When the Chicago Wolves acquired defenseman Zac Leslie from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for future considerations in early February, they acquired a player who likely needed a change of scenery in order to rediscover his game as an offensive defenseman, but more importantly, his confidence. Not only has his ability to move the puck effectively helped the Wolves transition game since the trade, he’s also had a positive impact on his new teammates in the locker room.
“I think he’s getting his confidence up. He came over and didn’t try to do too much at the start. He kinda got his feet wet, and now he’s starting to reach his full potential. He came in, and he’s a good guy off the ice. He’s gelled in with the guys really quickly, which I think helped make him feel more comfortable and that’s translated into his on-ice play,” said fellow Wolves defenseman Griffin Reinhart of his new teammate.
Wolves forward Brandon Pirri highlighted Leslie’s skating ability as perhaps his greatest strength.
“He skates so well. I think in this league, if you’re a defenseman that can skate, you’re going to have a lot of success,” said Pirri, who scored his 23rd goal of the season in the Wolves losing effort on Saturday night.
Despite the Wolves 2-1 loss to the Manitoba Moose, which snapped Chicago’s six-game winning streak, Leslie played a solid game in the eyes of his head coach, Rocky Thompson.
“I think he’s defending better. And he’s competing. He’s a good guy, who’s well liked by his teammates, and you can see that he moves pucks well. He’s on our power play because he moves pucks well, but I like the fact that he’s defending better than he was earlier on, and he’s working on those details and those fundamentals that are important to us,” coach Thompson highlighted following the loss.
Leslie, who scored the game winning goal for Chicago when the Wolves defeated Milwaukee by a score of 4-3 on Friday, has now registered an impressive seven points through 11 games with the Wolves since coming over from the Ontario Reign. And he attributes his play recently to his confidence, even though it didn’t happen instantly.
Everybody hands go up! pic.twitter.com/jM9dlo8w6T
— Chicago Wolves (@Chicago_Wolves) March 10, 2018
“It was definitely an adjustment period when I first got here,” he explained. “I don’t think anybody really thought I was playing the games the way I should have the first couple games. But then I kind of just got familiar with the guys, and got to know their tendencies, and the tendencies of the team really. And once you get comfortable, it kind of gives you that opportunity to really settle in, and it kind of gives you that opportunity to kind of make more plays and branch out from there,” said Leslie.
Defenseman Zac Leslie has 3-4-7 in 10 Wolves games since being acquired from the LA Kings. Last night he scored the Game Winning Goal on the PP w/ 1:47 left at Milwaukee running Chicago’s win streak to 6 games heading into today’s showdown vs. Manitoba @AllstateArena #Wolvesbites pic.twitter.com/3lvT45XF4N
— Jason Shaver (@theshaves) March 10, 2018
The Ottawa, Ontario native Leslie also acknowledged that the system with his previous team wasn’t tailored in such a way that complimented his offensive creativity.
“In Ontario, the system is very very defensive, and I wasn’t put in an offensive role, but instead to try and just make sure that I don’t get scored on. And that’s not really my game,” said the 24 year old.
“Obviously as a defenseman, my job is to not get scored on, but I like to chip in on offense and make plays, and that’s something that I’ve been able to do since coming to Chicago,” said Leslie.
When he arrived in Chicago as a member of the Wolves, Leslie highlights the fact that the organization really wanted him to play, and regain his confidence offensively while continuing to play responsible on the defensive side of the puck as well.
“They just wanted me to start playing, and gain confidence. I’m an offensive defenseman, so that’s going to be my job and that’s something they’re relying on me for. But at the same time, they want me to make sure that I’m being responsible defensively in order for them to have the trust in me. I think the biggest thing is earning their trust, and that’s not something that happens overnight. It’s a process, and it’s a process that I’ll continue to work at,” Leslie said.
For now, and moving forward into the future for the Wolves, Leslie’s two-way game should continue to help Chicago’s transition game from defense to offense, but his presence in the locker room with his new teammates shouldn’t be overlooked either.