By Jon Rosen, LA Kings Insider
By no accounts did the Guelph Storm experience a losing or embattled season. The Ontario Hockey League club won 38 of 68 games and defeated the Owen Sound Attack four games to one in their first round playoff match-up. For a team that hasn’t lost more regulation games than it won in over a decade, this past season represented a commendable weathering of the familiar junior hockey competitive cycle one season after a more senior Storm club won the OHL Championship and appeared in the Memorial Cup championship game.
The season wasn’t quite as formulaic for Kings defensive prospect Zac Leslie. A well-regarded member of the 2013 draft class, Leslie, a sixth round pick, followed up his 60-game, 57-point championship season with a solid 11-goal, 48-point effort in 57 games made all the more impressive considering that Guelph wasn’t the 340-goal offensive juggernaut that they were the previous season.
But as a 20-year-old, Leslie had to contend with the disappointment of not having cracked the Manchester Monarchs’ roster last fall as a skater eligible to play in either the AHL or be returned to his junior club for an overage season.
“I think it’s always tough when you essentially get cut from a team that you wanted an opportunity to play for. It’s obviously not easy,” Leslie said at the Kings’ development camp in El Segundo on Tuesday. “On top of that, I was going back to a team that really had a big transition from the team we had the year before to a younger team with a lot of younger players and a lot of guys just getting their feet wet in junior hockey. So it was something that was definitely a whole different experience for me. I didn’t have the best start to the year that I think I would’ve wanted. I think coming back from Manchester I wasn’t really into it as much, I guess. As the season went on, I really came into my own, obviously. I felt like I was playing really well up until I had to get shut down.”
The “shut down” he referenced came in late February, 2015 after he had dealt with a shoulder injury that had caused “on and off” pain and required surgery, according to a report in the Guelph Mercury. As is often the case with injuries, the decision to undergo surgery came at a difficult time, right when Leslie had been playing his best hockey of the season, having potted seven goals and 22 points with a plus-12 rating in 25 games after the turn of the calendar.