Washington Capitals 2023 first-round draft pick Ryan Leonard is not at Rookie Camp with the rest of his fellow prospects this week. Instead, he’s getting acquainted with his new surroundings as a freshman at Boston College. The Caps took Leonard eighth overall in this summer’s draft.
The highly-touted winger is set for his first season in the NCAA under head coach Greg Brown after a sparkling junior career with the US National Development Team Program.
We got our first look at what Leonard is going to look like on the ice for Boston College on Monday via his Instagram.
“Back to school #year1”, Leonard captioned the series of photos.
Leonard will continue to wear the number 9 jersey in college that he has donned the past few years in national team play and in the USHL. He’ll be joined on the Eagles roster by nine other USNTDP products, including his most regular linemates and fellow first-round draft picks Will Smith and Gabe Perreault.
This summer, Leonard starred at Capitals development camp and then competed in the 2023 World Junior Summer Showcase for Team USA. His rough and tumble style of play has earned him comparisons to NHL names like Matthew Tkachuk and Tom Wilson. He also has an incredibly hard and deceptive shot that his impressed his peers and top NHL brass.
“He showed why we were so pleased to get him,” Capitals’ assistant GM, Ross Mahoney, said. “Strong. Explosive. I think I said before, after the draft, his shot. It was on display here. It’s not only accurate, not only does he have a quick release, but he has such a heavy shot. He is very competitive. He’s not afraid to take the puck to the net. He’ll score goals in those tougher areas. Really, really happy with him.”
That heavy shot, which Leonard credits his brother John Leonard for helping develop, broke goaltender Chase Clark’s glove at development camp.
“He dis-formed my glove on his first shot,” Clark said afterwards. “It’s definitely one of the hardest shots I have ever faced. The way Ryan shoots makes it hard to track the puck with how fast his release is and how he changes the angle.”
Leonard is coming off a final pre-NCAA season where he scored 51 goals in 57 games for the U-18 national team. His 94 points were third-most on the team. The Massachusetts native also chipped in 20 points (11g, 9a) in 17 USHL games.
Leonard ended his 2022-23 season with a standout offensive performance in the U18 World Championship. There, he blitzed the competition for 17 points (8g, 9a) in seven games and scored the overtime, gold-medal winner against Sweden.
Now, he’ll hope to come up with a similar moment and comparable numbers in the NCAA for Boston College in regular conference play as well as the Beanpot, a hockey tournament pitting the four major Boston area schools against each other, and the NCAA tournament.
With the Capitals re-tooling on the fly and getting younger as Alex Ovechkin nears retirement, this upcoming season could be Leonard’s only college experience as the Caps could ask him to turn pro after just one post-draft campaign.
Headline photo: Alan Dobbins/RMNB
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