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FUTURE WATCH | LaLeggia switching it up

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.

A single goal in hockey can have a number of meanings on the rink. It can be the icebreaker, the equalizer or the tiebreaker; it can be the difference between a team winning and a team losing.

In Joey LaLeggia’s case, a single goal was the spark that ignited his love for the game.

“I was five years old and I was playing hockey in Markham, ON,” said LaLeggia. “My dad said I didn’t really like it at first and then I scored my first goal and after that I loved it.”

Riding that scoring high, the 5-foot-9, 182-pound defenceman with the Bakersfield Condors has been making waves in hockey ever since, sharing his father’s passion for the game.

“I remember going to watch [my dad] play — he was just playing men’s league —when I was younger, and he would take me to Canucks games…and I just fell in love with the game and started playing at a pretty young age,” he said.

Selected by the Oilers in the fifth round (123rd overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft, the 23-year-old has been focussed on settling into his first full AHL season with the Condors.

“It’s a little different. I mean my situation is a lot different than most people because I’ve been playing two positions, so it’s a little bit of a surprise, every time I go to the rink, where I’m going to be that day,” he said.

With the Condors forced to make adjustments to their lineups due to player injuries and Oilers recalls, LaLeggia has taken on a new role this year as an extra wingman after he was proposed the chance.

“I was watching video clips with J.F. [Houle], the assistant coach, and Gerry was shuffling the lines around on the board and he asked me if I had ever played forward before and he asked if he could use me up there every once in a while if we needed it,” he explained.

“And then we had some injuries come about and some guys got called up and we had eight healthy defencemen and I think we had 10 or 11 healthy forwards and he asked if I would help out up front. I did and he liked me there ever since.”

A defenceman for the majority of his hockey career, LaLeggia said he didn’t shy away from the opportunity that lay before him.

“I always wanted to play forward when I was younger but my coaches and dad made me play defence because they said I was a good passer and, contrary to popular belief, I was actually taller than everyone else when I was younger, until I was about age 11 or 12.”

Photo by Mark Nessia / Bakersfield Condors.

A childhood dream come true? Maybe. Regardless of how LaLeggia views it, the chance to make an impact on the ice and help his team succeed is what he says he values most.

“I’m taking it positively and I’m using it to kind of build my game in a couple of different areas and if versatility is what the coaches want from me to help our team win, then that’s alright with me,” he said.

Laleggia’s candidacy for the opportunity to change positions on the ice isn’t one that comes around to many players, nor is it one that can be filled by just anyone.

A puck-moving defenceman, the offensive blueliner has been described as a player that has above average hockey sense and processes the game at a very high rate. Paired with his fluid skating and ability to quarterback the power play portrays potential for the line change and his ability to adapt to it.

“It’s [a] completely different [position], it’s just a different game. You have to look at the game and think the game a lot differently,” he said.

He’s found a rhythm with his teammates, he says, who have been big contributors in helping him transition into the new position.

“I don’t find it to be all that difficult actually,” said an open and honest LaLeggia.

“Not to boast but I’ve been playing with pretty good players — I’ve been playing with Kyle Platzer and Greg Chase a lot — those guys make it pretty easy on me, and whenever I have a question I can just ask one of them and they’ll tell me exactly where to go or where to be. That comfort levels been awesome and we’ve been scoring a lot recently as well and that’s also made it a lot better.”

LaLeggia’s ability to adjust quickly may attribute to his first taste of the AHL 2014-15 season with the team — the then Barons — having had to report to Oklahoma City towards the tail-end of their season, after completing his senior year playing with the University of Denver Pioneers.

Photo Getty Images.

“The style of play was completely different, so that did take a couple games to adjust to, but once I adjusted I felt pretty comfortable,” he said.

LaLeggia scored one goal, added one assist for two points in the last five games that season.

“We had a great group last year…everybody was really good with me and really helped me to get comfortable pretty quickly. And I was familiar with a lot of the guys here from recent development camps and older friendships so that made it a little easier as well.”

Back from the holiday break, the Condors picked up from their 11-11-2-1 record and won two in a row — looking to make it a straight three on Saturday.

“We’ve been pretty good lately and I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence and guys are starting to get back and get healthier, so I think we’re only going to get better and it’s pretty exciting,” said LaLeggia.

The blueliner-turned-winger has so far potted three goals, added eight assists for 11 points in 27 games this season.

An unforeseen season of injuries has prepared the Condors players to expect the unexpected, something that LaLeggia has experience in during his tenure with his Denver team.

“My third year — my junior year — we won our MCHC Championship,” he said. “If we didn’t win those playoffs we would not have made the national tournament, so I think that was my most proud day just because nobody expected us to come out of that league, which is the best league in college, and we ended up doing that.”

Now, LaLeggia is poised to make an impact and help the Condors climb the standings, regardless of the position he is placed in on the rink.

“Even with a depleted lineup, we’re still a pretty good team and we play the game hard and we really stick to our systems and we believe in each other and it’s been working as of late,” he said.

“We have a pretty tough division down here, all the teams are big and strong and fast and it really takes a team effort to win in this division.”

Statistics For In The System Through Past Seasons: 14-15 | 13-14 | 12-13 | 11-12
Stats Updated as of Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bakersfield (AHL) - Forwards


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
GREG CHASE C 20 15 1 5 6 +3 15
BRADEN CHRISTOFFER LW 21 23 1 3 4 -7 46
JOSH CURRIE C 23 15 3 1 4 +1 21
LEON DRAISAITL C 20 6 1 1 2 -5 4
MATTHEW FORD*   RW 31 25 13 9 22 +1 28
RYAN HAMILTON   LW 30 25 8 5 13 -2 13
KELLEN JONES   LW 25 1 0 0 0 -1 2
ZACK KASSIAN   RW 24 - - - - - -
KALE KESSY   LW 23 25 5 4 9 +6 45
JUJHAR KHAIRA   LW 21 16 3 4 7 -1 7
ALEXIS LOISEAU   C 21 12 1 2 3 +1 2
ANDREW MILLER   RW/C 27 21 7 12 19 0 10
MITCH MOROZ   LW 21 21 2 3 5 0 48
PHILIP MCCRAE* C 25 9 2 0 2 -4 4
IIRO PAKARINEN   RW 24 4 1 2 3 0 4
TYLER PITLICK   RW 24 7 0 0 0 0 0
KYLE PLATZER RW 20 27 5 7 12 -2 8
MARC-OLIVIER ROY* C 21 13 2 0 2 -3 4
ANTON SLEPYSHEV LW 21 19 4 1 5 -9 12
JOSH WINQUIST   LW 22 8 3 4 7 +3 20
BOGDAN YAKIMOV   C/W 21 19 3 4 7 -5 8
DANIIL ZHARKOV (INJURED)
LW 21 - - - - - -
Bakersfield (AHL) - Defencemen


Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM
MARK FAYNE   d 28 4 0 1 1 0 4
MARTIN GERNAT   d 22 15 0 2 2 3 6
brad hunt   D 27 26 6 17 23 -6 8
JOEY LALEGGIA   D 23 27 3 8 11 +10 20
DAVID MUSIL D 22 26 3 2 5 +3 21
NIKITA NIKITIN   D 29 14 1 8 9 -7 0
DARNELL NURSE   D 20 6 0 1 1 0 7
JORDAN OESTERLE   d 23 19 0 9 9 -3 6
NICK PAGEAU   D 27 12 0 1 1 -5 2
GRIFFIN REINHART   D 21 7 0 4 4 -1 8
DILLON SIMPSON
D 22 17 0 4 4 -1 2
Norfolk (ECHL)


Name POS age    GP G A P +/- PIM
BEN BETKER D 21 31 1 9 10 -2 19
GREG CHASE F 20 10 4 2 6 -3 18
Canadian Hockey League
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
CALEB JONES  D 18 34 6 20 26 +1 33 PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS (WHL)
ETHAN BEAR  D 18 34 11 25 36   +5 20 SEATTLE THUNDERBIRDS (WHL)
NCAA & USHL
Name POS age  GP G A   P +/- PIM team
EVAN CAMPBELL   LW 21 17 2  4 6 0 14 UMASS-LOWELL (NCAA)
WILLIAM LAGESSON
D 19 18 2 4 6 -2 14 UMASS-AMHERST (NCAA)
JOHN MARINO d 18 23 1 11 12 +4 14 TRI-CITY (USHL)
AIDAN MUIR LW 20 16 1 2 3 -8 8 WESTERN MICHIGAN (NCAA)
TYLER VESEL   C 21 18 2 10 12 +2 9 NEBRASKA-OMAHA (NCAA)
Europe
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
ROMAN HORAK C 24 42 8 11 19 -4 26 CHEKHOV VITYAZ (KHL)
PHILIP LARSEN   D 25 37 6 19 25 +11 8 JOKERIT HELSINKI (KHL)
ZIYAT PAIGIN  F 20 22 6 10 16 +1 4 KAZAN AK-BARS (KHL)
ANTTI TYRVAINEN  F 26 2 2 0 2 +3 4 FARJESTADS BK KARLSTAD (Sweden)
  13 5 1 6 +1 53 ILVES TAMPERE (finland)
2016 World Junior Hockey Championships
Name POS age GP G A P +/- PIM team
WILLIAM LAGESSON
D 19 2 0 1 1 +1 2 SWEDEN
Goaltenders
Name age GP w l T GAA SV% team
KEVEN BOUCHARD   19 1 1 0 0 2.00 .929 MONCTON WILDCATS (qmjHL)
  21 4 13 2 3.97 .872 baie-comeau (qmjHL)
LAURENT BROSSOIT 22 16 10 4 1 2.47 .928 bakersfield (AHL)
EETU LAURIKAINEN 22 1 0 1 0 4.02 .818 BAKERSFIELD (AHL)
8 3 5 0 2.16 .920 HPK HAMEENLINNA (FINLAND)
ZACH NAGELVOORT   21 9 5 2 1 3.14 .888 michigan (ncaa)
MIROSLAV SVOBODA   20 1 0 1 0 6.00 .750 TRINEC OCELARI (CZECH)
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