Friday, December 15, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Top pick Anthony DeAngelo makes good first Lightning impression

BRANDON — Anthony DeAngelo's draft night celebration lasted until 3 a.m., the defenseman chatting and eating with 25 family and friends at Penrose Diner, a South Philly staple.

"We were all starving because nobody really (had eaten)," dad Lou said. "Were too nervous."

DeAngelo, 18, a Sewell, N.J., native, was picked at No. 19 overall by the Lightning on June 28, two spots after his hometown Flyers made their choice in the same Wells Fargo Center he frequented as a kid. "That would have been too easy," Lou joked about a selection by the Flyers.

That night, DeAngelo got a congratulatory text message from Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who came from the same Sarnia program in the Ontario junior league. DeAngelo, a smooth, puck-moving defenseman, hopes one day to set up Stamkos on a rush or on the Tampa Bay power play.

"It's fun to think about," he said. "All you've got to do is slide the puck over and chances are it might be going in. You don't need to do too much work."

DeAngelo may be a few years away from the NHL, but the Lightning got an exciting glimpse of the future during its prospect development camp at the Ice Sports Forum that ended Sunday. DeAngelo, a 5-foot-10, 174-pounder, buzzed around the offensive zone during the three-on-three tournament, creatively setting up teammates and scoring twice in the championship game with a strong right-handed shot.

"You watch him play, he controls the game from the back end," GM Steve Yzerman said. "He can really skate, can really move the puck. First impression you watch him … he's a good comparison for (former Lightning defenseman) Dan Boyle. I don't know if he's going to turn into Dan Boyle, but we'd be thrilled if he did."

Director of amateur scouting Al Murray considered DeAngelo a top-10 talent in the draft, believing he was the top offensive-defenseman. DeAngelo racked up 71 points (15 goals) in 51 games for Sarnia last season, tops among league defensemen.

"He's really gifted offensively," said Sarnia coach Trevor Letowski, a former NHL player. "He's a very dynamic player. He does things that not many players in our league can do."

DeAngelo played forward until he was 11, a two-way center who idolized then-Flyer Mike Richards. The baby of four kids in a tight-knit Italian family — he loves Frank Sinatra and Andrea Bocelli — DeAngelo made the tough decision to move to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at 14, becoming the youngest player to skate in the United States Hockey League, the country's top junior league. He drew attention, verbally committing to Boston University before he turned 15. But he decided juniors was the best route for him.

DeAngelo watched smaller defensemen such as the Wild's Jared Spurgeon (5-9) and Boyle (5-11) to model his game. "It's tough to watch a guy that's maybe 6-5; they manhandle people," he said. "You watch guys my size, it's (about) stick position and angles."

Letowski, who often played against Boyle, said DeAngelo is similar in terms of his style and competitiveness. "Always up for a challenge," he said.

It was that competitive fire, DeAngelo says, that played a role in him serving two suspensions last season for violating the league's harassment, abuse and diversity policy. Both times DeAngelo used a slur, once toward a teammate. DeAngelo owned up to his actions with NHL teams in pre-draft interviews and said it won't happen again. He said he got caught up in the moment both times.

"It doesn't excuse anything, but that's what it was," DeAngelo said. "It's not just a bad-person-type move where you just hate the world. It's a mistake I made, and I learned from it."

Letowski said DeAngelo is a great character kid who had his frustration over losing boil over. Sarnia finished last in the 20-team league. "Hopefully 15 years down the road, he looks back on it as something that makes him better in his career," Letowski said.

DeAngelo was engaging at development camp, staying 10 extra minutes after one practice to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. His teammates liked him and playfully poked fun by putting photos of him above his locker. "He's really smart with the puck and has skill," said Jonathan Drouin, 2013's third overall pick. "You can see the potential."

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