When Joey Laleggia skated at the South Okanagan Events Centre for the Penticton Vees, he dreamed of playing in the NHL — little did he know he would make his first outing on that same ice surface.
“This is an opportunity I have been waiting for my whole life,” he said. “It’s been good. It’s good to come in here and get some rookie camp games in. Get your skating legs back. Get a taste for what a real game is like.”
The former Vee and Denver Pioneer grad suited up for the Edmonton Oilers in his first Canucks Young Stars Classic last weekend. He also got his first taste of the Battle of Alberta on Sept.12 and loved it.
“Yeah, I hope to be a part of more of them in the future,” said Laleggia. “It was great to get the first one out of the way.”
Late in the third period of the Oilers’ 6-3 win over Calgary at the South Okanagan Events Centre during the Canucks Young Stars Classic, Laleggia was in the mix as a few players wanted a piece of each other.
“It’s awesome. That’s why we play the game, for rivalries like that,” said Laleggia, who played two games, collecting a goal and three points and finishing plus-three. “Something so historic as the Battle of Alberta, it’s really special to be a part of.”
Laleggia was happy with his play and the chance to get his feet wet. He also received a loud applause and cheer from the crowd when his name was announced on the power-play goal he scored.
“The City of Penticton was so good to me. They still are. I will always cherish the time I had here,” he said. “It was great to get that goal and help the boys get back on track.”
Laleggia didn’t look out of place on the ice and utilized his speed any chance he had. Against the Vancouver Canucks on Sept. 11, he broke into the Canucks zone and found Anton Slepyshev alone in the slot. The Russian wired Laleggia’s pass into the net. Laleggia credited his teammate for doing a great job to get open.
“It does take a skill to find that quiet ice there in the slot,” said Laleggia of Slepyshev, who played four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. “He’s got a hell of a shot. Anytime you have a guy who can shoot the puck like that you try and get it to him.”
Laleggia’s confidence comes from his experience with the Pioneers and Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League. During the Young Stars Classic, Laleggia was partnered with Darnell Nurse, Edmonton’s seventh overall pick from the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
“He’s pretty easy to play with. He’s also a pretty good friend of mine,” said Laleggia. “It makes it that much sweeter when one of your good friends is that easy to play with. He plays with so much confidence. It’s almost a learning experience playing with him.”
“He’s an awesome player. Really easy to play with,” said Nurse. “It’s been fun to play with him over these last couple games. He’s a great skater, great vision. He’s always looking to make plays.”