TLN Prospect Profile #9: Brendan Leipsic

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When it became obvious that the Leafs were getting ready for a fire sale last winter, everybody knew what they wanted back – picks, picks, and more picks. After all, great teams tend to utilize the draft to pick the members of their future core, and thanks to their age, allow for a lot of well-thought out planning to get them where they need to go.

So, naturally, when the Leafs traded Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Nashville Predators, most of the focus went to the first round draft pick they acquired. But also included in the deal was Brendan Leipsic, a player who was already exceeding expectations before joining the organization and looks poised to continue to do so.

Scouting Report

Leipsic is going to be forever attached to a piece from the hockey news that described him as “the most annoying prospect in hockey”, and in a lot of respects, that’s fair. Much like long-time comparables Brad Marchand and Brendan Gallagher, Leipsic is an undersized forward with a chip on his shoulder. 

The fact that he’s 5’10 after stretching in the morning doesn’t change his desire to crash the net, throw his body, chirp his opponents, and cause as much commotion as he can to shift the momentum of the game in his team’s favour. That’s merely a neat bottom-six skillset if left at that, but Leipsic also adds a strong first step, excellent agility, and a hunger to score goals. 

The Nashville Predators originally saw these qualities in him, and despite his stature, picked him in the third round of the 2012 entry draft. He began paying dividends immediately; his draft+1 year saw him team up with Nic Petan and Ty Rattie to make an absolute mockery out of the Western Hockey League, with Leipsic picking up 49 and 71 assists in 68 games. He followed it up with a shortened draft+2 on a weaker roster but still closed off strong with 33 points in 20 playoff games.

Last Season

With nothing left to prove in junior, Leipsic began his professional career with the Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s AHL affiliate. The team wasn’t particularly fantastic at putting pucks in the net – team scoring leader Viktor Arvidsson had just 55 points, but in the 47 games before the trade, Leipsic managed 7 goals and 28 assists, putting him near the top of the team, into the rookie scoring race, into the AHL All Star Game. Shortly after, the trade happened.

In a way, joining the Marlies had its pros and cons for him, at least as far as putting up points went. The team, no longer struggling the way it was to begin the year, was full of talent to support him, but also full of talent to get in his way. Nevertheless, Leipsic picked up an additional 19 points in the last 27 games of the season – including six in his first six and a Hat Trick in early April. Leipsic’s 0.72 points per game were enough to put him top five amongst rookies league-wide (William Nylander and Connor Brown being first and second) – and ahead of the previously mentioned Gallagher at the same age.

The Road Ahead

There’s still a lot of room for Leipsic to grow, and it’s very exciting. Leipsic will be competing with Josh Leivo for the #1 spot on Left Wing this year, which potentially puts him on a line with William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen. Having more time to adjust to his teammates and play with arguably the two best teenagers in the league will lead to big things for him in the immediate; 65+ points are not out of the question for him.

Where he goes from there is the question. Do the Leafs see him as a top-sixer, or a third line super-pest with scoring touch? The organization seems to be allowing all of their prospects to write their own story books, so it’ll be interesting to see what Leipsic does with his.

    • SEER

      I could see about half of the Marlies come up at the same time, if they needed to.. (and if they traded away some more of the Leaf slackers, for the room…. and future picks..) LOL!

      Agreed, Gary..

    • silentbob

      Why? Just because they play together doesn’t mean they will develop and be ready to join the NHL all at the same time. And what are the odds that the Leafs need an entire line of forwards at the same time? If they end up playing together (personally, I’d rather see Nylander and Kapenen both playing center, which would mean they would have to be on different lines) it will be because that is the best line that exists for the Marlies.

      Also, there is a lot of talk about the Leafs using/following the “Detroit” model of prospect development. Part of that using the AHL to develop players for the roles they’ll be playing/expected to play in the NHL. If the Leafs follow this philosophy, I doubt we’ll see Leipsic on the Marlies top line, playing a mainly offensive role.

      From what I know of Leipsic he projects to be a “bottom 6 NHL player” (I’ve seen him compared to Scott Nichol with more offensive upside). Wouldn’t that mean we’ll likely see him playing on the Marlies 3rd line, learning what is to be expected of an aggressive, agitating, 3rd liner?

      • Gary Empey

        Quote from the article —“Much like long-time comparables Brad Marchand and Brendan Gallagher”===

        Bringing up the whole line was just some summertime hockey daydreaming. If Leipsic is really another Brendan Gallagher I don’t see him in a third line grinder role.

        With new coaches on the Leafs and Marlies, along with all the new players signed, it is hard at this point to tell who will be where and playing with whom.

        • SEER

          Actually…, the Marlies shift guys all the way from 4th to 1st line during the seasons.. Even Connor Brown and Nylander had some time on 3rd & 4th lines, last season… (I watch all Marlies games, as well as all Leaf games, every season).

          You’ve got to remember, there’s like 40-50+ players on the Marlies, at times…, as there is no roster limit in the AHL… Just the 22 max., for games… Any of the Solar Bears are also eligible to come up for games, too.. Players are very lucky to see 30+ games in a season, because of all the testing and experimentation going on…

          So.. Leipsic playing 3rd line, is not always a grinder role… There were some Marlies games last season, where I saw four lines of scoring talent.. I think with the fazing out of tough guys, we will see more of this in the NHL, too..

        • silentbob

          Which would be best case, if he lives up to the “peak” of that better offensive upside I mentioned. But expecting the best case out of prospects a good way to be disapointed in almost all the prospects a team has.

          Some will hit their absolute ceiling, most won’t.

  • silentbob

    he’s better than leivo. he should definitely be on the top line with nylander/kapanen. he can keep up and has the talent, speed and defensive awareness to do well there. if not, he can be on the 2nd line with connor brown as a strong defensive line with high scoring and cycling. the marlies will be so fun to watch.

    • magesticRAGE

      I don’t know if he’s better than Leivo, they are so different. Leivo is a prototypical power forward. I would actually prefer them on the same line, both would take the puck to the net and able to cycle effectively. My opinion anyway.

      • SEER

        he hasn’t progressed offensively or defensively from his rookie ahl season and really hasn’t shown anything to be wowed by while brown continues to surprise in a good way and develop every aspect of his game. i think brown has a higher ceiling than leivo tbh. i think brown is more likely to make an impact in the nhl than leivo. i see leivo more of an nhl call up while brown looks like an nhl regular at least at the moment. i hope they both make it though.

  • Leafydudetwitter

    Has a respectable PCS number in the low 20s if I remember correctly. Lots of fun to watch live and tape. An intangibles beauty with nice skill upside. Expect good things from him.

  • Leafydudetwitter

    “Leipsic will be competing with Josh Leivo for the #1 spot on Left Wing this year, which potentially puts him on a line with William Nylander and Kasperi Kapanen.”

    That’s great sentence. It gives us an indication of how far we have come. In the old days we would be discussing Tim Brent, Daryl Boyce and Phil Oreskovic (now in the ECHL).

    Marner, Nylander, Brown, Johnson,Kapanen, Leipsic, Leivo, Gauthier, Bracco, Timashov, Loov, Percy, Nilsson, Valiev,Verhaeghe,Dermott, Carrick, Finn…that’s light years ahead of where we used to be.

  • SEER

    This guy is proof, that you don’t need to be the tallest or biggest guy on a team, to have grit and show fearlessness.. I watched him on both Milwaukee & the Marlies.. (samples of both, on this video, from the past season) …and was very happy when he came here…

    Think of Gilmour, with even more grit and toughness.. This kid plays every game 100%, even if they are behind a few goals.. Love him..!

    BRENDAN LEIPSIC 2014-15 HIGHLIGHTS MONTAGE

    —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3kKhj67CmI