laleggia, No. 123 overall. Undersized puck mover turned pro and is finding his way in the AHL. A recent move to forward may mean an expanded resume for NHL employment, or could be a short-lived experiment. No. 17 prospect, Winter 2015.
- John McCarron, No. 153 overall. Didn’t sign after college, now in the ECHL. No longer part of the organization.