The Washington Capitals just missed out on Russian phenom Matvei Michkov, who dropped to seventh with the Philadelphia Flyers.
With their eighth pick, the Capitals selected Ryan Leonard in the 2023 NHL Draft.
Leonard is a right wing for the U-18 USA Hockey National Team Development Program.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 29, 2023
Leonard, a Boston College commit, ended his 2022-23 season with a standout offensive performance in the U18 World Championship for the USA. In seven games, Leonard blitzed the competition for 17 points (8g, 9a) and scored the overtime, gold-medal winner against Sweden.
In 57 games for the U18 national team, he amassed 94 points (51g, 43a) which was good for third-best on the team. Leonard recorded 20 points (11g, 9a) in 17 games in the USHL. Leonard played on the top line and was used at all situations, averaging over 17 minutes per game.
The forward was not a consensus top 10 pick by some national analysts.
#ALLCAPS select Ryan Leonard 8th overall. I ranked him 18th overall.
Leonard scored nearly a goal per game in the NTDP, and over a goal per game in the WJC-18. But his (relatively, to his draft spot) weak production in the USHL in his D-1 and draft years knocks him down a peg. pic.twitter.com/vA5uBWfJcW
— Patrick Bacon (@TopDownHockey) June 29, 2023
During ESPN’s draft coverage, Emily Kaplan reported that one GM told her that Leonard reminded him of the Tkachuk brothers.
“I think it’s pretty honoring (so sic),” Leonard said per ESPN. “Those guys are truly special players. To be compared to those guys, it’s pretty honoring (so so sic).”
When asked what Capitals fans would learn to love about him, Leonard replied “my competitiveness. I think that’s kinda like who I am.”
He added in a pre-draft video that he brings “a lot of jam (to a team). Kinda a guy that can change the way a game is played in a couple seconds with either a hit or a goal or something like that. I’m a power forward who brings it all.”
Ryan Leonard on now being a teammate of Alex Ovechkin: "Hopefully he doesn't hit me with a one-timer or anything during practice. It's pretty special."
— Ian Oland (@ianoland) June 29, 2023
ESPN analysts compared Leonard to a Tom Wilson-lite type player, who would have been a perfect fit on the Flyers.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 29, 2023
Here’s the Capitals press release on the selection:
Capitals Select Ryan Leonard in the First Round of the 2023 NHL Draft
NASHVILLE – The Washington Capitals selected right wing Ryan Leonard with the eighth overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NHL Draft on Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Leonard, 18, was ranked second among North American right wings and fifth among all North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. The Amherst, Massachusetts native spent the 2022-23 season with USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program’s Under-18 Team recording 94 points (51g, 43a) in 57 games. The 6’0”, 190-pound forward led the team in power-play goals (15) and shorthanded goals (3) and ranked third in points. In addition, Leonard ranked second in game-winning goals (7) and plus/minus (+77).
Leonard split the 2021-22 season with the Under-17 and Under-18 NTDP team, recording 20 points (10g, 10a) with the Under-17s and 23 points (16g, 7a) in 36 games with the Under-18s. In 119 games with USA Hockey’s NTDP over two seasons, Leonard has registered 137 points (77g, 60a).
Leonard represented the United States at the 2022 and 2023 Under-18 World Championships, winning a silver medal in 2022 and a gold medal in 2023. At the 2023 tournament, Leonard scored the gold-medal clinching goal in overtime against Sweden, giving the United States their first Under-18 gold since 2017. Leonard led all skaters in plus/minus (+16) and finished third in tournament scoring with 17 points (8g, 9a) in seven games.
It marks the first time in franchise history the Capitals have taken a player from USA Hockey’s NTDP in the first round and Leonard is the sixth American selected in the opening round by Washington, joining John Carlson (27th overall, 2008), Joe Finely (27th overall, 2005), Pat Peake (14th overall, 1991), Kevin Hatcher (17th overall, 1984) and Bobby Carpenter (3rd overall, 1981). The Capitals drafted Leonard’s former NTDP teammate Ryan Chesley in the second round (37th overall) at the 2022 NHL Draft. In addition, Leonard is the first right wing selected by the Capitals in the first round since Tom Wilson (16th overall) in 2012.
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