I have been thinking about prospect Joey Laleggia lately, about his skill set, his recent move from defense to left wing, and about his future in hockey. My guess is that hockey men, in more colourful language than I will use here, will suggest Laleggia is going to peak out as a solid AHL player, maybe getting a few NHL games.
From a math point of view, which disregards things like player size, checking ability and utility, there may be a case for this player as a legit NHL prospect. Let’s run his numbers beginning January 1 through today:
- 28gp, 13-8-21
Over a full AHL season, that’s a 32-goal pace (the Condors play 68 games) and an NHL equivalency of 17 goals. If we scan the Condors depth chart for scoring wingers with NHL potential, how many men are going to score at that level? Jesse Puljujarvi should deliver substantial offense in the NHL, and is 17gp, 7-9-16 since pitchers and catchers reported in February. After that, among pro prospects? Anton Lander isn’t considered a strong option or he would be in Edmonton, and we could discuss Anton Slepyshev but he’s an Oiler currently, too.
The Oilers don’t feel they’ve had the portsider who could fully exploit Gretzky’s playmaking genius. Many have tried. Mark Messier was an all-star left winger, but not as Gretzky’s partner. Burly Dave Semenko was useful in protecting Gretzky from harm, but he was an awkward skater. (Barry) Fraser went back to Finland in search of the right guy. –Jim Proudfoot, NHL Hockey Annual 1984-85
The player they found, and the prospect who received a push in the fall of 1984, was Raimo Summanen. He didn’t click on 99’s wing and he didn’t have a long NHL career, although Summanen was skilled and had a productive pro career. Summanen was a sixth-round pick, so expecting him to be a star was a dream, but I can tell you that Barry Fraser had worked enough magic 1979-84 at the draft table that it was easy to believe.
Interesting then that fall 1984 saw another young Finn, who had been drafted in the fourth round in 1983, would begin that season in Helsinki and end it playing the portside in Edmonton. Esa Tikkanen, possibly the most unique hockey personality in the game’s history, didn’t get a mention in Mr. Proudfoot’s book. He did win a job on LW with the Oilers and did play some with 99 and Kurri.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
When we talk about potential NHL players who are currently in the minors, it is important to remember that the really skilled guys never stop in the AHL. That said, the Oilers are going to need inexpensive scoring talent in the near future, and since January 1 Joey Legs has been putting some solid bullet points on his resume.
As mentioned above, my bet is hockey men would talk about compete and size and all of the barriers that time has taught us exist. For me, those 13 goals in 28 games have a story to tell, and in today’s cap world inexpensive guys who can score deserve a second or even third look.
Will Joey Laleggia have an NHL career? Odds favor no. However, he is an outstanding skater, a fine passer and he has shown an ability to score goals. Edmonton is going to need value scorers, and the absence of alternatives clears the mind. On the prospects tree, he is behind Jesse Puljujarvi and Anton Slepyshev among scoring-wingers who have spent time in Bakersfield this season. Maybe Patrick Russell or Greg Chase or Kyle Platzer develop, but the most interesting scoring prospect in the minors right now is Joey Laleggia and he is forcing his way into the conversation.
I’m not saying this is the new Conor Sheary, but this is a player worth monitoring. Pretty sure.
Photo by Mark Williams, all rights reserved.