In “Meditation XVII,” English poet John Donne opined “No man is an island.” Thanks to more than 100 relatives and friends, Anthony DeAngelo could count himself a supporter of that notion Friday during the National Hockey League Draft. Returning to the city that has meant so much to him and his kin, the New Jersey product became the Tampa Bay Lightning’s first-round selection at the Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad St.
“Hearing my name called was definitely a dream come true,” the 18-year-old said Monday of becoming the 19th overall pick. “I had been battling nerves as the draft approached because we never know what could happen when we’re actually there and all the people are done making their predictions, but it was great and I’m eager to be a contributor to the Tampa Bay franchise.”
The Garden State native, who has trained at FDR Park, Broad Street and Pattison Avenue, and whose clan can claim Passyunk Square and Packer Park roots, joined the Eastern Conference club’s camp Tuesday after months of prognostications and years of determination. Fully prepared for the rigors of professional play, he plans to place all his trust in his time as a tenacious competitor to enhance his maturation.
“The draft is great, but there’s still a ton of work to do, and I have to keep building to make it to the pros,” the young man, who had been a member of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting, said of his crusade. “I’m not going to make any bold predictions, but my plan, for sure, is to play [with the main club] as soon as possible.”
To actualize that ambition, DeAngelo knows the next three to four years will prove crucial, and he intends to absorb guidance from his superiors and act as a cheerleader for his contemporaries. The fourth American to go in the draft, he realizes scrutiny will often prove intense but welcomes the pressure, as it will prepare him to strike when helming the Lightning’s blueline.
“Tampa Bay has a young, fast team,” he said of the Florida franchise, the 2004 Stanley Cup champion. “If your game revolves around speed, which mine does, I think that’s an advantage, so because of that, I think I’ll fit in very well.”
Though he aims to refrain from feeling he will be ready rapidly, DeAngelo confessed he would love to set up captain Steven Stamkos for goals and score a few himself.
“I’ve wanted this for so long,” he said of his career’s genesis. “I’ve soaked it all in, and now I’m eager to succeed.”
The Sewell-bred figure began playing competitively by age 7 and quickly considered becoming a professional stick wielder. Adoring hockey’s blend of grit and grace, he started off as a forward before making a shift to his present defenseman duties.
“No matter what position I’ve played, I’ve always been about giving my best effort and feeling like I’m prepared to skate against anybody,” DeAngelo said. “Fortunately for me, I’ve had some great chances to build on that thinking.”
A lifelong Flyers fan, he suited up for the Little Flyers locally and gained prestige in his home state as a Mercer Chief with the Atlantic Metropolitan Hockey League. Eager to make history for the Lightning, he can already boast of being in the annals of the United States Hockey League, as he debuted for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders at 14, tallying 15 points in 28 games. That success attracted Sarnia, which in ’11 added him to its roster.
“Lots of guys are talented, so I really had to commit to getting better and better every day,” DeAngelo said of his three-season stint with the club, which has produced an impressive list of NHL players, including Stamkos and former Flyers Daniel Carcillo and Andy Delmore, a current Sting assistant whom he credits for honing his defensive mentality. “I feel proud to have represented them.”
He amassed 58 points during the ’12-’13 season, pacing all OHL defensemen in assists with 49. Building on that year’s windfall, the 5-foot-11 individual set career highs for goals, assists and points this past campaign, again topping blueliners in helpers with 56 in only 51 contests. Such statistics brought him even more attention and intensified teams’ interest in his talent.
“A fair amount of teams were very serious about me,” he said, noting he had hoped to become a wearer of the Orange and Black. “I’m happy to be heading to Tampa Bay because there’s a great mentality in the front office and among the players.”
Having received such acclaim in his brief life, DeAngelo, who also competed for his country in the ’12 Czech Republic- and Slovakia-situated Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, aspires to reward Hall of Fame inductee and Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman for believing in his bounty of benefits as a tireless contributor.
“They’ve done very well, so of course I want to keep them among the league’s elite,” DeAngelo said. “I’ve had so much support along the way that I really want to do a good job.”
As Tampa Bay and the Flyers are Eastern Conference representatives, DeAngelo will face the Broad Street Bullies often, but he will not become overly anticipatory about battling his boyhood heroes. Instead, he will approach all foes as equally worthy of his preparation.
“I want to do whatever to win,” DeAngelo said. “I’ve been at this for too long not to want to be a winner at every level.”
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