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23-Jan Kostalek 22-Ryan Olsen
Chase De Leo is the first member of the Winnipeg Jets 2014 NHL Draft class to make an appearance on this list. The diminutive forward saw his draft stock raise greatly this past year. De Leo broke out and posted well over a point per game, but his diminutive stature, and question marks about how much of his success was team driven, saw him drop into the fourth round.
De Leo was one of the top producers, fourth in scoring, on a stacked Portland Winterhawks team, but he and fellow Jets' prospect Nic Petan may be asked to shoulder even more of the load this year as the Winterhawks could see as many as four of their top eight scorers from last season graduate.
If all goes well, this will be De Leo's last year in the CHL. While he is a 2014 draft pick, he is a 1995 birth date. This means he will be eligible to play in the AHL next season. A big season, and potentially a trip to the World Junior Championships, could set Chase up nicely to turn pro. Look for a up-tick in De Leo's numbers over the 2014-15 season.
AIH Authors' Thoughts:
Chase De Leo is extremely fun to watch at the junior level. He is quick and feisty and he has really nice hands in tight spaces, but he is also undersized. Despite being drafted this year, De Leo will be eligible to play after the upcoming season. Will he be ready? How much will he contribute? Hard to say, but purely on the basis of skill De Leo is a wild card. He has a higher ceiling than most of the other prospects on this list. He is also arguably a much bigger risk.
As another uber talented centre with a small frame, Chase De Leo likely finds himself behind Nic Petan on the Jets depth chart. Was his scoring due to Petan taking the tougher assignments in the WHL, or is there fire to the smoke?
I have concerns that Chase De Leo might be what many thought Nic Petan was, but I hope I'm wrong. While the two will always garner comparisons, it should be noted that their games are very different. De Leo's era and age adjusted points per game actually mirrors that of Mark Scheifele, although there are clear reasons why Scheifele was a top 20 pick and De Leo was not.
Chase De Leo is a very good skater (more quick than fast, but his top gear is sufficient) with the ability to quickly accelerate or change speeds. He has very good hands and is confident carrying the puck. He possesses good vision, and a strong hockey sense; he's one of those players that seems to have a "nose for the net". Although his shot isn't particularly "heavy", it comes with a pretty good release and he isn't hesitant to use it. De Leo's "work rate" is extremely high, and he's a strong defensive player for his size; De Leo has been used to check top opposing forwards and play key penalty kill minutes over the last two seasons. He protects the puck well in the WHL and is strong on the puck for his size.
Speaking of size, De Leo is the latest in a string of smaller, high-scoring Portland Winterhawks' forwards (Nic Petan, Brendan Leipsic) for whom size and strength are going to be their biggest obstacles in the next few seasons. Practicing against future NHL defenders like Seth Jones, Matt Dumba, and Derick Pouliot every day ought to help, but De Leo needs to add strength to make the jump to the next level.
Chase De Leo is another intriguing prospect, as he stood out in the Development Camp earlier this summer with his bursts of speed and quick hands. However, he's pretty much the same size as Petan (ie. really small) and will need to find a way to make room for himself against men much bigger than him as he moves up to pro.
By the Numbers - Jets 2014 Draft Selections