Drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, professional hockey was always a longshot for diminutive defenceman Joey LaLeggia. But while size has always been a concern, his offensive ability has never been questioned. LaLeggia scored 147 points in 114 games with the Penticton Vees of the BCHL before moving on to the University of Denver in his draft year. During his NCAA rookie season, he managed an impressive 38 points (11G, 27A) in 43 games from the backend—good for fourth overall on the team in total point production and first among Denver defenders.
LaLeggia's sophomore and junior seasons saw his offensive totals decline, posting equal and improved goal totals but less assists, but he still led the way among defencemen on both teams. Finally, it took some outstanding production in his senior year—40 points (15A, 25G) in 37 games—to prompt us Copper and Blue staffers to give him his first berth in the Top 25 Under 25.
Here's how the voting panned out for Joey.
LaLeggia's star might be rising at just the right time as he signed a two-year entry level deal with the Oilers at the end of March. While making the Oilers out of training camp is a virtual impossibility for him, he'll battle it out for a spot in the top six on the Bakersfield Condors where he'll have an opportunity to provide some offence and direction on the powerplay. He suited up in five regular season games and two playoff games for the OKC Barons at the end of last season, managing a goal and an assist.
Best case scenario for LaLeggia will be to follow the career path of Torey Krug, the Boston Bruins' standout small fry on the blueline who posted similar numbers in college during his three seasons.
The following chart shows each players' point-per-game production in each of their college seasons. In brackets is the percentage of their teams' goals that they got a point on. The following individual numbers are from EliteProspects.com while team totals are from HockeyDB.com.
|DOB||Height||Weight||Ppg (College1)||Ppg (College2)||Ppg (College3)||Ppg (College4)||AHL (Rookie)|
|Torey Krug||1991-04-12||5’9"||181 lbs.||0.55 (18%)||0.74 (29%)||0.89 (31%)||N/A||0.71|
|Joey LaLeggia||1992-06-24||5’9"||183 lbs.||0.88 (27%)||0.74 (22%)||0.65 (22%)||1.08 (31%)||N/A|
Krug transitioned smoothly from college to the AHL where he spent a season with the Providence Bruins in 2012-2013 before joining the Bruins full time for the past two NHL seasons. As Jonathan Willis points out in his evaluation of the Condors' depth chart for the upcoming season, LaLeggia is still no lock to make the AHL out of training camp, and could start the 2015-2016 season in the ECHL.
This upcoming season will tell us a lot about how LaLeggia might fit into the organization's plans going forward. His production at the NCAA level suggests he has the ability to contribute despite being well on the smaller side, and If he can maintain his level of offensive play over 55+ games at the AHL level, you'll likely see Joey climb even higher in the next edition of these rankings.