In a league that seems to be switching to a lot of smaller skilled players, the Washington Capitals went with a big boy in Brett Leason, clocking in 6’4” 210 pounds — so he already has NHL size.
What’s most interesting about Leason is he’s already 20 years old, which could be good or bad. It’s potentially bad because if you aren’t drafted it’s usually for a reason, but it could be good because that means Leason needs less development time and can become a pro now. Instead of waiting for him to finish 1-2 year in juniors then 1-2 years in the AHL, he’ll go straight to the AHL Hershey Bears this fall (and if he impresses enough, he could maybe jump right into the NHL... but don’t bank on it). This allows the Capitals to get a quick return on their pick instead of waiting 3-4 years.
But Leason is more than just size. He isn’t just a big guy that just pushes opponent around, sits in front of the net, and waits for the puck (though he can do that). He creates chances for himself and his teammates with his fantastic offensive skill set. He has great vision and hands, and because of his size he has an absolute ripper of a shot that flies off his stick. Check out his highlight package. He isn’t a burner, but for a guy his size he can move. His hands allow him to deke any player and goalie in front of him, and his reach makes it easy for him to get to pucks quickly. He’s the full package.
Washington Capitals get a steal with Brett Leason at 56. Big power forward is an elite net driving presence. Has offensive instinct that goes undetected too often. Knows how to produce offense through skill and manufacturing opportunities. Great kid. #2019NHLDraft— Ross MacLean (@rossmaclean) June 22, 2019
As I said in my preview for him earlier in the week, the best way to test if it’s okay to draft Leason two years after his original draft is to ask, “If you drafted him in his draft year in 2017, would you be happy with his development?” The answer is a definite yes. So for example, Cody Glass, one of the best forward prospects in the league that was selected sixth overall in 2017 was second in the WHL this season in 5v5 primary points per game with 0.87. The only payer better than him was Leason with 0.93. Again, if you drafted Leason in 2017 and saw what he’s done since, you’d be plenty happy with your pick - especially for a #56 overall pick.
Is it worrisome he wasn’t drafted until he was 20? For sure, that’s always concerning, but it’s hard to ignore the toolkit. It’s rare to find forwards with Leason’s size, but it’s even more rare to find someone with his size combined with his hands, vision, and shot. It’s hard to predict his ceiling, but I think at best he can do something similar to what Tom Wilson is doing: be a very good support player to a skilled line. He might not drive a line but he can be that glue that to a line that retrieves pucks with his speed and size, but can also chip in with his vision and shot.