HOLY LALEGGIA!

Joey Laleggia passed through 2 drafts before the Edmonton Oilers selected him in the deep bowels of the 2012 edition. Laleggia is off to another strong start at the University of Denver, and it’s probably about time we asked the following question: is Joey Laleggia unique enough, talented enough, to make his mark in the world’s best league?

Joey Laleggia (pronounced La-ledge-ia) was a freshman last year in Denver and 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.

The Edmonton Oilers decided to overlook his down arrows (size and strength in board battles/in front of the net) and use their 5th round pick on the young man from Burnaby, BC. Draft expert Corey Pronman was singing his praises before the draft:

  • 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.

BIG DEAL. WHAT’S HE DOING NOW?

Good question. Laleggia enters his sophomore season in Denver as a known quality, and as of this writing is tied for the NCAA lead in points by defensemen. He’s 14, 6-8-14 (including 2-6-8 on the powerplay) and seems to be delivering at or above last season’s level.

One area where Laleggia seems to be moving north is shots on goal:

  • 2011-12: 78 shots in 43 games (1.81 shots per game)
  • 2012-13: 40 shots in 14 games (2.86 shots per game)

Laleggia is not going to shoot down the arrows that will no doubt plague him as a pro player. He is undersized and he is going to have a helluva time winning puck battles against men who are 6-8 inches taller and 50+ pounds heavier. Laleggia’s future role if everything works out is probably as a third pairing defender who spends a lot of time 5×4 and 5×3, but if you’ve endured Oiler powerplays over the last 15 seasons then you know Laleggia has a "window of opportunity" to show his stuff–much like MA Bergeron did beginning one decade ago.

SO WHAT?

Joey Laleggia could join a long line of Oiler defensemen who are "offense first" types–Paul Coffey, Reijo Ruotsalainen, the previously mentioned Marc-Andre Bergeron–but there’s a long way to go. Signs of his progress would include an increase in points-per-game (check), shots-on-goal per game (check) and an increase in goals-per-game (check).

A very nice scouting report is available here courtesy Eye on the Future.

 

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Joey Laleggia has all of his cannons pointed in one direction—offense. The Edmonton Oilers drafted him with that in mind, collecting as many offensive weapons as possible to place around the Nuge, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz.

A lot has to happen in order for Laleggia to get there. So far, he’s living up to his end of the bargain.

  • Zack

    Nice write up LT! I was wondering if you were going to write a piece on the 2013 draft anytime soon?

    There has been some movement and it’s always interesting hearing your take. With such a craps shoot on drafting position this year it’s tough to select a group players the Oilers could be targeting. Of course it would be great to add a top five talent but a guy that has been really impressing me lately is Darnell Nurse.

  • NastyNate

    LT,

    Comparable to Jared Spurgeon in Minnesota? Listed at 5’8.

    How many years of college hockey can we expect? I think the NHL nowadays is the most accommodating it has ever been to small players. Given the right opportunity and circumstance smallish d-men can work out. Will that opportunity be in Edmonton where we already have a boat-load of promising D-prospects? Who knows, only time will tell.

    • DSF

      For us oldtimers, another comparable would be Greg Hawgood.

      A lot will depend upon how the other prospects are being viewed when and as Laleggia hits year 3 and 4 of his college career. If the focus is on what he CAN’T DO (size-related), he won’t get a sniff. But if the focus is on what he CAN DO, then he may have a shot.

      IMO a lot will depend upon what the rule-interpretation environment is. There has been considerable erosion in the stance of officiating vis a vis “interference” in the past two seasons, to the point where we are — I believe — @ 75% of the way back to pre-2005/6 clutch and grab levels. As well, a lot of coaches have realized that you can still trap without relying on borderline fouls, as the average size and skating speed of players available for the bottom half of the roster continues to increase.

      We all like underdogs so I expect Joey to be a sympathetic fan favorite. But it remains an odd-against scenario.

  • John Chambers

    In 24 days we celebrate the birth of Baby Nuge. I just put up my diorama of Nuge all innocent and omnipotent, asleep in the manger, flanked by the gangster version of Hall, Ebs, and YakCity, while Schultz tends to the sheep.

    Peace be to all.

  • Lowetide

    Zack: Likely in the next week or so, Canada announces their invites tomorrow and we have Nuge news on the way today.

    In the window now, for sure.

    Nasty: spurgeon would be a very nice comp, think his rep is as a better passer?

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    “Laleggia is not going to shoot down the arrows that will no doubt plague him as a pro player. He is undersized and he is going to have a helluva time winning puck battles against men who are 6-8 inches taller and 50+ pounds heavier. Laleggia’s future role if everything works out is probably as a third pairing defender who spends a lot of time 5×4 and 5×3, but if you’ve endured Oiler powerplays over the last 15 seasons then you know Laleggia has a “window of opportunity” to show his stuff–much like MA Bergeron did beginning one decade ago.”

    My opening question:

    How good does he have to be (let’s say 2-3 years down the road) to outpace a Corey Potter, i.e., another offensive specialist mostly used on the PP, got on the cheap, living on the bubble between the AHL and NHL?

    I mean if Corey Potter can deliver what Laleggia can (plus several inches and pounds) without costing us anything or being tough to find/acquire…

    how much development does a Laleggia need to get over this baseline (let’s call it the Potter Baseline)?

  • Lowetide

    Rom: Corey potter got 16:36 at evens, 51 seconds a game SH and 2.5 minutes a game on the PP–and he delivered 1-10-11 with the man advantage. Plus, Potter is 6.03, 206 so the issue of size isn’t a question.

    I think he’d have to deliver significantly more offensively in order to replace Potter. Putting an exact number on it isn’t something I’m qualified to comment on.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      All the sources I’ve checked list Laleggia c. 5’9″-5’10” and 180-183

      So we are talking a difference of 5-6″ and 23-26 pounds…

      Maybe I misread your comment… but you seem to be saying this difference isn’t relevant… It would seem to me to be highly relevant.

      At any rate, I’m with you here (on both fronts… though even more so on the latter… I have zero competence to decide this matter):

      “I think he’d have to deliver significantly more offensively in order to replace Potter. Putting an exact number on it isn’t something I’m qualified to comment on.”

      I assume he’d have to really explode to usurp a player like Potter, who currently occupies the spot he would naturally take, no? (i.e., 6-7, third pairing, offensive minded guy)

  • 24% body fat

    even in five years dont see how he is on he oil. it is still early but your top 6 likely (if everyone pans out) if not

    Schultz-Klefbom
    Smid-Petry
    Marancin-Musil

    Tuebert, Gernat, Simpson as 7th

    To use him as a pp specialist as a 7th dman I dont see where he goes.

    Klef, Schultz, Marancin, and Gernat all seem to have offensive up side with PP time, and with the forward we have those D will be fighting for D time on the PP with our forwards.

    All that said, no harm in where he was drafted and we dont have another one of this direct type.

  • Klima's Mullet

    Ryan Ellis is 5’10” and 180 lbs…and there was some talk of trading Gagner for him…if Laleggia has a competitive streak he could be a fine prospect and more than a niche player/specialist.

  • The Oil should nost rush him into pro hockey at all. Let him be in college for his full available tenure and if he is still surviving and moving forward as a player then give him a pro contract. Let him play in the minors with players that are pro and bigger than him. See if he can still do what he does and then make him the first call up or 6th dman with powerplay time.

    Chorney was a bad draft choice cause they basically drafted him so high and then played him when he wasnt a good option due to in-experience.

    Small guys make it in the NHL as Dman every year but dont have alot of impact unless they are on the powerplay. This guy seems like a solid option for the powerplay in years to come. No need to rush him cause once hes ready he will be joining Schultz Marincin Petry Gernant Musil and Bigos as they make the flood into the NHL.

    HEY LT!!!!!!!! hopefully that got your attention how is that Gustaffson (not sure on the spelling) doing in Sweden?

  • Wanyes bastard child

    There are dozens of smallish D Men, in the NHL, some outstanding , some not so, But looking at guys like Campbell Flrd. 5.9 185lbs, Zidlicky N.J. 5.11 – 190, Ellis 5.10 -179, White Det. 5l.10 -191, Enstrom Wpg 5.10 179. All pretty good players. Its not always size, but how tough you play,not suggesting the above fit the “tough” category, but are good players in the league.
    The problem with the Oilers, even with their size, there isnt much toughness on the team.
    Peckham, tough, but takes dumb penalties, and Sutton is older and a bit of a marked man cant play his game anymore. Smid is solid but not a tough guy. Theres no one back there that really would make a forecheck think twice about coming in on the zone.
    Laggis still had three more years to grow and develope, too early to say how he turns out.
    Maybe this might be one of the rare long shots the Oilers pick.. ala. Detroit style.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Lowetide: Sadly he didn’t stick around (I thought the odds were slim to begin with) but the show was awesome and he was rocking an Oilers sticker on his laptop 🙂