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Wednesday, 10 July 2013 13:34

Igor Leonenko: The next Wayne Gretzky?

Written by  Brad Brown
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“Igor Leonenko — the next Wayne G.” Yes, G as in Gretzky.

So begins the introduction to — the official website of the Swift Current Broncos’ second-round pick in last week’s CHL Import Draft.
If Leonenko is even one-third of the next Wayne G., who scored 70 goals and 182 points in his first season of major junior, the Broncos will have themselves a bona fide top-line winger.
But wait. There’s more.
“Once in a blue moon, there comes along a rare talent that lifts a sport to a new level.
“Be it a Michael Jordan,  Joe Montana, Kobe Bryant, Alex Rodrigues (sic), Maradona, Muhammed (sic) Ali, or Wayne Gretsky (sic), all have secured their place in history as being icons of their sport.
“From Belarus comes a young man who skated before he could walk.
“Displaying all the talents of a player beyond his years, his name is Igor Leonenko.”
You almost get the sense that if you call in the next 10 minutes, you’ll get a second Igor Leonenko for free.
But for all the presumably tongue-in-cheek bravado on the site (you can join his fan club on Page 4), there are signs Leonenko can play too.
He played the American equivalent of midget AAA last year for the San Jose Jr. Sharks of the North American Prospects Hockey League, leading his team and finishing fourth in the 17-team league with 17 goals in 21 games.
He also added two goals and an assist for his native Belarus at the 2013 Division 1A world under-18 hockey championship.
“It was different in the beginning, as the ice is smaller so I had to think and act quicker, but now it’s good,” Leonenko wrote in an email Monday of his first season on North American ice.
He’s big too, officially listed at six-foot-three though his website and a close family friend both say it’s more like six-foot-five.
His import status saga notwithstanding (see story Page 22), Leonenko said he has every intention of reporting to Swift Current next month.
“I wanted to play hockey here as my dream is to play in the NHL,” he said of his move to North America.
According to two sources, his junior A rights in Saskatchewan are held by the Battlefords North Stars.
“My plans are for Swift Current first and see what happens after that,” said Leonenko.

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