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Leitner encounters early struggles


VASTERAS, SWE. – Being a rookie in the VHL can be a grind. Playing a position you’ve never played before only compounds that grind as Vasteras forward Leon Leitner is finding out first hand.


After being scooped up with the third overall pick in the S35 VHL Entry Draft, the career winger was about to embark on a change that extended beyond a new league. In his initial discussions with the team, the idea of Leitner converting to the centre ice position was mulled over by player and team alike.


With limited depth down the middle, the successful conversion of Leitner would provide the Iron Eagles with a long-term solution at centre and a key piece of what they hoped to build with their top line. The position change would also allow Leitner an opportunity to utilize his skating by providing him with freer rein instead of playing on the wing. At 5-foot-11, it was also felt that Leitner would be eased off of some of the physical punishment he may receive as a winger.


The decision was made, and Leitner went about focusing his off-season training efforts on learning the nuances of a new position. And of course, preparing for the jump to a whole new level of competition in the VHL.




Things have not been smooth sailing for Leon Leitner in his rookie season.


“It was a tough off-season for sure. Lots of time was spent watching video and going through situational drills on the ice,” Leitner said. “Centre is a very important position, you have a lot more responsibility and you really can’t cheat your defensive responsibilities or you’ll get burned.”


Through 35 games, there’s no doubting the fact that there has been some growing pains for the 19-year-old. Leitner has managed to find the back of the net a measly 2 times, while his 13 points rank last on the team in scoring. Based on the results, it’s easy to forgive Leitner for any frustration, but the Austrian says he’s not worried about the struggles.


“I feel like I’m improving every day; getting more comfortable with the league and building chemistry with my teammates,” Leitner said. “Obviously I’ve had some struggles in the faceoff circle but I’ve been working hard on it. It’s going to come and I’m just learning what it takes to be a centre at this level. This is definitely a learning experience for me but I feel like I’m taking a lot away from the experience that is going to help me be a better player in the long-run.”


General Manager Thomas Corcoran has also been preaching patience with the team’s youngest player.


“He’s just a kid, and he’s learning a new position. I think sometimes it gets lost on people how difficult it is to play in this league as a rookie, yet alone a teenager,” Corcoran said. “We see the progress in his game and it’s (the breakthrough) is going to come sooner than later. He’s a big part of the team right now but he’s got all the tools to be a big-time player in this league and we really think he’ll be that player one day.”


Of course on a team that is looking on the outside-in at a playoff spot, there have been calls for Leitner to see a reduction in ice-time as disappointment mounts surrounding his performance.


Some fans, however, do see the bigger picture and aren’t worried about Leitner’s struggles. Given the team’s lengthy history of rebuilds, fans in Vasteras are well acquainted with the patient approach to developing players.


Regardless of opinion, the team has made it clear that Leitner will not only be part of this team for the second half, he will continue to be put in opportunities to contribute and develop as a player. Corcoran says that the team is gunning hard for a playoff spot, but the long-term development of the team’s younger players is critical this season as well.


“There’s a bigger picture to consider here. Let’s not let that get lost in translation. Leon will be fine.”

Edited by scotty
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Content: 3/3 - The value in this season for Leitner won't be reaching the playoffs, but growing as a player. He'll take his lumps this year, but he'll be a front-runner for the Funk Trophy next year if he keeps up the hard work.
Grammar: 2/2 - Nothing here.
Appearance: 1/1 - Good good.
Overall: 6/6 - Well done!
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Content: 3/3 - A nice piece on Leitner's transition to center from the wing. While usually you hear about centers converting to wing , there are instances where the swap works the other way. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that Claude Giroux was drafted as a winger and converted to center at some point. In any case, hopefully this switch would give Vasteras a center to build around.


Grammar: 2/2 - Yup.


Appearance: 1/1 - Solid.


Overall: 6/6


FINAL: 6/6

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