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.
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.