With the minor hockey season officially done, young men’s thoughts in Canada will turn to either a well-rested summer or the country’s under-17 program.
The latter, of course, is just for the elite kids, but that’s exactly where Lucas Lessio hopes to find himself. The 6-foot-1, 178-pound left winger was named tournament MVP in leading his Toronto Marlboros team to the cherished OHL Cup in late March, tying for the team lead in the tourney with 11 points in seven games, second-most overall.
The win over the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs in the final represented the culmination of a great Marlboros season that saw Lessio’s Ontario League draft status edge up as the season went on.
“It was good to see it pay off,” Lessio said. “Everybody worked as a team.”
The interesting thing about Lessio, 16, is just how team-oriented he is. In fact, he was originally approached to do this interview in early March, but wanted to wait until after the OHL Cup in order to keep the focus on his team, rather than his own personal skills.
But make no mistake, Lessio has talent to burn.
“He’s got great skill, great hands and great speed,” said Marlboros coach Ken Strong. “He really handles the puck well. As a left shot, he’s probably one of the best I’ve seen beating the defenseman wide and cutting in on the left side, which is really hard to do because your body wants to go the other way.”
For Lessio, it’s all about the setups and making the players around him better, which he believes is a noble pursuit in the game.
“I’m very good in the corners,” he said. “And I love passing to my teammates.”
Citing Rick Nash and Joe Sakic as inspirations, it’s clear Lessio wants to mould himself into more than just a player who can put points up on the board.
“They’re such great leaders and models for the game,” he noted.
And if leadership is one of Lessio’s goals (he also wants to improve on his defensive play), the youngster is on the right path with his off-ice charisma.
“The kids love him in the dressing room,” Strong said. “Everything’s fun, everything’s easy-going.”
Lessio is expected to be a high OHL draft pick this year, though the power forward said he and his family are keeping themselves educated on all future options. It goes without saying his team’s triumph in the prestigious OHL Cup will help his profile. Going up against other top major junior prospects such as Boone Jenner, Ryan Murphy and Daniel Catenacci, the Marlboros still came out on top and Strong believes depth and a bit of anonymity were the drivers.
“That’s why we came out and blew people out of the water,” said Strong, whose team outscored its opponents 34-10 in seven tourney games. “We had something to prove. My guys, they understand the game, which gives them a little bit of an edge. They’re winners. They will not stand for losing.”
And Lessio promised not to lose his edge this summer, working with a trainer when he’s not on the ice.
“We’ll be working on legs and my core,” Lessio said. “This game is all about speed now.”
And that’s something the left winger knows a lot about.
Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, will now go on hiatus, as the season has ended. Thanks to all the players, teams and readers that bought into the concept.
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