We are now just four days away from the NHL draft and continue our evaluation of players that the Washington Capitals could potentially pick with the eighth overall selection. Today we will look at forward Ryan Leonard.
RYAN LEONARD – (18) – 5’11” – 181LBS, C, USNTDP (NTDP/USHL)
While Leonard is listed as a center, he played all three forward positions with the US National U18 squad. He was also part of the dynamic line composed of Gabe Perreault and Will Smith. The entire trio is headed to Boston College for the 2023-24 season.
The 18-year-old had a strong year with the U18 team racking up 94 points (51 goals, 43 assists) in 57 games. In the USHL, he had 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 17 games. He also led Team USA to a gold medal in the U18 World Championship.
One word sticks out when referring to the Amherst, Mass., native: power. Leonard is an outstanding power forward that never stops moving his feet, much like Zach Benson. He described himself as having a “Tkachuk-esque bite” to his game. He goes after every single puck in all three zones and is positionally aware of where he needs to be whenever a defensemen pinches.
Despite standing at 5-foot-11, Leonard is very strong and rarely gets knocked off the puck. He is not afraid to attack the net and use his body to shield the opposition from the puck. He is a very powerful and explosive skater with incredible balance. Leonard’s shot is also deadly. It is deceptive, powerful and accurate.
Scouts have not found a lot of holes in his game. Sometimes he does puck watch despite being a 200-foot player, but the big question is his ceiling as an NHL player. How good can he be without playing alongside star players?
Leonard is a consensus top 10 pick. There are reports that the Capitals are trying to trade the eighth selection to try and move up. The right-handed forward could be the second or third option if Matvei Michkov is off the board. The Caps could use a versatile, high-octane power forward in their system and Leonard fits that mold perfectly.
Ryan Leonard is a high energy winger who never takes his foot off the gas in terms of both speed and effort. He uses his speed and skill to blow by defenders in the neutral zone and pressure in-zone defenders who struggle to anticipate his next move. His playmaking and shot aren’t exceptional, but they’re both good enough to be reasonably sure that his offense would translate to the NHL some day. – Logan Horn – THW.com
Leonard is dangerous with the puck in the offensive zone, possessing a pro-calibre shot and hands. He is incredibly deceptive, using his upper body and eyes to turn defenders’ feet and sticks before walking around them or getting a shot on net. Leonard is a great facilitator, as well. After making a move, he can find guys in stride in dangerous spots. An above-average skater, Leonard can employ all of these tools off the rush too, making him even more versatile.
Bob McKenzie: 6
Elite Prospects: 6
Craig Button: 12
The Hockey News: 7
By Jacob Cheris