By Grace Mello / USPHLNCDC.com
Returning to P.A.L. Islanders this season, Luca Leighton (‘03/Old Brookville, N.Y.) wore the letter ‘C’ on his chest. Tied for second in points in the USPHL NCDC with 63 in the regular season, he helped to lead his team to their first Dineen Cup Playoff final.
In the 2021-2022 season Leighton earned 45 points in regular season play with 22 goals and 23 assists. This year he improved by nearly 20 with 63 points off 22 goals and 41 assists. Playing for P.A.L. has truly helped this 19-year-old grow into the Defensive Forward of the Year. He was also a +29, the second best rating for any forward in the league.
“Ever since I came to play for P.A.L. I feel like my game has elevated on many levels,” Leighton said. “My coach, Mike Marcou [the Ryan Frew Memorial Coach Of The Year], has helped me get better in every aspect of the game, especially defensively. Playing for him has given me a defense-first mindset.”
P.A.L. will take on the South Shore Kings, who they split the regular season series with, one game apiece. There is no doubt this is going to be a tough matchup, but Leighton and his team look to finish business as they head into the final.
“It feels great,” Leighton tells us about being able to play for his team in the championship. “The team we have this year is very close and to make it this far with them makes it feel a lot better. But even though we had a great season so far we are not satisfied and still looking for two more wins.”
Leighton shared that he is honored to be recognized in a competitive league filled with great players.
“I’d again like to thank Coach Marcou because without him I don’t think I would be the player I am today.”
As he prepares for his final games of the season, Leighton reflects on what it means to be a defensive forward and how that has helped him be successful within the P.A.L. Islanders organization.
“To be a defensive forward means never cheating the game, always making sure you’re getting back, winning wall battles, blocking shots, etc. I’ve learned over the past two years that the better you are in the defensive zone, the more offense you will produce.”
Congratulations to Luca Leighton, USPHL NCDC 2022-2023 Defensive Forward of the Year