For a player whose first experiences with hockey included a pair of roller blades, it probably doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that today Chase De Leo might very well be developing the best set of wheels the WHL has to offer.
The diminutive speedster from La Mirada, California, who checks in at 5’10” and 175 pounds, has worked his way into an important role on a Portland team gearing up for another deep playoff run. The Winterhawks have been to the WHL Championship series the last two years, and are the defending league champions. De Leo has been on board since the 2011-12 campaign and would dearly love to make it three years in a row.
Originally a goaltender in his early hockey days, De Leo worked his way up the ranks in the Los Angeles area with the LA Selects program. When the Winterhawks came calling, selecting De Leo in the ninth round, 192nd overall at the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, he knew he still had his work cut out for him. During his rookie year, he collected 30 points and a +12 rating in 69 games, numbers more than satisfactory for his fourth-line supporting role as a 16-year-old.
Last season, en route to an appearance in the 2013 Memorial Cup in Saskatoon, De Leo scored 18 times and added 38 assists in 71 games while compiling a +28 rating.
This season, De Leo was selected to play in the CCM/USA Hockey All American Top Prospects Game in Pittsburgh. With his appearance this week in the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, which came amid some adventurous travel challenges, he will officially be the only WHL player to participate in both of these important developmental games.
De Leo is 26th among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting's midterm rankings. He is a pesky, determined playmaker with very good speed and balance. According to Central Scouting, De Leo is a “small, compact center who plays bigger than his size and works the puck well in traffic and tight areas. (He has) good offensive instincts and has a quick release and is a responsible and smart positional player.”
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