The Vancouver Giants announced on Thursday morning the signing of top prospect Mazden Leslie to a WHL Standard Player Agreement.
Leslie is already the 12th player from the first round of last week’s Bantam draft to be signed, something that is unprecedented in a sense for the WHL.
“I’m really excited to actually be a part of the team now and I’m excited to get some games in next year hopefully,” Leslie said on signing with the Giants.
The six-foot tall defenceman said he hadn’t had much contact with the Giants prior to the draft, citing just a FaceTime call the night before.
That shouldn’t be thought of as a lack of interest from the team. It’s likely the Giants weren’t expecting Leslie to be there at 10 for them to pick. Multiple sources had the Lloydminster native as a top-8 pick at the very least.
Leslie played Midget AAA this past season as an underage player collecting 12 points (5G, 7A) in 32 games, but the numbers don’t truly show his offensive abilities.
“I think if I would have played Bantam I would have got drafted higher maybe but I think playing Midget was better for my development.” said Leslie.
He put up 50 points (23G, 27A) in 33 games as a first year Bantam in 2018/19, so a promotion was warranted.
“I think it’s just tougher competition so you don’t stand out as much,” he elaborated on playing as an underage.
This year’s draft was completely online due to COVID-19 precautions, making for some unusual stories about how some of the players found out their WHL destinations.
“I actually found out by the team following me on Instagram. My WiFi was a bit behind,” Leslie said with a chuckle.
Very modern day.
The recently-turned 15-year-old went into the draft process with an idea of what to expect as a first-round selection in the WHL.
Mazden’s older brother, Jantzen, was a defenceman drafted 15th overall in 2014 by the Everett Silvertips.
“It made it a lot easier I think, just expecting what will happen and not being set on going to one place,” he said of his brother’s bit of advice.
Jantzen played 102 WHL games between Everett, Saskatoon and Edmonton before moving on to Red Deer College of the ACAC where he just completed his second season.
The younger of the Leslie brothers will return to his Lloydminster Bobcats Midget AAA team for a second season, but this time he will be with his age group where he expects himself to produce in a big way.
“Kind of the same thing as my first year Bantam — just try to dominate the league,” he said of his goal for next season.
As Leslie mentioned he hoped would happen, the Giants will likely give their young defender a couple of looks next season to see how his game translates to the Western Hockey League level.
15-year-old call ups can play five games until their Midget seasons are over. Then they can join the roster on a full-time basis.
What should Giants fans expect when they eventually see him?
“Just an offensive, physical defenceman who can score, block shots and can lay the body.”