When the Nashville Predators drafted Brendan Leipsic at 89th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, they knew he had some offensive ability. He had just scored 58 points in 65 regular season games with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League and added 15 more in 20 playoff games that season.
Very few people were expecting what would happen next.
Leipsic led the WHL and all three Canadian major junior hockey leagues in points with an astounding 120 points in 68 regular season games last season and added 24 more points in 21 playoff games with the Winterhawks. He more than doubled his point total from the previous season.
“My first two years in the Western League I was more of an energy guy. This year I got put on a top role on the first line so I kind of focused a little bit more on my offensive game,” Leipsic said. “I still played with an edge and was in guys’ faces and stuff like that, but I think I just became a bit more dynamic offensively.”
All of the sudden, the third-round pick from Winnipeg has become one of the best prospects in the entire Nashville organization. Leipsic was just recently added to the summer development camp roster for the Canadian National Junior Team and has a pretty good shot of representing his country depending on what happens next season. Still, Leipsic feels like he has areas of his game to work on.
“I’m not a complete player yet. I think I can work on my defensive game by just being committed, and hopefully try and make the world junior team at Christmas time. I think just making sure I play a full 200 feet will be a big thing going to the next level,” Leipsic said.
Leipsic was one of the standouts at last week’s development camp in Nashville, particularly in the scrimmage. He was on a line with 2010 first-rounder Austin Watson and 2012 second-round pick Pontus Aberg and helped form the best line of the scrimmage. That trio made plays from start to finish and showed how effective an offensive player Leipsic can be.
“Me and (Watson) have gotten to know each other the last couple years and the same with Aberg, so I guess we’re a little familiar with each other. Obviously not a lot, but just kind of trusting each other out there is a big thing, and I think that’s why we worked pretty well together,” Leipsic said.
Leipsic’s offensive ability is well documented. However, one of the knocks on him is his size. Leipsic is listed at 5’9 and 165 pounds. That’s pretty small when compared to most NHLers. Leipsic’s size, or lack thereof, isn’t something that concerns him, however. After all, he hasn’t let it stop him yet.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Leipsic said. “I’ve signed an NHL contract, so I’ve made it this far. I don’t see why I can’t make it to the next level.”
Nashville is no stranger to having small players on their roster. Some of the best players in franchise history, like Steve Sullivan and Paul Kariya, were undersized. Leipsic still has some work to do before he’s ready to make a serious push at the NHL, but he’s a player that is constantly improving. If he continues to do that, his lack of size won’t hinder him from realizing his dream of playing in the NHL.