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 three seasons playing for the Hershey Bears in the AHL. Leason, 23, was signed to a three-year entry-level deal on July 11, 2019. He is a restricted free agent this summer.
“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.
As noted, Leason made the jump to the AHL for the 2019-20 season, and once again got off to a slow start. He notched just three goals and 11 assists in 50 games before the season was shutdown due to the pandemic.
The 2020-21 season saw a marked improvement for Leason. He topped his goal output from the previous season, posting nine goals and 11 assists in just 33 games played in the Covid-shortened season. He looked much more comfortable on the ice in his sophomore campaign and was much better in his puck battles and play in tight spaces. He also began to expand on his play-making capabilities.
Leason started well in the 2021-22 season and was recalled to the Capitals on October 29. He would make his NHL debut that night and would score his first career NHL goal on November 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Leason would spend 36 games with the Capitals, recording three goals and three assists, before returning to Hershey to close-out the 2021-22 season. Leason had six goals and seven assists in 31 games played for the Bears during the regular season and added two goals and an assist in three postseason games. Leason saw action in one postseason game for the Capitals.
2021-2022 MONTH-BY-MONTH RECAP AND TREND ANALYSIS
The following is a compilation of our month-by-month prospect reports for Brett Leason during the 2021-2022 season. You can find all of our monthly prospect reports on our “Prospects” page in the top menu.
Leason netted a power play goal in the second period of the season opener against Charlotte on October 16. He deposited a loose puck into the net.
— Jon Sorensen (@jon_m_sorensen) October 16, 2021
The marker would be his only point in five games during the month, but Leason was part of an effective line with Aliaksei Protas and Axel Jonsson-Fjallby. He earned his first ever recall to the National Hockey League (NHL) and made his NHL debut with the Washington Capitals versus the Arizona Coyotes on October 29. He recorded his first NHL goal on November 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Oh yes Brett Leason! pic.twitter.com/Zm2XXhVepT
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 1, 2021
For the month of October in Hershey, Leason had a goal and no assists in five games played. He shot 11 times for a 9,1% shooting percentage.
Leason was called up to the Capitals on October 29 and made his NHL debut on Oct. 29 against the Arizona Coyotes. He scored his first career NHL goal on November 1 against the Lightning.
Leason was re-assigned to the Bears on November 19 after T.J. Oshie and Nic Dowd were activated from injured reserve, but was immediately recalled to the team and remained with the team through the end of the month. He recorded three points (2g, 1a) in 14 games with the Capitals.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 7, 2021
As for his game at the NHL, he demonstrated he can play and make decisions at NHL-speed. He’s already using his size well down low and in and around the goal area, and learning each game. This will be a key part of his game going forward.
Despite being re-called/re-assigned on several occasions during the month, Leason actually only returned to the Bears lineup for one game in December. He was held off the scoresheet in a 2-1 loss at Lehigh Valley on December 21. Leason was a -1 with a shot on goal.
He was recalled to Washington to join the newly formed Taxi Squad on December 27 and was activated for the Capitals game on December 29. The Calgary, Alberta native registered a two-point game on December 17 in a game at Winnipeg. He tallied the opening goal of the game and added an assist.
Leason spent the month of January with the Capitals, playing in nine games, but registered no points. While his offensive production was quiet, Leason did well at quickly learning the game and playing at NHL speed.
Leason would play in three more games with the Capitals in February before returning to Hershey to close out the season. The Calgary, Alberta native returned to the Bears for the final game of February against the Utica Comets. He recorded the primary assist on the lone Hershey goal in a 4-1 loss. He threaded a pass to Jake Massie in the right circle for a power play goal. It was the first game in the AHL for the winger since December 21, 2021.
Leason’s offense started to pick up late in March. He posted a goal in his first seven games of the month, but had three points in his last four games in March. The Calgary, Alberta native fed the puck to Mike Vecchione out in front for the primary assist on the game-tying goal in Hartford on March 26.
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) March 9, 2022
Leason’s lone goal of the month was on a strong move. The winger gathered the puck along the right boards after Beck Malenstyn poked the puck away from a Lehigh Valley player. Leason powered towards goal and backhanded a shot over Felix Sandstrom’s left pad from in front.
Leason has been getting more scoring chances as of late, but has not been able to finish them. If Leason starts to convert his opportunities, it will be a benefit to the Bears.
Leason did not register a point in the month’s opening game, but then scored a goal in his next two games. The winger then went seven games without a goal. He did record a pair of assists during that span.
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) April 2, 2022
Leason picked a good time for his first multi-point game of the season. He set up Aliaksei Protas’ second period marker on April 22 in Lehigh Valley. Then, the Calgary, Alberta native delivered the biggest goal of the season. He had a pass blocked by a Lehigh Valley defender but gathered the loose puck and wristed it past Felix Sandstrom for the overtime game-winning goal. The marker clinched a Calder Cup playoff berth for Hershey.
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) April 23, 2022
He also netted the first goal of the game for the Bears in the season finale on April 24. Leason tallied four goals in April, tied for the most on the team with Mason Morelli. He ended the month with seven points. That is one more point than the winger had entering April.
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) April 24, 2022
Leason concluded the season with six goals and seven assists for 13 points in 31 games.
Leason will be primed for an opening night roster spot this fall, due to the injury to Tom Wilson. He will need to earn the spot, but unless the Capitals sign a free-agent right winger during the off-season, the job is Leason’s to lose.
Leason will have some time to demonstrate his development, as Wilson will likely be out until the end of the calendar year or early in 2023. However, when Wilson returns Leason will need to battle for a spot on the roster.
By Jon Sorensen