De Leo delighted with Portland push

Aaron Vickers2014 Draft Center, Features

Chase De Leo is well aware of the success rate that comes with sporting a Portland Winterhawks jersey.

The Western Hockey League club has a longstanding tradition of sending plenty of players through the NHL Entry Draft process.

And De Leo knows the expectation on him is no different.

“I was definitely blessed getting drafted to that team when I was 14,” De Leo said. “[Ryan] Johansen, [Nino] Niederreiter and obviously last year with [Seth] Jones. I’ve obviously been lucky. I get to see those guys and practice with them every day. I try not to grind them with too many questions. They get enough media attention as it is. They just say to be yourself and just have a good time and enjoy it.”

The list goes well beyond the aforementioned three be De Leo. The likes of Sven Baertschi, Derrick Pouliot and Joe Morrow have also been plucked in the first round of the NHL’s annual draft process, while 12 others have been plucked from Portland since 2010.

But that lineage doesn’t add pressure, De Leo declared.

“I wouldn’t say that there’s any added pressure,” he said. “Of course you want to represent your team as best you can. That’s what I’m going to do and work my hardest and make sure I enjoy it.”

That’s not the only pressure facing the La Miranda, CA product who finds himself 39th overall in Future Considerations’ February ranking.

De Leo has been subject to various rankings all season, something he admits he tries to avoid.

“I’m never satisfied,” the 18-year-old said. “Of course it’s good to see. It’s reassuring. I try to stay away from the rankings. Obviously at the end of the day, you want to play in the NHL. I want to play in the NHL.

“Of course it’s nice to see those rankings but I know I always have to push myself harder and work harder.”

There’s plenty to like in De Leo already, though, according to Future Considerations’ WHL head scout Zenon Herasymiuk.

“De Leo is a highly skilled forward that excels in the offensive zone using good puck skills and a hard shot,” Herasymiuk said. “He has incredible foot speed and is able to consistently display his hockey sense and talent while playing at top speed. Chase will need to add a little bit of mass to make himself more of a force in the greasy areas while continuing to grow his 200-foot game.”

He’s seen plenty of growth in his offensive game already.

In his third season with the Winterhawks, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound pivot has already established a new career-high with 29 goals and is just one shy of matching his personal best of 56 points, set last year.

All his successes wouldn’t have come without teammates in Tyler Leier and Oliver Bjorkstrand, he admitted.

“Obviously I’ve been fortunate enough to play with two great linemates, De Leo said. “I wouldn’t have as many of those goals if it weren’t for them. Playing in Portland and playing with those guys make it easier on me so I’m very lucky to be on that team.”

A team that will most definitely see another one of their sons called to the stage on draft day.