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DeAngelo followed unique path to Sarnia

by Adam Kimelman

Watching Sarnia Sting defenseman Anthony DeAngelo with the puck on his stick, you can tell he's not the most patient player.

That carries over to his off-ice life as well, which is a big reason the Sewell, N.J., native made his way to Sarnia in the first place.

It's turned into a strong move, as DeAngelo has blossomed into one of the top offensive defensemen in the Ontario Hockey League and one of the top prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft.

"Obviously he's a very, very dynamic player offensively," Sarnia coach Trevor Letowski told "He's really a threat as far as being a defenseman. He's able to create offense not just on the power play, but at 5-on-5 he's a threat. The other thing that really sticks out is he's a really passionate player. That's when he's at his best. He sometimes walks a fine line. He competes so hard, he wants to win, he wants to be the difference out there. It's been fun for me to watch him develop."

It's been an interesting path for him to Sarnia.


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DeAngelo excelled playing for the Mercer Chiefs hockey organization growing up in southern New Jersey. He had 31 goals and 60 points in 29 games in 2008-09, which drew the attention of the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League, who selected DeAngelo in the 15th round of the 2010 USHL draft.

Moving away from home at age 15 was tough, but it didn't appear to affect DeAngelo's play on the ice, as he had 15 points in 28 games.

The Sarnia scouting staff was paying attention, and used a second-round pick in the 2011 OHL draft to select DeAngelo.

"I had just come in at that point," Letowski said. "I was an assistant coach. He was highly touted I think back then. The risk was … nobody was sure if he was going to come to the league. I remember that. I remember sitting at the draft table, we were excited to get him."

That left DeAngelo with a pretty big decision: continue playing in the USHL with the potential for an invitation to play for the United States National Team Development Program and then play college hockey, or make the jump to the rigors of the OHL.

For DeAngelo, though, it was an easy call.

"I would have had to wait a while for college because I'm a late birthday," he told "I didn't feel like waiting three or four years to play college hockey. I figured I've already played one year of junior, just take the next step in a better league."

It hasn't always been easy, but it's certainly been successful.

As a rookie in 2011-12 he had 23 points in 68 games but a minus-7 rating. More comfortable in the league last season, he had 58 points to finish third among the league's defensemen.

"It took me a while," DeAngelo said of getting adjusted to the play in the OHL. "Maybe 15, 20 games before I started getting power-play time and was able to do what I do. After that it was easy the last two years. Just go out and play."

This season he's rocketed out of the gate with six goals and 15 assists in 14 games. He leads all OHL defensemen with 21 points and has six multi-point games -- three straight to start the season and a four-point game Oct. 17 against the Saginaw Spirit. He has at least one point in 12 of his 14 games.

"Anthony is a skilled offensive defenseman," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told "His puck skill and playmaking ability are excellent. He sees the ice very well and creates offensive scoring chances with great passes. He has a very good shot and gets it on net. Likes to jump up into the rush. He normally makes good decisions with the puck; however he gets himself into trouble when he over-handles the puck."

DeAngelo said he's tried to focus on improving his defensive play this season. He's a minus-6, which at least is better than his minus-13 mark last season.

"The last two years I've been good offensively, but I am a defenseman, so I think I need to improve my defensive game," he said. "If I can do that it'll be much better. I'm just trying to listen to what people say when they tell me to improve things."

DeAngelo said the biggest things being imparted on him by Letowski and Sarnia assistant coach Andy Delmore, who oversees the defensemen, is stick position, angles and knowing when to jump into the play offensively.

Delmore was an offensive-minded defenseman during his seven-season NHL career. He had 101 points in 258 regular-season games, and with the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2000 Stanley Cup Playoffs he became the first rookie defenseman with a hat trick in a postseason game. However, Delmore was a minus-36 in his NHL career.

"He needs to consistently be good on the defensive side, because I think that's what people at the end of the day are watching," Letowski said of DeAngelo. "[Scouts] are convinced of what he can do offensively at this point. He's gotten better. We're trying to get him to pick his spots just a little bit more but at the same time not take away his creativity. So far he's been pretty good on both sides."

"I challenged him in the summer and before the season. I knew he was going to be a leader on this team. I wanted him to be. He's really risen to the occasion."
-- Sarnia Sting coach Trevor Letowski

Letowski said as impressive as DeAngelo's play has been, his maturity has been just as important in his development as well as the team's success. Letowski named DeAngelo an alternate captain this season, and the player has taken the responsibility to heart.

"I challenged him in the summer and before the season," Letowski said. "I knew he was going to be a leader on this team. I wanted him to be. He's really risen to the occasion and really stepped up. Not just on the ice, but off of it. It's been nice to watch as a coach.

"It was a challenge for him. I knew he was going to be an important player for us on the ice. We have a young group. I knew he was going to play important minutes for us. That's what the challenge was for him: Is he ready for it? He came into training camp with a totally different mindset. He's in a great place right now. He's working hard [and] he deserves everything he's been given."

The next thing that could be available to him is a spot on the United States' team that goes to Malmo, Sweden, for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship. DeAngelo attended a USA Hockey summer evaluation camp, and while he was cut early in the process, his strong start likely will earn him strong consideration.

"I just try to do what I do and play my best and hopefully I get a chance to make the team," he said.

And then there's the draft, to be held at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, about a 25-minute drive from where he grew up. However, he's trying to be patient enough to not look too far in the future.

"I was at the [2013] draft," he said. "I thought about it. It was cool to watch a lot of guys I know get drafted [but] I don't really think about it. Maybe I'll think about it halfway through the year or towards the end of the year, but for now it's too far away. I just play and that's it."


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