A t the 2012 NHL Entry Draft in Pittsburgh, David Poile traded away Nashville’s 2013 3rd round pick in order to take a 5’8″ left wing from the Portland Winterhawks in the 3rd round, 89th overall.
Brendan Leipsic put up fairly decent numbers prior to being drafted by the Predators. In 133 WHL games before being drafted, Leipsic had scored 91 points (44G – 47A) and tacked on 132 penalty minutes for good measure.
At the time, Jordin Tootoo was all but gone from Nashville and Rich Clune was still property of the Los Angeles Kings. At some point down the line, Tootoo’s role on the team would need to be replaced and it appeared that Poile had moved up in the Draft to get a player he could groom into a new Tootoo.
In fact, Poile, didn’t exactly hide what he wanted Leipsic to turn into.
“What I’ve been told is that this guy is one of those guys who is really hard,” Poile said on the day of the Draft. “He’s a little bit Tootoo-ish, a little bit Brad Marchand. I’m sure the best description is probably that he’s not fun to play against. Probably the opposition doesn’t like him too much. This is the guy you love, they hate type of thing. He’s not really big in stature, but plays really, really tough.”
Last summer, when the prospects came to Nashville for a week to work with the Predators coaches, Leipsic went into a little more depth about the notion that he wasn’t fun to play against.
“I played football when I was younger and I love to play physical,” Leipsic said. “It’s just part of my game. For me to be a smaller guy, I’ve got to work my butt off. I get in the other teams’ faces and nobody likes that.”
Leipsic was listed at 5’8″ when he was drafted. His team now lists him as 5’9″. The extra inch isn’t likely to blow away anyone away.
“I like getting in other guys’ faces,” Leipsic said. “That’s just the player I am. I like to play physical and I guess that agitates the other players.”
Luckily for Leipsic, his offensive explosion this season will probably turn some heads.
In 68 games with Portland this season, Leipsic ripped off a WHL-leading 120 points (49G – 71 A) with 103 penalty minutes.
Leipsic touted his competitiveness and his work ethic as his most valuable traits. However, he appears to have undersold another portion of his game.
“I never take a shift off,” Leipsic said. “I think I’ve got pretty good offensive skills.”
“Pretty good” offensive skills means more than doubling his prior year’s output. For a player compared to Jordin Tootoo and Brad Marchand, Leipsic managed to have a season far and away better than any season that the other two had ever had in Major Junior.
On Thursday, Leipsic was rewarded for his potential to become that Tootoo-ish Brad Marchand player that David Poile covets by signing his first NHL contract – the standard 3-year entry level deal with Nashville.
He’ll likely be in training camp in September and, based on Predators teams past, will likely stay in Portland until he is old enough to play in Milwaukee. However, Thursday marked the next step in the development of a player who may end up being one of David Poile’s biggest steals.
Photo: Sarah Fuqua