By Paul Osborne, Guelph Tribune
A lot was expected of Zac Leslie heading into this season. The Guelph Storm had only two veteran defencemen returning in Matt Finn and Andrey Pedan and they needed Leslie to take a giant leap forward and fill the number three spot. That is a lot to ask of a player coming into just his second season but so far the results have been notable.
In the Storm’s first four games he has taken a regular shift, has a respectable +/- of zero and has played in all situations. As a bonus, he already has two goals – his total output from last season.
“It’s a lot different this year (as a second year player)” said Leslie after the Storm’s somewhat surprising 4-1 win in London on Sunday. “You’re not worried about the rinks you are going into or what their fans are like, you just know they are going to push hard and you have to be ready for that push. You have to learn to overcome your mistakes and get ready for the next shift.”
Defence is one of the hardest positions to learn in hockey. You mess up and there is only the goalie to bail you out. But so far Leslie has shown tremendous progress. Has he been perfect, no, but no one is at this level. Sometimes high expectations bring great pressure but that hasn’t been the case for the Ottawa native.
“No, I think I did all the training I had to do to prepare and knew I’d be asked to really contribute to the team” said Leslie. “I hope throughout the year that I can be the guy that can pick up the slack and help the team.”
Leslie has always liked to push the puck forward and has some offensive flare to his game but he has moved the puck surprisingly well on the powerplay and will only get better with experience. Only Jason Dickinson (3) has more goals than Leslie this season, which is a bit of a surprise.
“I’d like to say (it isn’t) but maybe it is a little,” said the 18-year-old defenceman. “Last year the goals didn’t come easily but I’m glad I’ve been able to contribute to the offence and the extra powerplay time has given me more opportunity.”
In reality Leslie would probably flourish more in the number four spot but he doesn’t have that luxury. It is very much a ‘learn on the job’ proposition and so far he is holding his own.
From the Land of Oz….After losing at home to London 8-2 last Sunday, the Storm went into London on Sunday and beat them 4-1 behind some excellent goaltending by first star Garret Sparks and two goals and an assist from Scott Kosmachuk. Kosmachuk had been in coach Scott Walker’s doghouse for his uninspired play through the first three games but came up big on Sunday. Sparks made 44 saves in the win. Leslie and Tanner Richard scored the other goals with Zack Mitchell earning two assists…Friday night the Storm led Owen Sound for much of the game but gave up two quick goals in the third period to lose 3-2. Leslie and Patrick Watling scored for Guelph.