Joey Leach, the four year Kootenay Ice grad, is somewhat of an interesting hockey prospect. Drafted in the same year as Tyler Pitlick, Martin Marincin, Curtis Hamilton, and Ryan Martindale, he was selected at #73 by the Edmonton Oilers bitter rival, the Calgary Flames. Watching him play in the WHL, Flames’ scouts were not willing to offer him a contract. In contrast, Oilers scouts really liked Leach. They liked him enough that he signed an Amateur Tryout contract in 2013 with the Barons, played the final game of the season, and wasn’t heard of in much conversation.
Yesterday the Oklahoma City Barons announced that they have signed Joey Leach to an AHL only contract for the upcoming 2013-2014 year.
AHL contracts are interesting, and Leach’s is no exception. At 21 years of age, he’s obviously still in the prospect stages of his career. Solid WHL numbers, captaincy experience, a lot of post season play, a decent draft card – Leach, on paper, seems to be a prospect that you at least want to take a look at for a season or so. But here, in this particular moment, the Barons convince Leach to sign a one year AHL deal, while not spending cash on a roster spot with the Oilers. The truth of the matter is that he’s still so untested in the pro market. His one game played was in protected minutes paired with Andrew Hotham. He was good, not great, but showed us a little bit of what he can do.
After watching that particular game, Leach easily showed better than another prospect with high hopes in Colten Teubert. But it’s just such a small sample size that there has to be more here than meets the immediate eye.
I like this signing because it accomplishes two things.
First it gives the Barons some potentially good defensive play that becomes hard-wired to the farm team. With so many young prospects on the blue line for the Oilers, OKC will need some stability as MacT moves the farm towards priming the prospect pump. If/when some of those higher-end Oilers prospects get NHL time, guys like Leach will helm the ship. I honestly assumed that this spot would go to an older vet, but as we saw last week with the Arcobello signing, sometimes you can get leadership without spending money on an older fella.
Second, the Oilers get a good look at a player without spending a roster spot. There’s no way this guy gets a NHL-AHL contract, and he realizes that. This gives a no pressure setup for Leach whom can play very well, impress either the Oilers or other teams, and maybe land a bigger/better contract in the coming years. Good news for Joey as well.
I’m hopeful on this one. When the Barons signed him to an ATO, he was a player that I assumed might be a good addition to the team in the future. He’s a tough defender that moves well on the ice. Stick work and pass placement are still works in progress, but he’s certainly well above the mean in terms of where he should be as a rookie. The additional overtone of being a Flames draftee playing in the Oilers organization is just so great. If he turns out to be a really good defender, Oil nation will love it (and so will I).
Good luck to Leach. Good luck to that super duper young Barons blue line we’ll be seeing next season. It should be a fun ride.