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Vancouver Giants’ Mazden Leslie ‘motivated’ by Top Prospects Game

The third-year blueliner finds inspiration by watching other prospects improve his own game ahead of the NHL draft in June

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Mazden Leslie’s Vancouver Giants team, who hosted the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at the Langley Events Center last week, gave him an inside look coupled with a dose of inspiration.

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“It was weird to watch that game. It was really weird,” said Leslie, 17, a defenseman himself qualified for the NHL draft this summer in Nashville. “You wish you were out there, but these are some pretty good guys.

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“It motivates you because you want to get to where these guys are. It also shows you that in some cases you might not be that far off after all.”

The 6-foot, 193-pound right-footed rearguard was a C-level prospect in NHL Central Scouting’s Players released in October, meaning they pinned him for the fourth, fifth, or sixth round. Central Scouting has since ranked Leslie as the 80th North American skater in their midterm ranking published three weeks ago.

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This will continue until the draft, these experts with the projections and forecasts. The leaderboards will now increase in rapid fire. Leslie doesn’t shy away from giving all of this some time and space in his head. Give him credit for honesty.



Vancouver Giants vs. Prince Albert Raiders

19 o’clock, Event Center Langley. Radio: Sportsnet 650.

“You try not to think about it, but it’s always in the back of your mind,” Leslie said. “It’s nothing that kills you. It’s a good thing. If you get the chance to get drafted, you’re in luck.”

Leslie’s game feels like it’s trending throughout the season. He seemed to force things and push for points in the early weeks. He chooses his spots to better jump into the rush now and is more powerful in his own zone.

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“I feel like I’m playing more of a two-way game now, like I did in the playoffs and like I wasn’t earlier in the year,” said the Lloydminster, Alta., product, of the one was part of the Giants team that upset the Everett Silvertips in the first round last spring and then lost to the Kamloops Blazers in the second round.

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“I think I’m starting to feel like I did last year just before playoff time. It’s good that it’s starting so early this year. I want to do whatever it takes to help us get a better starting position for the playoffs.”

Giants coach Michael Dyck credited Leslie for making an impression all over the ice last weekend as Vancouver clinched a home and away game on Friday at the Langley Events Center with a 3-1 triumph and a 5-1 setback on Saturday -Home set with the Kelowna Rockets shared at Prospera Square.

“I feel like he took his game to a new level after Christmas,” Dyck said. “The energy, the physicality and the urgency with which he plays … he has set a bar for himself and that will be the expectation going forward.”

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Before a Wednesday visit with the Prince Albert Raiders at the Langley Events Center this year, Leslie scored eight goals and 33 points in 45 games with Vancouver. That’s more than his five goals and 19 points in 64 games last season.

With minors hockey 2020-21 suspended due to COVID-19, Leslie had to play 17 games as a 15-year call-up in the BC Division’s abbreviated hub season with the Giants. He didn’t seem the least bit shy or hesitant and ended up scoring five goals.

The last Giants defenseman to pass that young was Bowen Byram, the former Giants star who featured in 11 games as a 15-year-old in 2016-17.

Leslie shares other similarities with Byram, including these daring offensive proclivities.

Of course, any link to Byram can be a massive one to lug around. Byram is under discussion as the best giant of all time. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and saw the top-four ice age for the Avalanche in their run to the Stanley Cup title last spring.

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“Now it’s not so much. I got it more when I first came in,” Leslie said of comparisons to Byram. “I still hear a little bit about it.

“When I first got here it might have been a bit much, but I ignore it now. You will not follow in his footsteps. I have to play how I play. I can’t try to copy him.”

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