The Land of 10,000 Lakes is beckoning Maple born-and-bred Lucas Lessio this summer.
The NHL will be flooding St. Paul, Minn. June 24–25 for its annual entry draft.
Lessio is one top prospect under the microscope, currently carving up the left wing with Oshawa Generals of the Junior A OHL.
Ranked 44th at the midterm by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, the anticipation is mounting in Lessio, but he says he relishes it.
“As the draft approaches you really feel the heat and the pressure, but not pressure in a bad way; in a good way,” he said. “It really puts momentum into your game and really challenges you to work your hardest, because you dream all your life for something like this.”
And Lessio knows the time is nigh.
“It only happens once in a lifetime,” he said. “So you want to make the best of it and finish off the year strong so your time in Minnesota will be better.”
A “lifetime” for him is 18 years. He grew up on a street rife with youth.
“We were never inside. We were always outside playing any sports we could.”
His parents, Claudio and Claudia, registered him in house league hockey at age 4. From there he kept at it and eventually played AAA with Vaughan Rangers.
Now, Lessio’s skating with a deep Generals roster, featuring Canadian junior team member Calvin de Haan as well as two other 2011 draft hopefuls: Boone Jenner and Nicklas Jensen.
Lessio has flourished in his rookie OHL season — so much so he was chosen to Team Orr at the CHL Top Prospects game held at the Air Canada Centre in January.
Teamed up with other draft prodigies Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Dougie Hamilton and Jonathan Huberdeau, his crew won 7-1 over Team Cherry, much to the elation of his coaches.
“Dougie Gilmour, Stan (Butler) and Wendel (Clark) told us before the game, ‘You know guys, if we lose this one we’re going to hear about this on Coach’s Corner every Saturday, how Don beat us.’”
But it wasn’t all fun and games. Every player was out there trying to prove himself to the scouts, while working within the team game, he said.
“The coaches were on board with winning and that really helped us.”
Through it all, his parents have been his source of inspiration, Lessio says.
“They’ve been my support and my everything since day one.”