Reviewing Ryan Leonard’s “Golden Goal” Against Sweden In 2023 U18 World Championship

2023 has been quite the year for Ryan Leonard. Last week, he became the Washington Capitals’ first top 10 selection, with the No. 8 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, since 2007 and now he is in a Capitals uniform training in development camp.  

The future Boston College product has stood out to so many fans from the moment he arrived at Medstar Capitals Iceplex . He’s played as advertised: a hard-nosed, 200-foot player that has an excellent shot. Capitals goalie prospect Chase Clark said that Leonard’s shot was one of the hardest he’s faced during camp.

The Amherst, Mass, native started perfecting his shot like any young player.

“Basement,” Leonard said with a smile. “That’s where you go downstairs where you’re a kid  and shoot however many pucks a day you can. It’s making your parents buy you all those stupid targets that you’re just gonna break in a couple of days and just wait for a new one to come in.”

Before coming to the nation’s capital, Leonard spent the past two years with the US National U18 Team, and the US National Junior squad. This past season, he set record numbers in the NTDP with 94 points (51 goals, 43 assists), which was third on the team. He was equally impressive in the USHL, tallying 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 17 games.

While getting drafted by Washington was one of the most memorable moments of his career, it certainly was not the biggest for the 18-year-old.

There was no bigger moment in Leonard’s career than his overtime winning goal against Sweden in the gold medal game of the U18 World Championship. It was the second year in a row that the Americans were facing the Swedes in the final. It was déjà vu for the red, white and blue, as it was down 2-0 heading into the third period. 

“There was no worry whatsoever. The team has been together for the past few years. We weren’t gonna lose that game,” Leonard said. “We took control. The puck was in their end the whole game. It was just kind of wondering when the goal was gonna go in and kind of let things take over. The whole team really stuck together and there weren’t really a lot of worries.”

The Americans started the comeback at the 9:44 mark of the final frame, when Danny Nelson tipped the puck off a Zeev Buium point shot. With the momentum in their favor, Casey Terrance tied the game with a power-play goal with 3:16 to go in regulation.

Then, just three minutes into overtime, a streaking Leonard found his way in a prime scoring opportunity to end the game.

“The game had gone on long enough. We were down the whole game,” Leonard said. “Got a pass from Cole [Eiserman]. The D was sucked back a little bit, so I tried to cut to the middle and shoot. It wasn’t the best place shot but it trickled in.”

Leonard’s heroics ended a six-year gold medal drought for the U18 group. Furthermore, his golden goal was his eighth goal of the playoffs, which led the entire tournament. It was the perfect ending to what lay ahead for the young winger.

However, Leonard believes he did not need to have that goal in order to raise his stock for the upcoming draft.

“I don’t really think it really mattered at that point,” Leonard said. “I think I kind of proved myself all year. It was just whoever kind of came up in that clutch moment. It was just a matter of we got the job done.”

By Jacob Cheris

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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1 Response to Reviewing Ryan Leonard’s “Golden Goal” Against Sweden In 2023 U18 World Championship

  1. Anonymous says:

    Pretty impressive for a teenager. 2-3 years of maturity and he could be ready.

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