Adding Strength Is The Priority For LA Kings Defenseman Prospect Zach Leslie

LA KINGS PROSPECT WATCH: Throughout the summer, Frozen Royalty will be taking a look at several of the Los Angeles Kings’ young prospects. In this installment the focus is on 2013 sixth round selection Zach Leslie. An audio interview with Leslie is also included.


Defenseman prospect Zach Leslie, was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round (178th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft.
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Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.met
EL SEGUNDO, CA — Back in June 2013, defenseman Zachary (Zach) Leslie was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round (178th overall) of the 2013 National Hockey League Draft and about one week later, he found himself on the ice at the team’s 2013 Development Camp, facing several of the Kings’ older prospects, many of whom had experience at the American Hockey League level.

Going up against players with a lot more experience was quite the challenge.

 

“For any first-time player, the speed, the size, and the strength of all the players, is a big first step that you don’t really think about,” the 6-1, 177-pound native of Ottawa, Ontario said during the Kings’ 2013 Development Camp. “You know it’s there, but you don’t really understand it until you get on the ice with them.”

“They’ll expose your weaknesses,” added Leslie. “You find out quickly what your weaknesses are, and what you need to do to fix them.”

As a refresher, Leslie is an offensive defenseman.

“I’m a player who can make a good first pass, move the puck up the ice to help the offense, and play solid in my own zone, as well,” he said. “I think I’m really good at creating offense off of the turn, re-groups, and things like that. That’s my main game.”

Last season, Leslie helped lead the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League to the OHL Championship, scoring a goal and adding nine assists for ten points, with a +10 plus/minus rating and 22 penalty minutes in twenty playoff games.

In sixty regular season games, Leslie scored 14 goals and tallied 36 assists for fifty points, with a +40 plus/minus rating and 39 penalty minutes.

Strictly in terms of his numbers, Leslie made big improvements in his regular season plus/minus rating, going from +16 in 2012-13 to +40 last season. In the post-season, his nine assists and ten points were much improved over his one assist/point in the 2012-13 playoffs. His plus/minus also jumped to +10 in last season’s playoffs compared to -1 in the 2012-13 post-season.

Kings assistant general manager Rob Blake talked about Leslie with LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen in December 2013.

“I went back and watched him a maybe a month ago—he was just coming back from shoulder surgery,” said Blake. “[He] played back-to-back games, played big minutes, and I think what he’s taken from the pro camp is how he competed.”

“I think that’s one thing we all looked at was his compete level in those rookie games,” added Blake. “He brings that at that same level, and obviously, the offense that’s coming [last] weekend is a great example of that.”

Indeed, Leslie was one of the more noticeable Kings prospects in the two rookie games against the Anaheim Ducks back in September 2013. His skating, and puck handling, stood out, as did the fact that he was able to hold his own in front of his own net, despite his size (or lack thereof).

Fast forward to the Kings’ 2014 Development Camp, held July 7-11, when Leslie confirmed that his experience in last summer’s development camp, the Kings’ rookie camp, rookie tournament, and training camp have helped him to improve. In fact, his improved play, as reported earlier, helped lead the Storm to the OHL Championship this past season.

Playing for such a strong team, one that was much better than in the two previous years, was a reason why Leslie has improved numbers compared to 2012-13. But that was not the only reason.

“We had a great team, but we had a lot of great players who can make plays, so I think I was one of them,” he said. “I was improved over last summer. Coming to [last year’s] development camp and rookie camp helped me a lot, playing against the skilled guys that [the Anaheim Ducks had on their rookie tournament team] and them [participating] in the main [training] camp as well. That helped me a lot, going back to junior [because] the pace slowed down a little bit.”

“We had a great team [in Guelph],” he added. “That definitely helped, but I think the fact that I got the opportunity to improve throughout the summer really helped as well.”

“You learn what it takes to play against bigger players. You learn how to how to work on the little things as well, like [the finer points of] shooting or stick handling. You learn things like that in a development camp like this.”

Leslie also gleaned the right lessons from Guelph’s 2014 playoff run.

“I’m a year older, I’ve got another year playing junior [under my belt],” he said. “I learned what it took to go deep in the playoffs—our team managed to win the OHL [Championship]. That experience is going to help me a lot moving forward.”

“Coming into this development camp, I think I’ve done a lot to improve, even just throughout the short summer that I’ve had so far,” he added.

Adding strength will likely be the most critical factor for Leslie, who appears to be a bit bigger than he did at the 2013 Development Camp.

“I’m starting to put on some weight,” Leslie noted. “Hopefully, that’ll come a bit quicker.”

“A lot of [my development] is going to come off the ice, with my strength and things like that,” Leslie added. “Obviously, you can always work on your positioning, you can always work on your shot. Those are the main things. But a lot of it is going to come from [strength training] off the ice.”

“For any hockey player, you need a great lower body and good stability. That’s one of the things they want me to focus on.”

At twenty years of age, Leslie is eligible to move up to the professional ranks, so it is possible that he could wind up in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs or the ECHL with the Ontario Reign (both are the Kings’ minor league affiliates). However, he could also return to Guelph to play an over-age year in junior hockey.

Leslie is looking to make the jump to the next level, but he knows that might not happen in the 2014-15 season.

“I’m going to do everything I can to go pro, but if they don’t think I’m ready to make the jump to the pro level, they have the chance to send me back to play another year of junior,” he observed. “If that happens, I’ll do everything I can to improve and make the jump the following year.”

Raw Audio Interviews

(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):

Zach Leslie (3:10)

Frozen Royalty’s Zach Leslie Coverage

Frozen Royalty’s 2014 Off-Season LA Kings Prospects Coverage


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