What new Maple Leafs prospect Brendan Leipsic’s track record suggests about his upside

The Toronto Maple Leafs believe that Brendan Leipsic, a 20-year-old winger that the club acquired from the Nashville Predators in the Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli trade, has the skill level and the competitive makeup to be an NHL player down the road.

“The only downside in terms of Brendan is his lack of size,” Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said during a conference call with media on Sunday. “But as we’ve seen in this game particularly over the last year or so is that smaller players are finding a way to play.”

“He’s got a lot of ability,” Nonis continued in describing Leipsic’s game later a bit later on during his media availability. He’s got great sense around the net, he’s a great passer, but more than that he’s a very competitive guy. Some of the smaller stature guys need to have that edge.”

Let’s take a more in-depth look at Leipsic’s track record.

A former Portland Winterhawks forward, Leipsic, 20, was a third-round pick of the Predators in 2012. His draft year production was nothing to write home about, although he did manage a very solid 33 points in 68 games at a 16-year-old in the tough Western Hockey League. It seems likely that he had an outlier shooting percentage in one of those seasons (as a 16-year-old, or in his draft eligible season). 

According to research from Josh Weissbock – a Nation Network contributor and the purveyor of CHLstats.com – based on Leipsic’s statistical profile in major junior, his closest comparables include Francis Perron, Jean-Yves Leroux, Cameron Mann, Jordan Caron, Travis Brigley and Michel St-Jacques. Not exactly a murderers row of NHLers. If we take his height (5’10) into account, the success rate of comparable CHL players is 3.7 percent – which is a significantly lower hit rate than average. 

What can’t be ignored is Leipsic’s stellar performance as a 20-year-old rookie in the American Hockey League. With seven goals and 36 points in 47 games played, Leipsic is currently 4th among all AHL rookies in scoring and is logging major minutes for a Milwaukee Admirals team that Hockeystats.ca estimates to be among the top-10 puck possession sides in the league.

On the other hand, the Admirals are converting on the highest percentage of shots of any team in the league, so it’s likely that Leipsic’s point totals are inflated somewhat by common puck luck. Also the freshly minted Maple Leafs forward is facing the third lowest estimated quality of competition among his teammates, which would suggest that he’s probably being deployed in a cushy spot.

The Leafs intend on taking their time with Leipsic, and it would be a surprise if he were to get more than a short sniff in the NHL this season.

“We’ve got time with him,” Nonis explained on Sunday. “He’s only in his entry-level contract, and we’ll try and bring him along slowly, but we like his upside in terms of his offensive ability and the way he competes. He’s a very competitive guy. “

What it comes down to is that Leipsic is another lottery ticket, and precisely the sort of asset a team in the early stages of a new rebuilding phase should be looking to accumulate.

“He’s going to have a chance,” said Nonis, “and it’s going to be up to us to develop him, and on him to put the work in, and we’ll see where he ends up. But we’re very pleased to have him.”

  • Jeremy Ian

    Thanks, incidentally, for the write up.

    “What it comes down to is that Leipsic is another lottery ticket, and precisely the sort of asset a team in the early stages of a new rebuilding phase should be looking to accumulate.”

    Correct. You can’t rebuild with nothing. What’s encouraging is what looks like marked improvement from 16 to 20 years old; that the guy’s really developing. I’d love to see a guy willing (like Clarkson) and able (unlike Clarkson) to muck it up effectively in the corners and buzz around the net.

  • JPJPJP

    Tough to conclude a whole lot from junior numbers – but his performance in the AHL this year, his first season at the pro level, is really encouraging (was leading the Admirals in assists).
    I think he could end up as a Marchand/Gallagher type player if things work out perfectly.
    Hockey’s Future has him as tied for our 2nd best prospect.

  • STAN

    Here’s the sad part.

    Nonis already, reportedly, put a Leafs price tag on Franson – $4.6MM. He knows he’s worth about $5MM in today’s marketplace, but he was hamstrung by that idiot GM. Oh, yeah that was him.

    So Nashville gets a proven, 27-year old, $5MM right-handed defenseman in the prime of his career with far more upside that Goof Phanoof. They can either sign him or let him leave.

    They also get a versatile 29-year old forward who was playing FAR above his 2015, $1.5MM paycheque. Same option. Sign or decline.

    Nonis will likely flip Jokinen for a 4th rounder to Pittsburgh or the Rangers in the next week or two.

    So the Leafs get a late first rounder (to replace the 2015 2nd rounder given to LA in the Bernier deal), a 20-year old prospect with a half season of AHL experience and a 4th rounder for Franson and Santorelli.

    So the way things stand now, come June’s amateur draft the Leafs will have the 3rd to 5th pick and another first rounder at about 27. Still nowhere need the basket of picks held by Buffalo, but it’s a start.

    AND… who’s to say that if Santorelli is a free agent again he won’t end up back with the Leafs?

    Still, Nonis has a lot of work to do to prove that he can be more helpful than harmful to this team.

  • JPJPJP

    I just hope they don’t give away Devane, Biggs, Gauthier, Bodie… These little rats are useless without someone big to protect them… Unless you’re smurfs and can count on refs to save you and give you power plays.

  • JPJPJP

    i’ll be celebrating the day nonis is fired just like i celebrated randy’s demise. anyway, the oilers have better defence than us at the moment. that defence core is laugh out loud hilarious. that’s just god awful. we’re going all the way in this tank battle especially after we get rid of winnik. get rid of bozak and put jokinen and clarkson on the top line for good measure! i feel sorry for rielly/gardiner.

    • CMpuck

      no one. we’re having a robidas-holzer top pair and out-tanking buffalo for the 2016 nhl draft’s 1st overall pick. might as well try to get 2017’s 1st overall pick too. nylander/mcdavid will be developing in the ahl by then so we have time!

  • CMpuck

    To me this was a good trade to get a good prospect and a first round pick plus an other trading piece for two expiring contracts. Yep our defense is getting softer, but not a disaster just because of one guy being traded, come’on.

  • CMpuck

    What this article failed to mention was the fact he lead the whole Western Hockey League in points with 49 Goals and 71 Assists as an 18 year old.

    Why focus on his draft year when he obviously dominated the next year?

    • CMpuck

      Because players who dominate the CHL after their draft year rarely develop into much as NHL players, those who dominate the CHL during their draft year become very good to great NHL players.

      Some of those who have led the CHL in scoring after being drafted include, Corey Locke, Justin Azevedo, Yannick Riendeau, Alexander Radulov, Brandon Kozun and Linden Vey. All from between 2003 and 2013. During the same time period, Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane have led the CHL in scoring prior to being drafted…….see the difference?

  • CMpuck

    BTW the Leafs are only 10 pts ahead of the mighty Oilers.

    p.s. Slava Kozlov is he still around?

    The Leafs could use some Russians and Czechs imo.

    Most of the good teams have one or two.

    I liked Mogilny,Berezin,Frycer, and Ihnacak for forwards when they were with the Leafs.

  • CMpuck

    Truly the author of this column is in a trance. Yesirree the only way the leafs get a first round pick for the pylon Franson, who is finally getting back to the N.H.L. with the Predators is to double up the deal. The leafs are basically down to Winnick who will probably get a second or third round pick.

    Just remember leaf fans that the architects of disaster who have drafted in the past 10 years are still there and will be advising Dubnas and Hunter in how not to draft N.H.L. players.

  • CMpuck

    You’re going to assess him based on his 16 year old junior season, but you’re just going to ignore the 211 points in his last two years (148 games) in juniors?

  • STAN

    does anyone remember Franson the year the leafs first traded him? Between him Gardiner KESSEL and reimer they combined to put us no. 1 in giveaways! The only improvement was reimer the rest still stink. All 3 of them don’t forecheck, body check or provide a single ounce of gots, pride or character . Send kessel and Gardiner to Winnipeg for the BIG B. I Take their 1 pick next year and # 2 following year. Throw in Loophole to drive the bus.

  • STAN

    The Toronto Maple Leafs are just a dysfunctional corporation with a bunch of overpriced kids. We are a billion $ franchise and we are garbage. Where have we gone wrong? or right lol billion dollars?!? the problem begins with the Bay st. fat cats who buy all the boxes and priced out seats cause they can afford it. The real fans up in the rafters can’t make all the noise in the pin drop ACC plus it’s guys playin shinny against pros who wants to cheer for garbage. Toronto is a corporate team and the fan nature of the game is gone. Until we stop paying and going to games what’s the point the “Board” will continue to pony up a terrible product cause they know it still returns a ridiculous profit. Nature of the business. Let’s face we will never have a good team. We can do a rebuild and than make a stupid move here and there and back to sq one always happens. As soon as the board sees the team make the playoffs one year rebuilds over. Get rid of the board bring in a owner who has a billion and is passionate about hockey and hires hockey people like the Blackhawks did ala the Bowmans and you’ll see a dramatic change in this franchises culture and makeup.

    In terms of the trade was a good first step but I think if the two were traded separately leafs could have got more. Franson demands a lot top d producer and right handed ufa thats a first in it self santo second rounder easily prospect as well for either.