Nick Leddy's voice is so soft that it's become a running joke among his Blackhawks teammates.
"Whenever we hang out as a group, we always want to give him a microphone so we can hear him talk," said Hawks center Andrew Shaw, who's become good friends with Leddy. "He's a whisperer—a megaphone would work, too."
Saying Leddy is laid back is putting it mildly. Even one of the equipment managers calls him by the good-natured nickname "Mumbles."
It's not that he lacks personality or a sense of humor, but putting those traits on display publicly doesn't come naturally for the 22-year old defenseman—a burgeoning star from the Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie, Minn.
"I think I'm getting really comfortable now," said Leddy, already in his third NHL season. "At the beginning it was a little different, especially away from the rink. In college you have guys you can go hang out with who are pretty much your age, but that's just a difference here. I had to get used to it. Now that I know everybody, it's become easier to hang out with guys."
Shaw and the younger Blackhawks are the set with whom Leddy typically hangs out, and they say he's fun to be around—microphone jokes aside.
"He's a normal guy," Shaw said. "He's just a little shy, a little soft-spoken. I hang out with him every day actually. He's a great guy.
"We live at the same place, same building here in town. We go out to dinner, breakfast, movies ... whatever it is. I see him every day."
Shaw also sees him at practices and watches him closely in games.
"Speed, skill, smarts—he's got everything," Shaw said. "He's fully loaded. He's got a great shot from the point, great vision up the ice and he skates like the wind."
Leddy's personality is just starting to peek out, but his on-ice persona has taken big strides this season—almost literally in tune with the strides he's taken carrying the puck or skating back to bust up opponents' scoring chances.
"Last year to this year, he's gotten a lot stronger," said defenseman Brent Seabrook, who started taking shifts with Leddy midseason during a shuffling of defensive pairs. "Everybody in the whole world knows how fast a skater he is, and how he gifted he is with that ... and his shot and offensive abilities. But he's been getting better in his defensive game. For any of us defensemen, that's always a work in progress."
Coach Joel Quenneville said Leddy's defensive improvement has boosted his offense.
"He's progressed this year right from the outset," Quenneville said. "Offensively, defensively—his game looks like it's evolved. I like the way he can beat one guy with his speed and quickness, turning around from [behind] the net. … I like the way he's killing plays and his reading of plays has definitely improved."
Shaw's favorite skill is Leddy's speed.
"When I'm out there with him, I'd rather him just skate the puck up the ice than for him to give it to me," he said, chuckling. "It looks so much easier for him. He just weaves in and out of guys."
Leddy showed flashes of his talent the previous two years, after playing one season at the University of Minnesota and then signing with the Hawks following the 2010 summer prospects camp. This year, he's doing it more consistently.
"The confidence is definitely there," said Leddy, who had six goals and 12 assists in the regular season and has not missed a game in 2013. "The more I play, the more confident and comfortable I get up here. It's just getting used to guys and how they play, too, on opposing teams. Once you figure that out, you may think you know their next move, and that definitely helps out."
Leddy also has drawn comparisons to teammate Duncan Keith, who won the Norris Trophy in 2010 as the league's top defenseman.
"They both skate the puck well, they're smart with the puck, they make good plays, they're good passers and they have good offensive upside," said Seabrook, who's been paired with both. "The only difference, I would say, is that Nick's a little quieter. Actually, he's a lot quieter than Dunc. Everywhere. He's just got a quiet voice ... but he plays big."
Almost like he's carrying a microphone.
Brian Hedger is a RedEye special contributor.
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