|(above) Edmonton Oilers star Ryna Nugent-Hopkins at the NHL Draft this weekend|
by Jonathan Willis
The Edmonton Oilers drafted University of Denver defenseman Joey Laleggia in the 5th Round on Saturday.
Laleggia is an overage player who spent 2011-12 in college hockey after playing in the BCHL for the last few years. Bob Stauffer pointed out that Laleggia is also a close friend of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and that Nugent-Hopkins is a big believer in his ability to be a professional player.
Laleggia put up big numbers in the BCHL and really impressed in college hockey this year, scoring 11 goals and 38 points in 43 games. He played in all situations – including scoring while his team was shorthanded – and posted the best plus/minus on the Pioneers’ blue line. The bulk of his scoring came at even-strength – just 15 of those 38 points were power play production.
Corey Pronman had Laleggia ranked inside his top-100, and describes him (in part) this way:
"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."
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.