Former Vee thrilled to be an Oiler

Vees grad Joey Laleggia drafted by Edmonton Oilers in fifth round

Joey Laleggia’s strong play in his first season with Denver University helped him get NHL attention

Joey Laleggia’s strong play in his first season with Denver University helped him get NHL attention

Grant Granger

Black Press

It started out as just another sleepy Saturday morning in the Laleggia household in Burnaby when son Joey’s cellphone rang.

His mom, Carla, heard him say, “Hello” and after a brief pause Joey started screaming and yelling.

Believe it or not, she hasn’t stopped smiling ever since.

“It was awesome!” said Carla on Monday. “It was an indescribable feeling.”

It turns out Joey was screaming for joy because he was getting a chance at his lifelong dream. At the other end of the line was Joey’s hockey advisor telling him he had been drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the fifth round of the NHL entry draft, 123rd overall, that was taking place in Pittsburgh. It was the third year he was eligible for the draft having been passed over the previous two years, likely because he’s a defenceman that’s just five-foot-10.

“We were just so happy someone took notice this year,” said Carla. “It’s something he’s wanted for a long, long time. It’s just such a nice opening of a door.”

Saturday turned into quite a celebratory day in the Laleggia house since sister Natalie was having her SFU graduation party. “It was absolutely a thrilling, thrilling day,” said Carla. Sunday turned out to be Joey’s 20th birthday, and on Monday he was on a flight to Edmonton to participate in the Oilers’ summer prospect camp.

“Off to Edmonton for @NHL_Oilers development camp, excited to get back at it and see some old friends,” said Laleggia, using his Twitter handle @JLeggy21.

Vees head coach-GM Fred Harbinson said Laleggia being drafted is a reflection of his dedication to the game.

“Joey being drafted today shows his perseverance and determination in hockey. Joey has found ways to excel at every level he’s played at and has proven he is an elite athlete,” said Harbinson. “I’m proud of what he’s been able to accomplish and overcome. Joey is a special talent, there’s no question of that, but he’s a great young man as well.”

Joey just completed his first year with the University of Denver Pioneers, where he was named national rookie of the year for scoring 11 goals and 27 assists with a plus-13 rating.

The previous two seasons he spent in the B.C. Hockey League with the Penticton Vees, winning the BCHL MVP award in 2010-11. Although it may take a while, there’s a chance he’ll eventually be reunited with another Burnaby boy, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, whom the Oilers took first overall in the 2011 entry draft and just finished second in NHL rookie of the year voting. The pair played together on the Burnaby Winter Club (BWC) major bantam team and the Northwest Giants major midget squad that played out of the BWC. In fact, the Laleggia family vacationed in Las Vegas last week and ran into Nugent-Hopkins attending the NHL awards. Carla said Nugent-Hopkins told Joey he was going to put in a good word with Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini.

“I told Joey you give Ryan a big hug because I’m sure he had lots of good things to tell Mr. Tambellini,” said Carla.

-Story written with files from the Vees.

Ice chips: Louis Nanne, who visited Penticton during the Vees’ playoff run, was chosen by his hometown Minnesota Wild in the seventh round, 188th overall. The BCHL’s highest pick in the draft ended up being Prince George Spruce Kings forward Jujhar Khaira, selected in the third round, 63rd overall by the Oilers. The Vancouver Canucks drafted the former linemate of Vees forward Wade Murphy, Wesley Myron in the sixth round, 177th overall. Former Vees goalie Joel Rumpel is one of five goalies attending the Canucks prospect development camp. Rumpel played last season for the University of Wisconsin.