Sting’s DeAngelo focused on team goals rather than NHL Draft

By Jason Menard

Anthony DeAngelo - Sarnia Sting

Photo: Sarnia Sting defenseman and 2014 prospect Anthony DeAngelo is currently the top offensive defenseman in the OHL, having produced 60 points in 41 games so far in 2013-14 (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

There may be a measure of impatience in how Sarnia Sting blueliner Anthony DeAngelo approaches his hockey career, but it certainly doesn’t have him running to see where the scouts have him on their rankings for the 2014 NHL Draft.

While Central Scouting had him ranked 10th overall amongst North American skaters, ISS Hockey's number escaped me. When I posed the question to DeAngelo, he had no idea — nor any interest.

“Oh, I don’t know. I really don’t pay any attention to the rankings. I mean, it’s nice to be ranked highly, but it’s something that you really can’t pay attention to,” he said. “It’s still early in the season and there’s a lot of time for guys who haven’t hit their stride yet to come up, while other guys might move down. I don’t think you can worry too much about those rankings yet.”

DeAngelo was ranked 23rd overall by ISS in its latest release. He was the fourth defenseman listed behind Aaron Ekblad, Hayden Fleury, and Roland McKeown. Central Scouting has him as the third defender — behind Ekblad and Fleury, but ahead of McKeown. DeAngelo said he keeps an eye on his peers for personal interest.

“I do pay attention to other guys and how they’re doing just because I’m interested in how they’re doing. It’s not like I’m praying for them to do badly,” he said. “I’d like to see everybody do well.

“As long as it’s not against my team.”

There is another player that DeAngelo takes particular interest in — his Sting teammate, Nikolay Goldolbin, who is ranked 14th by Central Scouting and 25th overall by ISS.

“I’m just focused on my game pretty much and I like to follow how Goldie’s doing too,” he said. “I want to see Goldie go high being my teammate. But besides that I don’t really pay attention too much.”

So far this season, DeAngelo is second in scoring on the Sting, behind only Goldobin, with 60 points in 41 games. He’s scored a career-high 13 goals so far and has shattered his previous 58-point high.

DeAngelo, who is known as an offensive blueliner, said that he’s been trying to focus on developing a more well-rounded game.

“I just try to pick and choose my spots as best as I can. I think that’s something that I’ve improved upon this year,” he said. “I’m getting better at knowing when to jump in offensively while not losing out on anything defensively.”

The Sewell, NJ-born blueliner is used to navigating a learning curve. He is the youngest to ever play in the USHL, when he first suited up for the Cedar Rapids Roughriders where he played his first three games with the club at the tender age of 14. Overall, he competed in 28 games, finishing with one goal and adding 14 assists — and he was doing so competing against men up to 21 years of age.

“It was tough at first. Especially the first couple of weeks of training camp. But I actually adjusted to that style of play quicker than I did here [in the OHL],” he said. “When I came into this league, it was much more physical and it was a bigger change. In the USHL it took me training camp and by the time I got to my first game, I was ready to go.

“As the season went on, I got more and more minutes and became more and more comfortable. All in all it was a very good experience.”

DeAngelo said the biggest challenge wasn’t the mental aspect of the game, but rather the physical challenge of literally being a boy amongst men.

“Definitely the physical,” he said. “You’re playing against guys that are so much older and bigger — the physical is the hardest part.”

But that experience in the USHL helped him transition to the OHL for the 2011-12 season. As a rookie, he appeared in 68 games, scoring six goals and 23 points. Last year, he boosted those numbers to 58 points in 62 games.

“I think it helped me be more ready to come to this league than if I had continued playing minor hockey,” DeAngelo said. “It got me prepared to play against bigger and older guys — and the guys here are bigger and better to be honest with you.”

And what brought him to the OHL was simple — impatience.

“I’m a late birthday [October 24th], so I would have had to be in school a bit longer,” he said. “I want to play in the NHL, so I felt this league was the best choice for me, so I gave it a shot.

So impatience?

“Yeah, I didn’t want to wait,” he conceded with a laugh.

That precociousness almost earned DeAngelo a spot on the USA's World Junior Championship squad.

“It was a pretty good experience. Obviously they treat you pretty well,” he said. “I thought I had a chance to make the team, but it turns out I didn’t. I was hoping [the team] would do a little better than they did there and I wish I could have been there to help.”

He’s quick to say he respects USA Hockey's decision, but it’s clear that DeAngelo feels he was ready to make an impact — even just having turned 18 for a tournament dominated by 19-year-olds.

“When it comes to level of competition, I feel I should have made the team easily but that wasn’t their opinion,” he said. “They took the team they wanted to. It would have been nice to play with my countrymen and it would have been great to play for my country, but I didn’t get the chance. Hopefully I will next year.”

Before auditioning for Team USA, DeAngelo has a few more sets of eyes to impress — the scouts and front office staff of NHL clubs. And while DeAngelo is aware of them being there, he said that it’s not a focus of his during the games.

“Once I get out there on the ice, to be honest, personally — I can’t speak for how anyone else handles it — but I don’t care if there are scouts out there,” he said. “Obviously, you want to look good in front of them, but I’m just focused on trying to win the game — that’s the way I go about it.”

And although the Sting is a squad with a solid history of NHL-drafted talent, he hasn’t yet reached out to get advice.

“Not really. I haven’t talked to [the drafted players] too much,” he said. “I guess as the draft year goes on, I may give some of them a call.

“During the season, I know they’re kind of busy so I let them go. During the combine, I may give them a call to see what I can expect.”

The reason for that is because, right now, DeAngelo said his entire focus is on the success of his OHL club. The personal stuff can come later.

“I’m just trying to get better and better and improve every game. But, to be honest, I just want to help the Sting make the playoffs,” he said. “That’s my first goal and then after that I can focus a little bit more on myself: training and getting ready for the combine. But right now my focus is on getting us back into the playoff race.”

And what needs to improve?

“Really, everything, to be honest with you. Anything I can get better at, I will,” he explained. “I spend a lot of time watching video of myself with the coaches to see what I can improve. I like to watch video of other guys and see if there are things that they do that I can include in my game.

“Off-ice, there are so many ways to go about doing things, but on-ice it’s either the right way or the wrong way. You just have to learn how to do it.”

Though officially living in New Jersey, DeAngelo explained he’s basically in a suburb of Philadelphia. His grandparents live right across from the Flyers’ home arena. And he’s grown up a Flyers fan.

“I’m a big Flyers fan. I don’t like the Devils,” he said. And it’s clear that Philly mystique has rubbed off on him.

“I think I have some Flyer grit in me,” he added. Last year he finished with 60 penalty minutes. This year, he’s already up to 58. “I’m not the biggest guy in the room, but I think I have some grit to my game.”

So is he hoping to hear his name called by his favourite team in their home rink at the NHL Draft on June 27th?

“I would like that. It would be awesome.”

But you’ll take anything, right? “Anything.”

Even New Jersey?

“Oh, that’d be fine!”

Follow Jason Menard on Twitter via @JayCMenard