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Leveille puts Golden Horseshoe League on the map

by Adam Schwartz

Not many hockey fans have heard of the Golden Horseshoe League. Daultan Leveille could help make a name for the lesser-known circuit. 

Leveille, selected No. 29 in the 2008 Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, played with the St. Catharines Falcons of the GHL rather than the Ontario Hockey League. He was drafted by the Ottawa 67's, but wanted to keep his U.S. college options open; that precluded playing in the OHL, which would have made him ineligible for NCAA hockey.

"He is a great, fast-form skater. He almost single-handedly took the St. Catharines Falcons further than a lot of teams would have expected."
-- NHL Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire talking about Daultan Leveille

The only player to be drafted directly from a GHL team and make the NHL is former New Jersey Devils enforcer Krysztof Oliwa, a native of Poland who was taken in the third round of the 1993 draft after one season in the league; Leveille, who relies on speed and skill, is the complete opposite of Oliwa on the ice.

Leveille led the Falcons with 29 goals and was third on the team with 56 points in 45 games during the regular season. Leveille then put St. Catharines on his shoulders during the playoffs, leading the team with 30 points and carrying them to Game 7 of the GHL championship series. Leveille produced despite suffering a leg injury during the final series.

"It's hard, but you have to realize it's all mental and you have to try and get past that,” Leveille told the St. Catharines Standard. "That's what takes you to the next level, playing through all the injuries and stuff like that."

Leveille likes to think he is helping pave the way for more players to come from St. Catharines and the GHL.

"It feels great helping out my hometown city," Leveille said. "Maybe it will open the door for future players and scouts will have a little more respect for the league."

Though Leveille is small at 5-foot-11 and 163 pounds, his strength is his skating and his offensive ability.

"He is a small, skilled quarterback on the power play-type player who might be a candidate at any hockey school as the example 'how to skate' player," NHL Central Scouting Director E.J. McGuire said. "He is a great, fast-form skater. He almost single-handedly took the St. Catharines Falcons further than a lot of teams would have expected."

McGuire believes Leveille's rise is a surprise, but a lot of NHL scouts have taken notice of him — even though he plays in the lower-level GHL.

"Daultan is a wonderful surprise who comes out of the St. Catharines Falcons program that never before has produced an NHL Draft pick," McGuire said. "There has been a lot of interest in him this year, and he has performed well in front of NHL scouts."

Leveille will spend the 2008-09 season at Michigan State, which could provide the perfect environment because he won't be asked to provide quite as much offense as he is with the Falcons. This should help him concentrate on his defensive play; like most young forwards, Leveille has to improve his play in his own end.

"Because he was depended on by his team to be such an offensive contributor, it stands to reason that his defensive side of the game needs to improve," McGuire said. "Yet he effectively killed penalties, and his skating and skills would lead me to believe that as he makes the next step towards Michigan State, he'll continue to improve that part of his game with good coaching and experience."

Leveille feels that preparing for a big game in the right manner is integral to his success.

"It's all preparation," he told the Welland Tribune. "I feel I got prepared better for the game. I got up earlier and got a good meal in and I felt better before the game and had a good warmup."

The Thrashers, who haven't won a playoff series since entering the NHL in 1999, are preparing for the future. Leveille and center Bryan Little, who was drafted No. 12 in 2006, will be counted on to provide offense in the future for Atlanta, which currently has just one forward, Todd White, signed beyond the 2009-10 season.

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