When Zac Leslie entered the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, he did so as the 146th ranked North American skater according to NHL Central Scouting. That's a moderately impressive feat given that the 6-foot, 198-pound defender went unranked when that same service released their prospect rankings at mid-season.
|Rank||Player||DOB||Nationality||Draft||Vote Total||Last Year|
|25||Zac Leslie||1/31/1994||CAN||178 (6th)||50||NR|
(Regarding the vote total: please remember that there were 14 voters, ranking from 25 to 1. Thus, the maximum possible vote total was 350.)
Leslie was fresh off a breakout season when the Kings used their sixth round selection on him. His 40 points in 68 games were a vast improvement on the 17 he logged during the 2011/12 campaign. He improved yet again this past season, picking up 50 points in 60 games. Leslie's bump in production came in equal parts goals and assists. To me, this suggests that actual growth may be responsible for his increased production as opposed to merely an unsustainable shooting percentage spike.
If his point totals hadn't already suggested it, Leslie has proven himself to be a capable puck-moving defenseman during his time in junior hockey. Nelson Emerson - LA Kings' director of player development - said the following about Leslie at the 2013 development camp:
I didn’t know him before he got here, but I read that he’s an offensive defenseman who can move puck up the ice, and that’s what I see. One of the benefits he has is that he moves very well, laterally, and he plays with his head up, so he’s able to make that first pass. If you’re a forward, you love when the defensemen are able to see things up the ice. That’s something he does well, and we’re looking forward to working with him, that’s for sure.
In my opinion, that's exactly the kind of player the Kings should be gambling on with later-round picks. This description sounds very similar to the kind of game that Alec Martinez plays. A-Mart was a 4th round pick in 2007 and, well, that has worked out in the Kings' favor I think.
I'M NOT SAYING THAT ZAC LESLIE IS GOING TO SCORE THE CUP WINNING GOAL FOR THE 2020 KINGS BUT THAT IS ABSOLUTELY WHAT I AM SAYING.
As I said before, Zac Leslie had himself a pretty nice season. Notably, he had a 4-goal game back in November. That feat earned him Player of the Week honors from the CHL. Some people in the Kings' hockey ops thought he often looked like one of the best players in the CHL during his 2013/14 season. He helped lead the Guelph Storm to an OHL championship. At this year's development camp, Jon Rosen was able to catch up with him. Rosen was also able to drive home the Alec Martinez comparison. Good job, Jon Rosen.
At 198 pounds, Leslie is now 26 pounds heavier than he was when he was drafted. We're delving into micro-analysis at this point, but this could indicate a strong commitment to improvement both on and off the ice. He's shown steady improvement every single year of his career. He enters the 2014/15 season eligible to join the Manchester Monarchs for the first time.
It's been suggested that the Kings may have wavering confidence top defensive prospects like Derek Forbort and Kevin Gravel, which could be one of the reasons that they sought out Brayden McNabb. Given that (possible) fact, Leslie may have a nice niche to fill. It is quite certain that the Kings are short of immediate defensive depth beyond the NHL level, regardless of how you feel about Forbort and Gravel. If Leslie is able to continue fueling an upward trajectory in his hockey career, he could be a pretty quick riser through the Kings' ranks.