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FEATURE: Elburn-native Stefanos Lekkas looks to impress hometown club

Off to a stellar NCAA career and Chicago roots, free agent hopes to stand out at Blackhawks Development Camp

by Austin Siegel / Blackhawks.com

Stefanos Lekkas has heard the jokes. 

"There are definitely some other players who are part Greek," he said after the second day of Blackhawks Development Camp. "Chelios is obviously a big name in Chicago, so I would always get poked fun at when I was little kid by some parents throwing Chris Chelios stories out there."

He doesn't have a contract with the Blackhawks and some fans might only notice Lekkas with his green and gold Vermont goalie pads during practice at Fifth Third Arena. But with Chicago roots that run deep, the Elburn native isn't just another prospect trying to catch the Blackhawks eye at this week's Development Camp.

"My Dad loved hockey growing up in Chicago and watching the Hawks play at the old stadium. He just brought it into our house when we were growing up," Lekkas said. "My brothers and I just kind of took it and ran with it."

In fact, Lekkas has taken it from the Chicago Mission to the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL and a three-year collegiate career with the Vermont Catamounts of NCAA's Hockey East. 

A Mike Richter Award finalist as one of the top goalies in college hockey, Lekkas was also a Hockey East Second Team All-Star with the Catamounts this season. On a team that finished near the bottom of the division, Lekkas was brilliant with a 2.27 GAA and .930 SV%. He turned in two 48-save games against Michigan and Colorado College this season and registered 30 or more saves in 23 games for the Catamounts.

"Throughout the year, the Blackhawks showed some interest in me and I got the invite [to Development Camp] a little bit later in the summer. I was obviously thrilled and honored," Lekkas said. "There is room for goalies in their system and I was happy to come down here and show my progression over the years."

Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, Lekkas said he remembers attending games at the United Center before the team's first Stanley Cup win in 2010. 

"Most of my Hawks memories actually revolve around an empty building," Lekkas said. "It was before Kane, before Toews and then obviously the organization kept growing and getting bigger. I was a fan throughout the whole thing."

Lekkas left Chicago on a full-time basis in 2014 to begin his Junior career. Since starting school in 2016, the 6-foot, 180-pound goalie has faced off against numerous current NHL players before they made the jump he soon hopes to make. He made a highlight reel save on Bruins star Charlie McAvoy his freshman year and even matched up against a former free agent camp invitee, now current Blackhawks goalie, Collin Delia during his freshman season. 

Tweet from @JackMyNBC5: Another game, another ridiculous Stefanos Lekkas save in a @UVMmhockey win -- this time on Boston Bruins 2016 1st round pick Charlie McAvoy. pic.twitter.com/3gUl1Ml5ON

"We're two completely different types of goalies. I'm much smaller so I have to rely on my quickness and skating." Lekkas said. "It's tough to compare myself to him, but he went through this process and signed as a free agent. So, there are some comparisons to the route I'm trying to take."

With interest from other NHL teams, Lekkas also joined the Florida Panthers for their Development Camp earlier this summer. He will return to Vermont for his senior season in the fall with eyes on free agency in 2020. But for now, Lekkas is just a kid from Elburn with an Illinois license plate painted on the back of his goalie mask. 

"It's cool to come back with my family here watching," he said. "To put on the logo and get to wear the Hawks emblem for the first time in my life."

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