Anthony DeAngelo will come full circle when he slips a NHL jersey over his head in June.
The draft is slated for the Wells Fargo Center, home of the Philadelphia Flyers, which the Ontario Hockey League's leading defenceman scorer took a rooting interest in during his formative years in Sewell, N.J.. Fittingly, the Sarnia Sting star has fortified his draft stock thanks in part to some tutelage from a former Flyer. DeAngelo's defence coach in Sarnia is former Flyer Andy Delmore, who's helped the 18-year-old become a sounder all-around player.
"From the very beginning even when I came back to Sarnia to start the year, Andy came to the airport to pick me up and we had a good talk on the way back," says DeAngelo, who is NHL Central Scouting's 10th-ranked domestic skater and is also considered a potential top 20 pick. "It's about a hour and a half from the airport in Detroit and we went over everything from my second year in the league. He had watched video on me. He's taught me a lot about the right ways to pick my spots in the game and the ways to make the right plays in the game. We have a pretty close relationship.
"On defence, there's a lot to learn and a lot of subtle angles and fine positioning," says DeAngelo, an undersized defenceman at 5-foot-10¾ and 175 pounds. "It's nice to keep learning and getting better at it."
Without that maturation, DeAngelo could have been in for a trying season. The Sting, from the outset, have been in a rebuilding season under new coach Trevor Letowski. Playing extended minutes on the blueline for a young team often put a harsh spotlight on a puck-moving defenceman.
DeAngelo, in contrast, is thriving with 11 goals and 53 points over just 35 games, which makes him the only defenceman among the OHL's top 20 scorers. The Sting are only one point out of the Western Conference basement, but have managed to be competitive and stay within sight of the final playoff spot.
"We're a young team, and the guys are getting better as they're developing," says DeAngelo, who cut his junior hockey teeth with the USHL's Cedar Rapids RoughRiders before joining the Sting in 2011. "It's fun to be part of."
1. When you break down your game to analyze it, what do you see as an area to improve?
"Just trying to keep progressing in all facets of the game. I don't like hearing that it's all about getting better on offence or getting better on defence. I'm just trying to fine-tune my game in all facets, I still need to do that."
2. You have to be yourself, but which NHL defencemen do you watch closely because you perceive similarities between their game and yours?
"I like to watch the NHL in general and watch all kinds of guys, but certain defencemen that I kind of play like are Dan Boyle, Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty, that kind of game. I just look at what they do defensively because they're not the biggest guys in the world and are kind of my stature.
"I'm a Flyers fan, so I watch all their defence."
3. Outside of your parents (Gina and Lou DeAngelo), who is someone in your life you owe a lot to for helping you get to this point?
"My buddy's dad, Jim Dell'ermo. Like when my dad couldn't make a trip he really helped me, he'd fly with me, stay in hotels together, him, my buddy/his son Louis. He and my dad are really close. He really took me in as another son sometimes."
4. Where is your favourite road rink in the OHL?
"London is a really hard place to play, it's really loud."
5. If you're picking an all-time roster for your beloved Philadelphia Eagles, who gets your nod at quarterback?
"That's a tough question. My favourite Eagles quarterback is [Michael] Vick but I haven't seen all the quarterbacks. I guess the best one has been Donovan McNabb."
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.