Defenceman Joey LaLeggia and the Oilers agreed to terms on Tuesday to a two-year entry level contract. LaLeggia was chosen in the fifth round (123rd overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He has spent four years with the University of Denver Pioneers.
LaLeggia spoke for the first time, since the news broke this morning, on Oilers Now with Bob Stauffer.
“I’m extremely excited and honoured to be a part of the organization,” said LaLeggia. “I just can’t thank my teammates and coaches from Denver enough for what they’ve done for me over the last four years. It’s just really great to have an opportunity to come down here to the United States to play hockey when maybe the WHL wasn’t exactly suited for me. I can’t thank my teammates and coaches enough.”
LaLeggia has had a much-decorated career with the Pioneers. He is a Hobey Baker finalist and was named NCHC Player of the Year, Defenceman of the Year and Offensive Defenceman of the Year.
He is clearly offensively inclined, having put up 132 points in 156 games during his collegiate career. Where he has been told to improve, from his freshman year to today, is his defensive game.
“There has always been an emphasis on me to get my defensive game to the level it needs to be in order to be successful in professional hockey and that was something that they did talk to me about in the summers and we did work on, on the ice,” said LaLeggia. “There were a lot of 2-on-1 work and things like that. Just little tips that are going to help you become a better pro.”
Jim Montgomery has spent the past two seasons as University of Denver’s head coach. LaLeggia says he has been a big part of him becoming a better overall player.
“I think Jim Montgomery is key to where I am today in my hockey career, especially with the opportunity I got today with the Oilers,” he said. “When he came in two years ago, he knew that there were holes in my game, especially in the defensive side. He’s a very detail-oriented coach and he did a great job spending time preparing me to get ready at the pro level over the last two years.”
LaLeggia told Stauffer that he will eventually play for the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League on an ATO to close out this season. His entry level contract kicks in on July 1.