Next up in our annual prospect review and forecast series is Brett Leason, forward for the Hershey Bears. (You can access all of our Capitals Prospect Reports and player analysis on our “Prospects” page right here.)
Leason, a 6’-5”, 225 lb right-winger, was drafted by the Capitals in the second round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and spent the last two seasons playing for the Hershey Bears in the AHL. Leason was signed to a three-year entry-level deal on July 11, 2019. He will be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season.
“When we had our first round pick, we had a chance to get Connor McMichael or Brett Leason, but we didn’t think we’d end up with both of them.” Those were the words from Capitals’ general manager Brian MacLellan just after the draft in 2019.
MacLellan told Leason at the time that he’d spend the next year in Hershey and that he needed to work on being quicker and making smarter decisions along the wall, among other things. He’d then come back with a year of pro experience under his belt and be better equipped to have a crack at making the Capitals roster the following season.
Leason would indeed spend the next season in Hershey getting acclimated to the professional game. But the Calgary native struggled for most of his first AHL season. In the end, he recorded just three goals and 11 assists in 50 games played, shooting just 5.4% on 56 shots.
But Leason has started slow and finished strong before.
The right winger recorded just eight goals and 10 assists while playing for the Tri-City Americans in the WHL during the 2016-17 season. 12 games into the 2017-2018 season, Leason was traded to the Prince Albert Raiders.
Leason’s 2018-2019 season saw a massive jump in scoring, as he spent a good portion of the season on the top line with fellow Capitals’ prospect Aliaksei Protas and WHL veteran Sean Montgomery. In 55 games, Leason posted 36 goals and 53 assists for a combined 89 points. In 22 playoff games, Leason added another 10 goals and 15 more assists, helping the Raiders win the WHL championship.
The 2020-21 season saw a marked improvement for Leason. He topped his goal output from last season, posting nine goals and 11 assists in just 33 games played. He looked much more comfortable on the ice in his sophomore campaign. He was much better in his puck battles and play in tight spaces, but also began to expand on his play-making capabilities.
2020-21 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for the 2020-21 season for Leason. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
Leason was invited to attend Capitals training camp, which began on January 3. He was re-assigned to Hershey on January 11.
The Bears opened training camp on Saturday, January 23. The season began for the Bears on February 5 against the Binghamton Devils.
After struggling through his rookie campaign, Leason looked like a completely different player to start the season. He is playing with a lot more confidence than he did as a rookie. The Calgary, Alberta native has already equaled his goal total from last season, tallying three times in just eight games.
Leason is being used as a penalty killer this season and has played more responsibly in his own end. He consistently makes good plays on the back check and blocks shots. His newly found complete game was on display against Binghamton on February 17, as Leason scored his first goal of the season on a wrist shot from the right circle, early in the second period.
— Jon Sorensen (@jon_m_sorensen) February 18, 2021
With the game tied in the third period, the second-year winger went down and blocked a shot to keep the game even. He played a physical game and his line was a threat every time they were on the ice.
Leason would score two goals against the Binghamton Devils on February 26. The first, a nice drive around the corner for the score.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) February 27, 2021
Leason would add an empty net goal at the end of the game.
After getting off to a good start in February, Leason cooled off offensively as March went along. The month started out well for the former Prince Albert Raider.
He had the helper on Axel Jonsson-Fjallby’s shorthanded goal at Lehigh Valley on March 3. The winger followed that up with a pair of assists, including the primary assist on Jonsson-Fjallby’s game winner, in Hershey’s 4-1 win over Lehigh Valley on March 6.
Leason then surpassed his goal total from his rookie campaign by netting his fourth goal of the season against Binghamton on March 7.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) March 7, 2021
That goal is the last point Leason recorded for the month. He was scoreless in his last seven games. Leason still sees a lot of time on the penalty kill and is not afraid to get down to block shots, but he needs to find his offensive game on a more consistent basis.
Leason’s strong sophomore season continued in April. He registered a point in six of the eight games in the month.
He started the month with a five-game point streak. The second-year winger dished out an assist in the first four games of his streak, including the primary assist on Joe Snively’s game-winner against Binghamton on April 7.
Leason tallied Hershey’s first goal against Binghamton on April 17. He finished off a well-executed give-and-go with Aliaksei Protas.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) April 17, 2021
Leason added a shorthanded goal against Lehigh Valley on April 21 to bring his season total to six, double the amount of goals he scored in his rookie campaign.
Leason has also equaled his point total from last season and did so in 24 fewer games. He has six goals and eight assists in 26 games played so far this season. He has 51 shots for a 11.8% shooting percentage, more than double last season’s rate.
Leason finished the season strong. The second-year winger netted three goals in May, including two game-winners, and also dished out three assists.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 2, 2021
Leason compiled four points in the last two games of the season. He had the primary assist on Connor McMichael’s game-winning goal on May 15 versus Binghamton. He followed that up with a three-point game in the season finale on May 16. He picked up the assist on McMichael’s opening goal in the first.
Nice feed from Connor McMichael to Brett Leason for a 5-on-3 goal. It’s Leason’s second goal of the game and 9th of the season. McMichael had 1g, 3a in game. Bears lead 5-2. #HBH #CapsProspect #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/qGK4UjopPb
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 16, 2021
Leason’s goal early in the second proved to be the game-winner, as he closed out his season with a five-on-three power play goal off of a sweet feed from McMichael.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) May 16, 2021
Leason scored nine goals in 33 gamess in his sophomore campaign, six more than he did in 50 games as a rookie. He equaled his assist total with 11. Leason amassed 20 points on the season, fourth most on the Bears.
Leason’s slow start in his rookie campaign was quickly set aside as the 2020-21 season rolled along. He looked much more comfortable this season, and began to display his next-level skills on a more regular basis.
The coming season should be a big one for Leason. He and former Prince Albert Raiders teammate Aliaksei Protas should have a good season, and will be exciting to watch.
With a solid third year in the AHL, Leason could be looking at a potential role with the Capitals beginning with the 2022-23 season.
2020-2021 Prospect Reviews And Forecasts