PHILADELPHIA – He’s the lifelong Philadelphia Flyers fan with a chance to be drafted by his favorite team. At the very least, Anthony DeAngelo could become a first-round pick in the NHL Draft in his de facto hometown, in front of an estimated 150 friends and family at Wells Fargo Center on Friday night.
Provided the mistakes from his past haven’t come back to haunt him.
DeAngelo is an 18-year-old defenseman from Sewell, New Jersey. ‘I’m in a hotel [for the Draft], but I live 15 minutes away,” he said, at a media event near the Liberty Bell on Thursday.
He’s an offensive standout among defensemen, with 71 points in 51 games for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, his third season in that Canadian junior league. “His puck skills and playmaking ability are excellent,” said Chris Edwards of NHL Central Scouting.
But it’s not the 71 points that’s garnered him the most attention entering the Draft, but the 51 games – he was suspended eight games by the OHL, and held out prior to that by his team for two weeks – after an incident that violated the league’s harassment, abuse and diversity policy. It was a slur, to a teammate. And it was the second time DeAngelo had been involved in such an incident.
“Anthony made a mistake and he got caught up in the moment,” said Sarnia Coach Trevor Letowski in February. “It’s something I’m sure he wishes he could take back, but it’s one of these unique moments. The league ruled on it and we fully support it.”
DeAngelo served the suspension, but the incident was fresh on the minds of NHL personnel at the draft combine roughly five months later. Instead of questions about his size, ability and room for improvements, he was peppered with questions about the incidents, and forced to relive them for curious NHL executives.
“I cleared a lot of things up at the combine. I think I had some honest interviews, about making some mistakes in the past and learning from them,” he said. “They wanted answers. They didn’t want to hear hearsay. They wanted to hear it from my mouth. That was almost better for me, to be able to tell my story and be honest about what happened.”
Some of these discussions veered into the realm of rumor control. What DeAngelo said hasn’t been revealed or reported. The NHL teams had heard several versions of the stories. “Yeah, people hear something and then want to add their own stuff to them,” said DeAngelo. “The stories out there were a little farfetched. That’s why they have me come in.”
He’s done what he can do to mend his image with those that matter, but the No. 14 ranked North American skater’s draft position is still a mystery heading into Friday night. Draft expert Kyle Woodlief doesn’t have him in the first round and neither does Draftsite.com.
TSN’s Craig Button has him going at No. 17 … to the Flyers.
“Obviously, the Flyers would be a dream come true,” he said. “But I’d be honored to go to any team."
Even if it’s the Flyers’ rivals, the New Jersey Devils, at No. 30? Wouldn’t he rather slip to the second round?
“No, I’d rather get drafted by the Devils at 30,” he said with a smile. “Obviously the first round. I don’t want to slip to the second.”
It’s not just DeAngelo that would be disappointed. It’s the 150 friends and family crowding the seats at the Flyers’ home arena, waiting to see if the local boy gets his name called on Day 1.
“Sometimes I wish it was in a different spot, because there’s going to be so many people there for me and it would suck if things didn’t go as planned,” he said.
The plan for the explosive defenseman has been to leave Philadelphia with an NHL jersey, having been selected in the first round.
“I’d be surprised if I don’t,” said DeAngelo.
“Because I think I should. And I think I will.”