With the 56th overall selection in the second round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the Washington Capitals selected 20 year-old right wing Brett Leason from the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders. Leason had a strong performance in the 2018-19 season in the WHL, scoring 36 goals and 53 assists en route to an 89 point season. Other than his scoring prowess in the WHL, another feature that stands out about Leason is his size–he’s 6’4” and 199 pounds.
The Capitals drafted forwards with their first two selections for the first time since 2012, when the Capitals drafted Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson at picks 11 and 16 respectively. Many fans and analysts have been clamoring for more forward prospects to stock the ranks in the minors, and so far this draft, Brian MacLellan has delivered.
Here are the overall pre-draft prospect rankings for Leason that scouting agencies had put together:
|NHL Central Scouting (North American skaters)||#25|
At a glance, these scouting rankings put Leason as a strong 2nd round to fringe 1st round prospect. At 56th overall, the Caps were able to add a high quality player who was projected to be drafted at an earlier slot by 12 picks at the lowest.
Here’s how Leason has performed offensively in the WHL:
|2016-17||Tri-City Americans (WHL)||68||8||10||18|
|2017-18||Tri-City Americans (WHL)||12||1||0||1|
|2017-18||Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)||54||15||17||32|
|2018-19||Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)||55||36||53||89|
Leason certainly improved after being moved from the Tri-City Americans to the Prince Albert Raiders. Leason’s most recent season in the WHL was by far his most productive, putting up more points in 55 games than in his previous 134 combined. Most notably, other than his knack for goal scoring, of his 53 total assists in 18-19, 39 of them were primary assists.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 22, 2019
Leason also had a strong showing in the WHL playoffs, scoring 10 goals and 15 assists in 22 games played, en route to the Raiders winning the WHL Championship.
This is even more impressive, considering that there aren’t any highly touted first round prospects playing in Prince Albert. The next highest scorer on Prince Albert was Noah Gregor, a 2016 fourth round selection by the San Jose Sharks. The Capitals also selected linemate Alexei Protas with their third round pick.
A Look At The Numbers
Here’s some advanced statistics compiled by Prospect-Stats.com:
This shows that Leason performed in the top tier of players statistically in the WHL last season. Based on these statistics, the Capitals got a strong value pick in the late second round. CBS Sports even projected that Leason’s absolute floor for being selected was early in the second round.
After watching some game tape and highlights of Leason, it’s clear that he was an effective player in all phases of the game in Prince Albert. He played on the penalty kill and power play, and was able to pot a few short handed goals as well. One thing to note, although he’s a real physical specimen at 6”4’, he rarely bulls his way to the tough areas of the ice. He relies on his skill level and skating angles to work his way around defenders, and has a knack for finishing his plays. You can check out his highlight tape from the WHL here:
Look for Leason to slot into Hershey immediately. With the likely departure of Hershey’s leading goal scorer Riley Barber, the Bears will need scoring help desperately. The Capitals would definitely like to see how Leason plays in the AHL with professional players. Right wing is also certainly a position that has less certainty going forward with Brett Connolly likely departing. The Capitals currently only have TJ Oshie and Tom Wilson signed at right wing, and Travis Boyd who usually plays the fourth line right wing spot. Leason will join recent draft picks Riley Sutter and Kody Clark as right wingers vying for NHL time in the future. Both Kody Clark and Riley Sutter will be eligible to join the Bears as well, so the forward ranks in Hershey will certainly be bolstered this year.
Last Word on Hockey compares Leason’s playing style to that of Calgary Flames young star Matthew Tkachuk. That’s obviously more of a statement on his playing style and not his actual talent level, as Tkachuk is one of the better young players in the NHL currently.
Leason will likely be a few years out from contributing at the NHL level. The Caps will likely explore options for a third line right winger in free agency or via trade this off-season, but with the prospects coming up in the system at right wing, it’ll likely be a short term solution.
By Justin Trudel