In one of the most unique stories you’ll hear out of the Ontario Hockey League all season, Storm defenceman Zac Leslie has announced that he will have season-ending shoulder surgery following Sunday’s home game against the Kitchener Rangers.
Leslie, 20, has had minor issues with his shoulder at times throughout his 4-year-long junior career and it’s finally gotten to the point where acting prematurely is the best course of action for his future.
The news comes at a very odd time in the season. Leslie has played pretty much the entire season for Guelph and the team is all-but-certainly headed to the playoffs – in what I might I add a decent position to do some damage. When they return Robby Fabbri and Luke Cairns to the lineup, this group of players has the potential to push for the conference final.
The reason for having the surgery now, as opposed to the end of the season, has to do with Leslie’s relationship with another team, the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. Leslie signed an entry-level-contract with the Kings, signalling the start of his transition from junior to pro hockey.
From what I understand, the recovery time on this type of surgery is fairly long. To prolong the injury and jeopardize the long-term investment the Kings have made in Leslie in favour of his junior team’s short-term success would be irresponsible given the nature of the business.
It might not be a decision fans are happy with, but I would hope most (if not all) can be understanding. Leslie may indeed have a bright future in the National Hockey League, and part of taking that step is making tough decisions. So it is with a heavy heart I’m sure that Leslie will take one last skate in crimson on Sunday and bow out with an eye on his future.
Through 4 years of junior, Leslie has tallied 156 points in 250 career games. That mark is good for 5th in the Storm’s career points by a defenceman category; only one point behind Drew Doughty for 4th. Should Leslie tally anymore points (through two periods in tonight’s game against London he has one assist) tonight he’d tie Doughty in that regard.
If not, Leslie will get one more crack to tie the mark in Sunday’s game against Kitchener, his last career junior game. Fitting too that it will be against the Rangers, the Storm’s most historic rival.
His presence will be missed in the lineup, but I’m certain Leslie will continue to influence in the locker room and off the ice as the Storm push onward towards their 23rd straight playoff appearance.
Be sure to tune into the game on Sunday to see Leslie off – he’s certainly earned it. Action gets underway from the Sleeman Centre at 2:00 PM EST