PHILADELPHIA — To hear Tampa Bay scouting director Al Murray explain it, the club got fantastic value with Anthony DeAngelo at No. 19, a player Murray called “the most skilled offensive defenseman in the draft.”
Upon saying that, I asked if the Bolts had DeAngelo rated higher than Aaron Ekblad — the OHL Barrie blueliner taken first overall — in terms of offensive ability.
Murray’s response was telling.
“Ekblad’s a special player, but he doesn’t have the offensive ability that Anthony has at this point,” he said. “Aaron Ekblad’s a tremendous player. He’s physically strong enough to be in the NHL next year, he’s a shutdown defenseman that plays with a mean streak.
“But when it comes to his actual puck skills and offensive game, he makes a solid first pass and he’s got a bomb for a shot from the point — but we don’t see the same ability to move the puck around, have the same vision, make all the different passes in different zones that Anthony has.”
(Now feels like a good time to mention Ekblad had 23 goals and 53 points in 58 games last year, so he’s no slouch offensively.)
DeAngelo, 18, has shown remarkable offensive capabilities with the Sting. He notched 15 goals and 71 points in 51 games this season — one year after he led all OHL d-men in assists, with 49 — and showed good offensive abilities with Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka tournament, when he had six assists in four games.
All was not rosy for DeAngelo this year, however. He was slapped with an eight-game suspension midway through the year for using a slur against a teammate. From Yahoo:
The Ontario Hockey League announced they had suspended [DeAngelo] eight games for violating the league’s harrassment, abuse and diversity policy. It’s the second time this season the 18-year-old has been suspended for contravening the rule which attempts to keep homophobic, racist, sexist, and the other derogatory language used by small minds – out of the game.
DeAngelo faced plenty of questions about the incident(s) leading up to the draft, and it’s possible they played a role in him falling to No. 19 overall. Defensemen like Ekblad, Haydn Fleury (No. 7, Carolina), Julius Honka (No. 14, Dallas) and Travis Sanheim (No. 17, Philly) all went before DeAngelo, even though Murray said an intense research of DeAngelo’s background came back clean.
“The thing we really liked is that he took responsibility for some of the errors he made,” Murray explained. “We checked so many different people that had been in his history. I think you saw maybe our biggest group of people ever up on the stage, because every one of those guys that was up on the stage had spent time going into the background of Anthony.
“We met with anyone and everyone that had ever been associated with him, and everything came back positive.”
With that apparently not an issue, the Bolts can now focus on grooming what might end up being the steal of the draft.
“He’s just an outstanding offensive talent,” Murray said of DeAngelo. “We got a tremendously skilled player who is very smart and highly competitive.”