There are many numbers to cite when the topic of Anthony De Luca comes up. First and foremost, there's the 48 goals and 80 points in 43 games he put up in the Quebec midget league this year for the Lac St-Louis Lions, the highest total on the circuit. Then there's the frame; a unique 5-foot-8 and 199 pounds at the age of 17.
“Physically, he's built like an NFL running back,” said coach Jon Goyens. “He definitely takes hockey very seriously.”
A gym rat mentality has made De Luca a tank with a deadly payload, as evidenced by his lethal production.
“Offensively, he was the big player to watch for in this league,” Goyens said. “His shot is five to eight years past his age right now. That's how hard a shot he has.”
Though short in stature, De Luca simply chose an appropriate NHL mentor to model his game after; Tampa Bay's Martin St-Louis. The young left winger will even follow the Lightning star to college, as De Luca plans on attending the University of Vermont in two seasons. Next year, he'll hone his game in the United States League with Cedar Rapids.
“I just really wanted to get to school,” De Luca said. “And the best way to prepare for university was to get to the USHL.”
While Iowa will be an interesting culture switch from the suburbs of Montreal, he certainly won't be the first Lions star to take that route. Habs rookie Louis Leblanc went from Lac St-Louis to Omaha before Harvard, while one of last year's standouts, defenseman Michael Matheson, went to Dubuque as a primer before he heads to Boston College next season. One of Matheson's teammates this season is the superb Latvian power forward Zemgus Girgensons, who is committed to Vermont. But De Luca is cagey on his chances of running across the 2012 NHL draft prospect in two years.
“I personally think he'll be in the NHL by the time I get there,” he said. “But I'd love to play with him.”
De Luca got his own international experience over the Christmas holidays when he participated in the world under-17s in Windsor, Ont. It gave him a nice helping of perspective on the level of global competition.
“That was great,” he said. “Getting to play all the European countries – you realize you still have a lot of work to do.”
Fortunately, De Luca's a workhorse. His coach will testify to the left winger's level of commitment and if anything, it's preparing to play without space at the next level that the Lac St-Louis staff have tried to prepare him for. Otherwise, the kid knows what he's doing.
“He loves to work out and you can see it in his build,” Goyens said. “It takes a lot for him to get tired out there.”
De Luca prides himself on his speed and has been working on his defensive game as well. From his Tampa hero St-Louis, he looks to the veteran's tenacity around the puck and willingness to go into the corners with any opponent. But the cannon he brings to the table is what distinguishes De Luca from most in his age bracket. Goyens even compares his most recent charge to a great from the recent past.
“Leblanc got it off quicker,” he said. “But Anthony...sometimes you could actually hear the puck hitting the netting it was so hard.”
Between Leblanc, Matheson, Halifax's Jonathan Drouin and Quebec's Anthony Duclair, Lac St-Louis has become a factory for high-end midget talent in Quebec. De Luca is certainly doing the program proud as the next great alum.
THN.com's Prospect Watch focuses on up-and-comers from the AHL, Europe, major junior, the NCAA and even minor hockey destined to become big names in the NHL.
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