When the Vegas Golden Knights announced its acquisition of 24-year-old defenseman Zachary Leslie on Monday from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for future considerations, he was immediately assigned to the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves by Knights general manager George McPhee.
Who is Zac Leslie? GM Wendell Young expect he will be one of the top-six defensemen. “Hopefully, get him in the offensive role that he was in in junior.” https://t.co/xbvL6o4r0V pic.twitter.com/6sWnuzKpZY
— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) February 6, 2018
This transaction, which might seem highly insignificant to hockey fans in Las Vegas, will be an interesting one to monitor if you follow the Wolves. As I wrote about previously, an organization’s ability to develop young talent at the AHL level is a monumental part of cultivating a successful operation that is as sustainable as it is prolific.
For a defenseman, 24-years of age is still considered quite young, and Zac Leslie’s development under new head coach Rocky Thompson will serve as an opportunity to evaluate Vegas’ professional scouting and development divisions. Moreover, usually when a trade involves just a single AHL player, it means that the team receiving him is hopeful he could help and grow in their organization, even if he never reaches the NHL level.
For right now, Leslie will undoubtedly provide the Wolves with a steady defensive presence on the back end, as he aims to implement some more offense back into his game now after focusing on becoming more reliable without the puck over the last couple of seasons under Ontario’s coach Mike Stothers.
Prior to being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings at 178th overall in 2013, the Ottawa, Ontario native Leslie registered an impressive 155 points in 250 combined games as a junior player for the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm.
This is a part of his game that hasn’t been a top priority for him lately, but as a third pairing rearguard and a quick set of wheels, Leslie will certainly be given a regular shift and opportunity to develop as a two-way threat at the professional level.
— Ontario Reign (@ontarioreign) December 14, 2016
Interestingly, aside from Chris Cato who shoots right, the Wolves only possess left-handed shooters. Leslie, who is traveling to Iowa and will be available for Chicago’s crucial divisional matchup on Friday against the Wild, is yet another lefty.
It remains to be seen whether coach Rocky Thompson elects to use Leslie on the right side, where he has played from time to time with the Ontario Reign when needed, or if he’ll suit up on his natural side.
With his arrival to the Wolves, the six-foot tall rearguard brings with him 121 games of professional experience with the Ontario Reign. He also arrives with a fresh start, as he looks to move up the ranks on Vegas’ depth chart.
As a pending restricted free agent come July 1. he will want to prove his worth to the Wolves, especially down the stretch. And that’s good news for the Wolves blue line, especially as the playoff race really begins to heat up.
Leslie will suit up sporting the number 37 on the back of his jersey, as his previous number eight belongs to forward Tyler Wong.
I look forward to monitoring Leslie’s play on Friday night and his development beyond that with the Wolves. Stay tuned for more Wolves updates from yours truly!