This article kicks off our annual Development Camp Preview series, where we help you get to know many of the Kings prospects heading to town. A final roster for next week’s event was posted here yesterday, featuring over two dozen players – including the top two rated prospects in the LA organization, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli.
The camp is also the first chance for recent draft picks to become indoctrinated into the organization. So, let’s begin there.
Zac Leslie was selected by the Kings in the sixth round (178th overall) of the 2013 Draft. It was his second year of draft eligibility. The Ottawa native is a left-handed shooting defenseman, listed at 6-foot, 168lbs – but told MayorsManor he’s actually closer to about 185lbs. He spent the last two seasons with the OHL’s Guelph Storm, the former junior team of Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty.
Here’s seven questions with Leslie…
How was the overall draft experience this year?
“I knew I was a bubble player for the draft my first year and there was a chance I could be picked and knew there was just as much of a chance I couldn’t be picked. So, I didn’t really know how to approach it, my first draft, emotionally. I used it as a plus for me, used it as motivation to work harder and play better during the season…So my second time through it, was exciting. In my opinion, it’s just as exciting in a sixth round pick as it is a first round pick for your family and friends. I think it’s the same excitement, the same thrill – it’s getting drafted and living up to your dream and getting the chance to go to a professional hockey camp.”
On seeing teammate Justin Auger also get drafted by the Kings:
“It was great, you were watching for all our teammates. We had a few guys go in the first and second rounds too. So, it’s exciting to see your teammates picked almost just as much as it is for you. When they got picked, I sent them a message congratulating them and took the time to give my blessing their way and then got back to focusing on myself. It’s just as exciting to see someone you spend everyday with all year long get picked up and the excitement that they have, as well.”
How close of friends are you with Justin?
“We’eve actually known each other for a couple years. He’s actually stayed at my house for hockey camp before we were both drafted to Guelph. We’ve known each other for awhile, and then we both ended up in Guelph and have remained friends throughout. This year especially, we were a very close team in Guelph, with everybody hanging out with each other. Justin and I got to know each other very well.”
Do people in Guelph still talk about when Dustin Brown and/or Drew Doughty played there?
“It’s hard not to talk about players like Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown. Doughty still has a big impact in Guelph and still has a (luxury) box that he had purchased and gives it away to fans and people like that. We definitely hear about him all the time. The coaching staff is different now, so we don’t hear as much from them, comparing us to them. But, I’d say you definitely hear about them everyday. They we’re both superstars when they were in Guelph and fan favorites. They bring a lot of respect. You hear a lot about LA in Guelph based on those two players…Also, Brown stopped by our practice one day this year during the lockout and said hi to the guys, gave some words or encouragement to the team.”
With 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists) in 68 games this season that was more than double the output from year one. What do you attribute that to?
“I think you adapt. The first year in the league I had a big challenge getting used to the play. Also, my second year we had a couple defense that moved on so I got much more of an opportunity to step in. I think that helped my game a lot, it gave me the confidence to play. I knew my coaches had confidence in putting me on the ice, so I think that boosted everything. I started off well and tried to keep it going for as long as I could.”
What expectations do you have coming into camp this week?
“I’m expecting a tough camp. I work out with Tyler Toffoli here in Ottawa, and he’s told me it’s a tough camp and they’re going to work us and show us what it’s going to take to be a King and play in the NHL. [MM: What do you make of Toffoli's love for tanning?] I’m probably just as pasty, if not more pale.”
What NHL player, past of present, do you admire most?
“I always liked Scott Niedermayer. Being a guy that could skate and move the puck, he was physical when he had to be but he wasn’t a big bruiser. He played the body and angled people well so that he could take them out of the play and strip them of the puck.”