GLENDALE -- After getting his first taste of professional hockey at the end of last season, Coyotes prospect Lucas Lessio took the ice at the team’s Rookie Camp this weekend looking to prove that he’s ready to be a top-line player at the highest level.
Lessio, who is one of 36 players at this year’s Rookie Camp, is coming off a season in which he was limited to 35 regular-season games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals because of injury. In those games he notched 19 goals and 15 assists. After adding another three points in nine postseason games he then joined the Coyotes’ American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, where he recorded a goal and an assist in five games.
“We didn’t know what to expect, but we got him in a couple of regular-season games and he did enough in those games to warrant some playing time in the playoffs, which meant a guy that had been there all year wasn’t in the lineup,” Portland Head Coach Ray Edwards said. “So, that says quite a bit about him right there.”
Portland was swept in three games in its first-round playoff series against a hot Syracuse squad, but Lessio was able to record two points in those three games and collect valuable professional hockey experience in the process.
“It was a good transition,” said Lessio, whom the Coyotes selected in the second round (56th overall) at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. “In the first couple of games I felt a little uncomfortable but as the third, fourth games started rolling on I found my game. I found what got me there and what makes me successful.”
While Lessio dealt with some of the struggles of making the jump from junior to professional hockey, he said some aspects of the game actually became easier in the AHL.
|Photo by Norm Hall. |
“When you’re in position and you’re open, you’re going to get the pass,” said Lessio, who is attending his second rookie camp. “The guys have such good vision at the professional level; where maybe at junior when you’re open you maybe thought you’d get a pass but maybe the guy didn’t see you or he wasn’t quick enough to make the pass.”
But with a successful end to last season in Lessio’s rear-view mirror, he is now totally focused on taking this year’s Rookie Camp one day at a time.
With the talent pool among the forward prospects having improved in recent seasons with the additions of players such as Henrik Samuelsson and Max Domi, Lessio feels like the compete level has increased and that this year’s camp has more meaning for him.
“I think every year guys get better and the competition becomes a little better, for sure. Two years ago I was still kind of a young kid, it was my first camp, and I was in awe. But this year I’m here for the second time,” Lessio said. “…Definitely the mindset has changed (this time around). I’m a little more focused; you want to do whatever you can to make the best impression.”
Edwards said the key for Lessio this season will be to just stick to his game and use the skills that have made him successful up to this point.
“He’s a big power forward and he’s such a good skater," Edwards said. "He’s got a rocket for a shot. He’s a player that hopefully comes in here and turns some heads and gets an opportunity to play in some games.”