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Are the Canucks looking to move up in the draft for centre Ryan Leonard?
8 months ago
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Welcome back to our series here at CanucksArmy where we examine players the Vancouver Canucks could select with the 11th pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
We’ve previously looked at Swedish right-shot defenceman Axel Sandin Pellikka; last season’s youngest NCAA player, BC’s own, Matthew Wood; Bo Horvat comparable, Slovakian centre Dalibor Dvorský; draft long shot Matvei Michkov; OHLer Calum Ritchie; the fastest skater of the draft, USNTDP centre Oliver Moore; Russian LD Dmitri Simashev; Canuck favourite David Reinbacher; number one OHL pick Quentin Musty; Brandon Wheat King captain Nate Danielson; draft riser RD Tom Willander; sniper Colby Barlow; playmaking wizard Zach Benson, and wall specialist Samuel Honzek. Today, after GM Patrik Allvin previously noted he’s open to moving up in the draft, we’ll take a look at an player worth making the move for: USNTDP centre/right winger, Ryan Leonard.
Massachusetts’ Ryan Leonard will be playing for Boston College in the NCAA following the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. But he won’t be playing for his hometown team. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, Leonard will not be playing for UMass, where his brother John (currently a part of the Nashville Predators organization) played. Instead, joining him at BC will be USNTDP linemates and fellow first-round draft prospects, centre Will Smith and LW, son of NHLer Yanic Perreault, Gabe Perreault. Leonard first represented his hometown state as a member of the Boston Jr. Bruins at the Brick Hockey Tournament for the most elite nine and 10-year-olds.
In 2020 and 2021, Leonard was given Neutral Zone’s Mr. Hockey Award as the best boys player in Massachusetts HS. Following that, he was drafted seventh overall in the 2021 QMJHL draft, but elected to play for the USNTDP program for past last two seasons. Leonard racked up 94 points (51 G, 43 A) in 57 games this season, and posted a plus/minus rating of 77. Both this year and last, Leonard was a forward on the US U18 World Championship team, winning silver last year and gold at the most recent tournament. Leonard, who had the best plus/minus of anyone at the tournament (16), picked up 17 points (8 G, 9 A) in seven games. Dubbed as the “third Tkachuk brother” by Elite Prospects, Leonard scored the game winning OT goal to win the gold medal for the US against Sweden at the U18 World Championship — the first time the nation had won the tournament since 2017.
What the scouts are saying
Craig Button, TSN: “He makes opponents really uncomfortable because his motor revs at such high RPMs and he never stops. If you take a little bit of a breath, [Leonard] is going to take full advantage of you. Everything about his game screams first-line, right winger. A player that unquestionably helps you win.”
Smaht Scouting: “Leonard’s game for the most part is very north – south and he is usually heavily involved in the rush. When pressure comes into view, he will look to pass underneath the attacker’s stick shaft to maximize any space that he has in front of him. But, since Leonard is on the move, the attack is on the move and he has to complete the pass quickly. Sometimes, he struggles with his depth perception, doesn’t see an attacker skating into space and tries the passing lane anyways.”
Dan Muse, USNDTP Head Coach: “[Leonard] leads with power. It’s the number one thing that drives his game. He’s a powerful player; he’s a powerful skater; he’s powerful physically. But he’s got the skill and the IQ, too, to be able to read the ice and make plays. He’s playing playoff hockey every practice, every game. He doesn’t take days off — he has one way of playing and that’s it.”
Chris Peters, Flo Hockey: “[Leonard] is a bull. He goes after everything. He’s physical; he’s strong; he’s good in board battles; he does all the little things well, and he’s a high character player. He plays the game honestly and hard.”
J.D. Burke, Elite Prospects: “He’s particularly potent off the rush, adjusting his speed and changing lanes to set up each pass, often driving low into the zone, drawing defenders toward him, and sending the puck high into the slot, giving his teammate the puck with time and space. The power game is ever present, too. Leonard just straight up bullies players out there. On top of it all, he’s a supremely intelligent defensive player with an unbelievably high motor.”
Elite Prospects took a page out of Faber’s notebook, and went as far to say Leonard’s “got that [dawg] in him. Think a Great Dane with a spiked collar, tattoos, and a mean-looking, badass scar.”
Rankings (per Elite Prospects)
Based on his cumulative rankings, Leonard should be picked eighth overall at this year’s draft, which is a bit of a deflation based on his 22nd overall rating by FC Hockey, which is miles off from where he’s been anticipated to go by every other scout. On Elite Prospects’ list, he’s sitting at sixth, which is the highest he’s been projected to go. Suppose he wasn’t selected in the top five, he’s almost guaranteed to be chosen by a team with the sixth to 11th pick — that of course, being the Canucks’ selection. If the Canucks did want to trade up for Leonard, they’d have to do so with either the Arizona Coyotes (#6), Philadelphia Flyers (#7), Washington Capitals (#8), Detroit Red Wings (#9) or St Louis Blues (#10) draft picks.
The Coyotes are pretty much out of the running, considering their hell-bent on loading up on young prospects and liquidating their team (and arena, although they didn’t get much say in that). The Flyers are also out. They’re looking to sell, and they’re desperate to do it. Word on the street is, they’re looking to secure another first-round pick.
With two teams with the next best pick not even being an option, even if the Canucks do somehow move up, they’d have to get confirmation that no one ahead of them would take Leonard. And honestly, I don’t think that’s an undertaking the Canucks are willing to take on. Leonard is a great player, but the Canucks would have to tap into a lot of resources, mainly picks, which they just can’t afford to give up. So, it looks like any chance of the Canucks landing Leonard has to have a fair share of luck involved.
Leonard’s the exact type of pick that the Canucks could have landed if they didn’t gain as much ground (points) at the end of the season. Fans witnessed Florida’s groundbreaking run to the Stanley Cup Final. It was fuelled by an onslaught of suffocating pressure, tactful plays, and just no doubt about it, hardworking hockey. They fought for every single inch of ice they got. Every puck, and every goal. All of their forwards were as skilled as they were tough. Fewer and fewer teams in the NHL execute this structure so efficiently. Every single member of that Florida Panthers team was a nightmare to play against. That’s who Ryan Leonard is.
Skilled players tend to get away with being less physical. Their natural-born shooting abilities compensate for a weaker defensive game. Not for Leonard. He’s a beast in every sense of the word. He’s a concoction of pure skill and brute strength. Much like Matthew Tkachuk did during the playoffs, Leonard loves “doing little things to piss people off.” There’s still a few kinks in his game he has to iron out, mainly OZ retrievals and passing. But it’s a rare occasion when, with all that said, he’s still not the best player on the ice. He has the perfect toolkit for the NCAA, and will be a huge factor in BC’s resurgence, with the absence of the NCAA’s winningest coach, Jerry York.
As a USNTDP player, he saw action against NCAA players and even bodied them. Keep in mind, Leonard’s not even 6’0. He’s a comfortable 5’11. But boy, does he pack a punch. 192 lbs, and growing. He said in an interview with TSN that he’s never struggled with his weight, and we can tell. Next season, he’ll be right there for the Hobey Baker Award, and might just be an NCAA Champion depending on how high the eagles soar. Two years top in the NCAA, and he’ll crack an NHL lineup. I’ll promise you that.
Come June 28, Ryan Leonard is either going to be a player fans will love or a player fans will quickly come to hate playing against. Fingers crossed for the first option.
What would be your reaction if the Canucks selected Ryan Leonard? Let us know in the comment section below!
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