Photo Credit: Rena Laverty / USNTDP
Ryan Leonard is a top American 2023 NHL Draft eligible prospect and he hails from Amherst, Massachusetts (the home of UMass). Leonard played for the USNTDP over the past few seasons and before that he played for Pope Francis Preparatory School and the Springfield Rifles 14U / 15U AAA squads.
Leonard’s brother is John Leonard, who plays in the Nashville Predators system (originally draft by the San Jose Sharks). John had played for the Green Bay Gamblers before coming back to Amherst to play for UMass. Unlike John, Ryan will not be wearing a Minuteman jersey. Instead, when Leonard suits up in the NCAA this fall he will be wearing a Boston College (later on will refer to Boston College as BC, don’t mean British Columbia) Screaming Eagles jersey. Ryan Leonard will be joining several current USNTDP teammates in Chestnut Hill, Mass. His line mates, Gabe Perreault and Will Smith are both committed to BC. In addition, Aram Minnetian, Drew Fortescue and Will Vote will be joining Leonard at the Conte Forum next season.
D.O.B – January 21, 2005
Nationality – American
Draft Eligibility – 2023
Weight –181 lbs
Position – Center
Handedness – Right
Leonard’s Style Of Play
Leonard has lengthy reach that allows him to loose pucks in the offensive zone in a highly contested situation. He will grab onto the puck and then use his reach again to push the puck away from the attacker. Once securing the puck, should pressure shift over to Leonard quickly, he will then look to complete drop passes to teammates skating towards him. After completing the drop pass, Leonard typically looks to skate to the slot and set himself up at the doorstep. He’s drawing pressure away, looking to catch attackers puck watching and sets himself up at net front to provide an intriguing passing option for the teammate that he passed to. Not only does Leonard create the passing option in high danger, but he also is in position to tip-in / deflect pucks or capitalize with rebound goals.
His primary assist totals this season at 5v5 were low. Leonard had two primary assists at 5v5. The majority of his assists at 5v5 were secondary. You won’t see Leonard attempt a lot of passes to the slot and that’s mainly because over the course of the season he has struggled with passing in tight lanes. 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.
When he draws pressure after skating into the offensive zone off the rush and if he doesn’t have any other options due to pressure by the time he gets to the red line, he will try a shot from low danger. Just like when he is looking to pass through a tight lane, he will look to use whatever space is given to him and that usually means looking to shoot above and below the stick shaft of the attacker. He has capitalized a few times from range with pressure in his face and shooting above the stick has helped him secure those goals.
Here is another!
When Leonard is skating with the puck into the offensive zone and headed for net front, he looks to take the most direct route and looks to attack the middle. Should pressure approach him, he has good reach to rely on to extend the puck out to secure the puck. Leonard will use a mixture of crossovers, edges that retain speed and quality power stride extensions to get separation from an attacker. The separation allows him to drives to the net and finds a gap to exploit. But, not only does Leonard find a gap, he will manipulate the goaltender by skating towards the short side and having the goaltender commit to the short side. At that point, he will leverage his handling to get the puck around the goaltender and into the back of the net.
While Leonard is successful off of the rush, sometimes if he starts to face pressure when he approaches medium danger and the pressure intensifies he will end up trapped behind the red line along the boards. When the pressure is tight, I’d like to see Leonard start to call some more audibles and try to pivot to shake off the pressure. What you don’t want is NHL defensemen to start picking up on your playbook because then they will be prepared to close you off. Leonard needs to work on coming up with those alternative strategies when pressure starts to intensify.
Leonard typically puts up a big fight on the forecheck. He stays well-aligned with pivots when the puck carrying attacker tries to pivot out of pressure. He can be rather gritty. Leonard won’t shy away from open ice checks and finishing checks in the corner.
When he looks to get the inside track in a loose puck battle in which the attacker vying for the puck is staying toe to toe with Leonard, he will lean in with his shoulder in those contested battles to slow down the attacker.
Sometimes when looking to create space for himself on odd man rushes in which Leonard is leading the way, he will integrate delays to create separation. By stopping and delaying, Leonard makes the goaltender and the attack believe that he intends to complete a pass to his teammate, but then he will quickly rip a shot to the blocker side.
Sometimes when shooting the puck immediately after collecting a cross ice pass, he will let the goaltender completely reset when they are shifting over and thus the goaltender is more likely to stop his shot as he is squared up. I’d like to see Leonard become slightly quicker with his decision making and get the shot off immediately after receiving the puck.
Leonard is usually following the rush, but does skate back to help with loose puck recoveries. But, in those instances in which he is facing the rush, he will look to be physical when attackers are driving the puck along the half-wall boards.
Should the attack drive the puck behind the red line and look to setup the cycle, he coasts to net front, but when the cycle is alive and kicking, Leonard is usually patrolling the blue line from the perimeter line.
If one of his defensemen grab control of the puck behind the red line and are dealing with an intimidating forecheck, he will drop back to the red line and provide an outlet lane for said defenseman to use. Once in control of the puck, he doesn’t hold onto the puck for long and quickly completes a pass to a teammate further up in the zone. If there isn’t much pressure for his defenseman, he will park himself towards the blue line to open up wide lanes for that defenseman to pass through.
When it comes to dealing with pressure amounting in the defensive zone, he will execute shovel passes should the pressure intensify and he has no where to go but there is a teammate in range. You can also expect him to pass off the boards when pressure is daunting. But, when he has a bit more space to potentially get around an attacker, he will look to draw pressure to one side and use the other side for his escape path. Leonard has the foot speed to break away and then looks to execute a pass to an open teammate closer to the blue line or a teammate open in the neutral zone. The only type of pass that Leonard seems to be more inconsistent with is long range passes from deep in his own zone to teammates in the neutral zone, but when shifting away from pressure, he builds up excellent speed with his crossovers and straight line skate extensions to get himself far enough up in the defensive zone to complete a shorter pass. He only will try those long range passes when the pressure doesn’t get fooled by his manipulation strategies.
When defending in the neutral zone, he doesn’t assert much pressure at open ice. He’s there, but isn’t being assertive with his approach. Instead, he looks to take away space in the neutral zone with his positioning when looking to eliminate open ice for the attacker to use to breakout the rush from the opposition’s own zone. There are shifts in which he is slightly more physical against the rush at open ice, but it’s usually when the puck carrier has slowed down the pace and is skating right at Leonard.
As I mentioned earlier on in the report, Leonard has excellent reach that he will use to trap loose pucks that are slightly further away from him. He can use that reach to grab onto pucks and beat attackers to the puck. The attacker still gets in range to put pressure on Leonard, but it’s after Leonard was able to trap possession and quickly get rid of the puck by completing a quick shovel pass or drop pass to an open teammate.
Should his defensemen look to drive the puck a bit further out from the red line and move the puck up through the defensive zone, Leonard does a good job of grabbing open ice and providing a zone exit passing lane. Should pressure intensify and he is closer to the boards, he will sometimes find himself giving up possession immediately after trapping the puck. In those situations, I would like to see Leonard incorporate more shoulder checks / head checks to identify how far the opposition is from him especially when he has his back turned to the attack.
As I mentioned a few times throughout the report, Leonard has a lengthy stride and excellent crossovers. He pairs them nicely to build up speed to create passing lanes right near the offensive zone blue line for his teammates to use and to create separation for himself when the pressure is on. Should Leonard need to shift directions when reacting to changes in puck movement or to react to attack staying toe-to-toe with him, he can use he will use crossovers to shift east-west and build up speed.
There are sequences of play in which he relies heavily on his crossovers for momentum and sometimes when he has enough space in front of him to skate to the net hard, he doesn’t deploy lengthy extensions to crash the net. Instead, he shortens his stride extensions and that leads to Leonard losing speed and allows the attack to close in on him. Those are sequences in which if the attacker can match the speed, Leonard will ultimately be closed off from proceeding towards net front. He needs to use integrate his lengthy extensions to break away.
I see Leonard as a winger who can provide teams with top six goal scoring production at the next level.
He doesn’t have the toolsy flashy handling to dance around pressure that is Kent Johnson or Mitch Marner like, but he’s got tools on his tool-belt to evade the pressure and create separation for himself.
But, I’d like to see Leonard start to come up with plan B or plan C strategies when he has committed to driving the puck to net front. NHL defensemen will start to pick up on Leonard’s playbook and he will need to come up with alternative strategies at a drop of a hat.
In addition, I’d like to see Leonard continue to develop his physicality in both the neutral zone and the defensive zone. He does like to target vulnerable attackers with the puck, but doesn’t always implement the pressure to truly make the attacker feel vulnerable. If he can work on taking away space with more assertion, he will create more and more vulnerability.
April 27, 2023
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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