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.
The Oilers have announced they have agreed to terms with defenceman Joey LaLeggia on a two-year entry level contract.
The 22-year-old played in 37 games this season at the University of Denver in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. He recorded 40 points (15-25-40), 56 penalty minutes and a plus 14 rating.
LaLeggia is a top ten finalist for the 2015 Hobey Baker Award. He was named the NCHC Player of the Year, the NCHC Defenceman of the Year, as well as the Offensive Defenceman of the Year. He was the NCHC Defensive Scoring Champion by a margin of 13 points.
He was named the NCHC Player of the Month twice and the NCHC Defenceman of the Weeks five times this season.
Denver Head Coach Jim Montgomery said, “he’s the most dominant player in the best conference in college hockey.”
LaLeggia, a native of Burnaby, B.C., accumulated 132 points (49-83-132) in 156 games, over four seasons with the Pioneers. He helped his team reach the NCAA Regional Finals this season.
It has been a successful career for LaLeggia, who was the WCHA Rookie of the Year in 2011-12, earning numerous accolades as a freshman. He was also the NCHC Defenceman of the Year and Offensive Defenceman of the Year last season, before duplicating the results this year.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound blueliner was selected by the Oilers in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft (123rd overall).
Pouliot - RNH - Eberle
Purcell - Roy - Yakupov
Hall - Lander - Miller
Gazdic - Klinkhammer - Fraser
VIDEO: Saturday's Practice | RAW: Nelson | RAW: Gazdic | RAW: Fraser | RAW: Klinkhammer
AUDIO: Todd Nelson | Luke Gazdic | Matt Fraser | Rob Klinkhammer
Nikita Nikitin was a new absentee for Oilers practice on Saturday. He took a shot off the foot last night in a 4-0 win over Dallas.
“He’s day to day. He’s making the trip with us, we’ll see how he is tomorrow and we’ll make decision then,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “He took a shot off the foot, it’s a bone bruise so we’ll have to see how it reacts. Today was a day he really didn’t need to go out there and skate. So we’ll see how he is tomorrow and make that decision then.”
Three other injured Oilers players will travel.
“We’re going to take (Matt) Hendricks and (Boyd) Gordon and (Tyler) Pitlick as well so (Head Athletic Therapist T.D. Forss) can monitor them as we go,” Nelson said. “I’m not sure if they’re going to be available for the game in Colorado. We’ll take it day by day. One of the guys should be able to come back for the games in California so we’ll see what happens.”
“It was tough,” said Klinkhammer. “It’s a lot different from what I’m used to, obviously. I’ve got to be a little more patient low and in the middle. You can’t run around as much. It’s tough to get hits like that where I’m just used to going up and down my wall, crashing and banging. I don’t think I’m going to be a regular centreman in the NHL, but it’s nice to fill in while those guys are out.”
Anytime you switch positions it can be a tough transition.
“He was good. He’s a great player,” Klinkhammer’s linemate Matt Fraser said. “It’s obviously hard changing positions but he did a great job. It kind of falls on me and (Luke Gazdic) to help him out on faceoffs and stuff like that. But he was good. He was talking lots on the ice and that’s all you can ask for.”
Klinkhammer played just 6:46, all even strength. He finished the night with a takeaway, a blocked shot and was 0-for-5 in the faceoff dot.
“He was good. I think he’ll tell you himself he struggled in the circle a little bit, but he was good,” Gazdic said. “He got adjusted pretty quickly. He said he had a history there a little bit. We were just trying to give as much help as we could and I thought we were good in our own end and got a couple chances offensively too.”
Klinkhammer took a few faceoffs at morning skate, but had a tough time matching up against established centres in the game.
“It was tough. It was a lot harder than I thought,” Klinkhammer said. “They had some good guys over there so they won them pretty clean on me.”
He added, “Those guys have been doing it their whole lives and they definitely have a leg up on me. It was a tough go, but that’s the way it happens.”
Gordon will travel with the team and could play sometime on this upcoming road trip.
Andrew Miller made Oilers franchise history with his first NHL goal on Friday night. Miller became the first player in Oilers history to score his first career goal with a penalty shot.
“It was a great shot and we’re very happy for him,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “He’s had some pretty good opportunities and he just hasn’t found the back of the net. It was nice to see him score that one. Any time you score your first NHL goal it’s an unbelievable feeling and I’m sure he’s enjoying it right now.”
Miller went bar-down with a sweet shot, at 16:40 of the third period.
“Usually I get a little nervous, but I was able to kind of calm down, take some breaths, do my move and luckily it went in,” said Miller.
The last player to score their first NHL goal with a penalty shot was Jay McClement with the St. Louis Blues in 2005. Prior to Miller, there had been only five players in NHL history to do so.
When Miller scored, the fans exploded into cheers and increased the already palpable energy of the building.
“The energy was great, the fans were unbelievable in that,” Oilers goaltender Richard Bachman said. “I was trying not to get too jacked, I was just trying to stay even-keeled but it was hard not to when he did that. Especially for his first goal, it’s a pretty fun way to do it and fun building to do it in, to get that kind of ovation afterwards.”
The Oilers have agreed to terms with defenceman Ben Betker on a three-year entry level contract.
Betker, 20, was taken in the sixth round (158th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. He has played 64 games this season with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, scoring six goals and adding 25 assists and 63 penalty minutes. His points (31), assists (25) and plus/minus (+19) this season were all career highs.
Offensively, Betker had his strongest month in January. He finished the month with three goals and 12 assists in 14 games. He was +12 in that stretch.
Betker has size, standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 220 pounds. Betker and the Silvertips play the Spokane Chiefs in the first round of the WHL playoffs.
When Martin Marincin scored his first NHL goal, assisted by Andrew Miller and Anton Lander, Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson probably had flashbacks to Oklahoma City and his days as head coach there. Nelson coached all three of those players in OKC last season and the start of this one.
If he didn’t have flashbacks then, he definitely did when Marincin, Lander and Oscar Klefbom were on the ice attempting to kill off a Colorado 5-on-3 power play. With Andrew Ference and Boyd Gordon already sitting out tonight’s game, Mark Fayne and Matt Hendricks both went down to injury. The situation made it so the younger players on the roster had to step up, and they did so by helping the Oilers win 4-3.
“We had a young group,” Nelson said. “They played hard for each other. I had to shake my head there on that 5-on-3 because I had Anton, Klefbom and Marincin (out there) and that’s who we had on the 5-on-3 down in OK City at the start of this year. The young guys played well.
Miller recorded his first two NHL assists tonight, helping his linemates (Lander and Taylor Hall) turn in a good night.
“Andrew Miller had a great game,” Nelson said. “I thought he was moving his feet. He had a couple assists. Anton, that whole line played outstanding: Hall, Anton and Millsy. We had a lot of good efforts from our younger players and that’s great to see. I think it’s going to give them confidence moving forward.”
Nelson’s familiarity with the multiple players on the roster who have played under him in the AHL seems to lead to confidence between player and coach.
“I think it’s a big advantage because, from working with them in OKC, you develop confidence in the players because you’ve had them for a number of years,” said Nelson. “So I think it’s a lot easier for me as a coach to say, ‘Ok, I can use this guy in this situation,’ because I’ve seen them handle it before. I had no problems putting Andrew Miller (out there) in the last minute and 40 seconds. He deserved it as well, he earned it. It was a good game from our young guys. I thought they really took charge. When Colorado kept coming and they had some good opportunities, it was good to have (Ben Scrivens) step up. But our young guys played well.”
There was no word on the status of the Oilers injured veterans, immediately following the game.
VIDEO: RAW: Nelson | RAW: Anton Lander | RAW: Mark Fayne
AUDIO: Todd Nelson | Mark Fayne | Anton Lander
The Oilers are on the ice for practice at Rexall Place.