Back To School: Preview Of The 2023-24 Season For Washington Capitals’ Collegiate Prospects

The most wonderful time of the year is almost upon us. The new college hockey season is gearing up and teams have begun preparing for the new season. All these prospects are looking to take on bigger roles, so let’s look at what to expect from the six Washington Capitals prospects that will be competing in the NCAA for the 2023-24 season. 

Ryan Leonard, F, Boston College Eagles

All Capitals fans will have their eyes on this year’s eighth-overall pick as he heads into his first season in Beantown. Leonard is one of 14 newcomers for the Eagles this season, six of whom were drafted in 2023. While the 18-year-old has a lot of hype around him, there are also expectations for his two linemates that will also be playing at Boston College: Will Smith, the No. 4 pick in this year’s draft, and Gabe Perreault, the No. 23 overall selection in this year’s draft.

It is unclear if second-year head coach Greg Brown will reunite the trio this season, but why wouldn’t he? Smith had the second-best season in NTDP history with 127 points (51 goals, 76 assists), Perreault had the best season in program history with 132 points (53 goals, 79 assists) and Leonard was second on the team in goals (51) and third in points (94). All of them bring a different element and complement each other very well.

With regards to Leonard, he is going to be the guy that creates space with his physicality. He is a bull in a china shop who is tough to knock off the puck and can carry anyone he plays with. Along with having an elite shot, Leonard is a versatile forward that can play any position. 

He is going to bring so many people out of their seats and be an exciting player to watch in a very tough Hockey East conference. The Amherst, Mass., native could also be a Hobey Baker finalist by the end of the year along with Smith, who seems to be the early favorite. 

It is frozen four or bust for Boston College. 

If you want to watch Leonard and the Eagles in action, you can watch them on ESPN+.


Ryan Chesley, RD, Minnesota Golden Gophers

After coming up one goal short of becoming a national champion, Chesley is embracing the chance to fill very big holes on the Gophers blue line. The two biggest being Brock Faber and Jackson LaCombe, who both went to the NHL and were in the top-four of Minnesota’s defense for the past three and four years respectively.

The Capitals’ 2022 second-round pick was an important depth piece to Bob Motzko’s squad in his rookie season. He was a steady stay at home defenseman, ranking fourth with 52 blocks, but is looking to unlock his offensive game at the collegiate level after only racking up 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 36 games. 

Along with trying to elevate his game offensively, the 19-year-old is going to be playing alongside a relatively young Minnesota defense, which features only two upperclassmen, so he is going to be relied upon as a leader in the locker room. 

Chesley is a very smooth skating defenseman who is smart in the defensive zone. Expect him to be feeding long stretch passes to Oliver Moore and Jimmy Snuggerud throughout the season.


David Gucciardi, LD, Michigan State Spartans

 Gucciardi should be very excited to play in East Lansing this year. The Spartans are one of the most improved teams in the nation and are projected to be in the top three of the Big Ten this year. They brought in a lot of high-end talent, such as 2022 first-round pick Isaac Howard and 2023 second-round pick Trey Augustine, who is likely the starter heading into the year.

The 2022 seventh-round selection brings a hard-nosed presence to the Michigan State blue line. He goes after every puck in the corner and plays physical but has yet to find his offensive touch. The 6-foot-1 defenseman played in all 36 games for the green and white and had 10 points (four goals, six assists) and third on the team with 46 blocks.

The 20-year-old will be a junior and the Spartans are going to have six underclassmen on defense. The big loss on the backend for Michigan State over the offseason was Cole Krygier, who was a terrific two-way defenseman during his five-year tenure. He also served as an alternate captain. 

Gucciardi will not have a letter on his jersey this year but expect him to sacrifice his body on the penalty kill and play big minutes in the late stages of the game for head coach Adam Nightingale.


Brent Johnson, RD, Ohio State Buckeyes

 Like Chesley, Johnson will be relied upon to fill holes in the Buckeyes’ lineup. Prior to transferring to the Buckeye state, the 5-foot-11 rearguard spent two seasons with North Dakota, and had six points (one goal, five assists) in 13 games last year as a depth defenseman. 

 Now heading into his third season as a student-athlete, Johnson wanted to take on a bigger role in his next journey. Ohio State had tremendous turnover on its backend over the offseason. Its top two defensemen, Mason Lohrei and Cole McWard, signed pro contracts and the only two players who returned to Ohio State’s blue line are fifth-year Scooter Brickey and sophomore John Larkin. It was the perfect landing spot for the Dallas, Texas native.

 Johnson is likely going to be in a top-four role and could be an important piece to the Buckeyes’ power play unit, which was third in the Big Ten at 21.7%. Johnson won’t replace the offense and two-way game that Lohrei brought, but the 2021 third-round selection will bring more stability with his strong defensive play.


Chase Clark, G, Sacred Heart Pioneers

Fresh off becoming a national champion with the Quinnipiac Bobcats, Clark wanted to go somewhere where he had a legit chance of being a starting netminder. It is tough to start any games when your team has the best goalie in the nation in Yaniv Perets.

The 2021 sixth-round pick only appeared in eight games in relief for the Bobcats, and played a total of 78:29 for Quinnipiac and allowed four goals. 

Now the rising sophomore will get a chance to be a No. 1 goaltender with Sacred Heart, a team that was inconsistent in Atlantic Hockey and lacked strong goaltending. Out of the three goaltenders on the Pioneers roster, Clark looks to be the clear favorite to win the starting job. He is the only player on the entire team that is drafted by an NHL club. 

Sacred Heart was knocked out of the Atlantic Hockey tournament by Niagara. Adding a goaltender like Clark who was just on a winning team will help the Pioneers heading into the season. Standing at 6-foot-6, Clark covers a lot of net and is a mobile goaltender for his size.

Joaquim Lemay, LD, Omaha Mavericks

Lemay had a decent first season with Omaha, tallying 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 32 games, which was third on the Mavericks among defensemen. That is impressive considering he was listed as the extra skater on most nights. The 2021 fourth-round pick is another player who is a fluid skater and always has his head up when he has the puck. He’s a very skilled player with soft hands as well.

The St-Pierre-les-Becquets, Quebec, native will have lots of competition this year. The blue line for Omaha is very experienced and features two graduate students. Furthermore, Lemay is one of three drafted defensemen. But he might be due for a big year. He got stronger over the offseason and looks bigger. 

The 21-year-old will have a bigger impact this year regardless of what pairing he is placed on.

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.
This entry was posted in News and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Back To School: Preview Of The 2023-24 Season For Washington Capitals’ Collegiate Prospects

  1. dwgie26 says:

    Interesting how many defensemen we have in college ranks.

    Really excited for Chelsey Sophomore year. Great group of dee to play with freshman year, and should have a big opportunity to step up this year, take on leadership, be able to play a bit more freely. I’d love to see a great year and then to Hershey next year.

    I can see a similar path for Ryan Leonard where he plays two years of college. But he’ll get great minutes this year.

    The rest will all be 4 year college players and we’ll see from there.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Cant remember the last time we had so many prospects in the college ranks. Certainly feels like a shift.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      My personal belief is that Danny Brooks is a big part of the shift. He knows the college scene.

    • novafyre says:

      I think it is. I have noticed that on other teams as well. College hockey seems to have gotten a lot better.

      • Jacob Cheris says:

        It’s so fun. Every game is like a playoff game, especially in the second half. Have watched it for the past four years going to Penn State and I can firmly say I enjoy it more than the NHL. Plus, the student sections and the atmosphere can’t compare

Leave a Reply