Draft year for any hockey player can be very stressful and nerve-wracking.
Will I get drafted?
|Flames 3rd round (73rd overall) 2010 draft pick, Joey Leach. |
Was I good enough this year to get noticed? Where, if anywhere, will I go?
For Joey Leach
, this was not the case. He had no expectations.
“At the start of the season, I never really thought about it at all," Leach said about his draft eligible season.
Leach added: "But closer to the end of the season, it was always in the back of my mind. I didn't worry about it a whole bunch because that happened (NHL draft) after your season was over, so you just have to worry about your season."
Leach began playing hockey with his older brother in their hometown of Widena, Saskatchewan, at the age of three. Their father Lyle, also grew up playing the game and began coaching the two boys at a young age through to Midget AAA. His father was a huge influence and had the biggest impact on his hockey career.
|GET TO KNOW JOEY LEACH |
Q: Who is your favourite NHL player?
A: Nicklas Lidstrom
Q: Favorite team growing up?
A: Detroit Red Wings
Q: Any special reason you wear #24?
A: No reason that I wear this number it just got given to me when I got here.
Q: Do you have any game day rituals or superstitions?
A: A few of us play a ball game around the rink before a game but other than that I don’t have too many superstitions.
Q: Where is the coolest place you've ever been?
A: Went down to California we drove down there when I was so I got to see a lot of the country. Saw a lot of the states so it was pretty cool.
Q: What is on your iPod right now?
A: Country music. I like Brad Paisley.
Q: Favourite WHL rink to play in?
A: Medicine Hat for the environment there and I also like to play at home in Kootenay. Calgary also has some pretty intense fans to play against.
“My dad grew up playing hockey too and that’s who got me started into it so early,” said Leach. “(I was) playing with my brother at the same time so most of the time our dad was the coach. He was always there for me.”
Leach played for the Tisdale Trojans Midget (Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League) before being drafted by the Kootenay Ice in the 3rd round (64th overall) of the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft.
The following season, (2008-09) Leach played 12 games in the WHL for the Ice. He then returned to his Midget AAA club and compiled three goals and 26 assists in 42 games.
The big, 6-foot-4, 194-pound defenceman, played his first full WHL season last year. He recorded three goals and 23 assists in 70 games. He posted 77 penalty minutes and finished with a plus-minus +33 rating.
Scouts who came to watch the Kootenay Ice started to notice Leach more and more, and liked what they saw.
“He’s a guy who just got better and better as the year went on," said Flames scout Tod Button. "The more we went in to watch (Maxwell) Reinhart, the more this guy’s name came up. Big guy. Tough kid. He played as the fifth-sixth defenceman there and ended up with 30 points. I wouldn’t call him a puck rusher, but he does follow the play up the ice.”
Leach’s name was called in the third round (73rd overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames. He went unranked by Central Scouting mid-way through the season but by the end was sitting in 120th spot.
“I was watching with some family on TV,” Leach said when he heard his name called. “We had talked to Calgary a little bit throughout the year but I had no clue what was going to happen, but I was very excited when I heard my name called.
“I didn’t think about anywhere to go, I just thought about going somewhere hopefully, and I was so happy to come to such a great city to play hockey in Calgary.”
Leach was selected just nine spots after his Kootenay Ice teammate Maxwell Reinhart
“I had sent him a message congratulating him,” Leach said. “Then he sent me one back, asking if it was true, if we had both just been drafted to the same team. It’s pretty exciting to have somebody you know right there with ya.”
Leach is a defenceman that has a reputation to be a good shutdown guy who plays well on the penalty kill. He brings more of a big, physical game to his team than an offensive game.
“I’m a big d-man,” Leach said. “A defensive defenceman, and I care about the penalty kill and defensive zone a lot.”
Since the NHL draft in June, Leach says things have calmed down and he is very focused on the success of the Kootenay Ice as well as continuing to develop and improve certain aspects of his game. He is already off to a great start this season with three goals and 11 points in 21 games, and is a +12 so far.
“It was pretty crazy to start with, but it settled down after we got here (Calgary) for the summer camp.” explained Leach. “Everything started to set in. Everything started to go back to normal, as normal as things could be I guess, for being drafted here.”
Looking down the road, to play professional hockey doesn’t seem too out of reach for Leach. The next step is right around the corner. That step, however, is the biggest step of any hockey player’s career.
“It’ll take just a few years to get used to what you have to be to play with the Flames,” said Leach of getting to the next level. “Then work from that to hopefully be there in a few years.”