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DeAngelo hopes to earn roster spot with Lightning

by Corey Long

BRANDON, Fla. -- Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo continues to be one of the most talked-about prospects with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A first-round pick (No. 19) in the 2014 NHL Draft, DeAngelo is expected to begin his first season as a professional with Syracuse of the American Hockey League, but the 19-year-old from Sewell, N.J., hopes that a strong training camp gives the Lightning a harder decision to make.

Before training camp starts next week, DeAngelo will join 22 other Lightning prospects in a four-day tournament in Estero, Fla., that begins Saturday. Prospects from the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and Nashville Predators are also participating.

DeAngelo is looking at the tournament as a chance to make a quick first impression.

"[I want to] get off to a hot start and carry that right into camp," DeAngelo said. "And try to go out there every camp practice and play hard and hopefully play in some preseason games and show them how I played last year."

Last season, DeAngelo split time with Sarnia and Sault Ste. Marie of the Ontario Hockey League. His focus was improving his defensive play while not sacrificing his offensive talents, and he went from a minus-34 rating in 2013-14 to plus-33 last season. Although much of that can be credited to the trade from Sarnia to Sault Ste. Marie, DeAngelo was plus-1 in his 29 games with the Sting.

"It was a lot of different things," DeAngelo said. "Me playing better defensively helped, being in a better team structure and being on a better team helped. I don't really take much credit for that on my own, I think I did a nice job defensively, but plus/minus sometimes is an individual effort but also a whole team effort."

DeAngelo continued his stellar offensive play with 25 goals and 64 assists and won the Max Kaminsky Trophy as the OHL's most outstanding defenseman and Defenseman of the Year for the entire Canadian Hockey League. He credited his improvement to maturing as a player and preparing better for each game.

"I think just getting better as a player, learning the league a bit more," DeAngelo said. "Also just being more consistent, having the same kind of night every night, that was one of the biggest things. In the majority of the games this year I thought I played pretty good. The numbers, I created a lot of offense but I had a lot other guys creating offense with me."

DeAngelo is a smooth skater and strong with the puck on his stick. His speed and skill compares well with many of the Lightning's top players. After participating in the Lightning's prospect camp in July, DeAngelo said he took about two weeks off the ice before getting into his summer program.

"I just kept training like usual," DeAngelo said. "Getting on the ice two, three, four times a week depending on the week. Just trying to get in the best shape possible for camp."

DeAngelo admits the transition from junior to professional hockey is a major one; he just wants to do his part to keep up with the faster game and the increased level of action around him.

"I haven't had much experience playing the pro level so first and foremost getting adept to the game and speed and the players around you," DeAngelo said. "And secondly, being able to make sure I can defend well. That's the most important thing."

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