Draft Preview: Brendan Leipsic


Author's Note: This is a response to Permaculture's post here. Sorry it took so long, it kept getting pushed back for various reasons. But it's written now, so enjoy!

Brendan Leipsic, a draft-eligible forward with the Portland Winterhawks, was ranked #67 in Derek's Consensus Top 100 Draft Rankings. Leipsic is a bit on the small side, listed at 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-9 and anywhere from 155 lbs to 175 lbs depending on the source. His actual weight likely falls somewhere near the middle of that range, around 165 lbs. Leipsic can play both C and LW, but will likely play on the wing as a professional. Keep reading after the jump for stats, evaluation, and some comparisons.

Brendan Leipsic

Center / Portland Winterhawks - WHL

Height: 5-8

Weight: 154

Born: May 19 1994
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba

Shoots: Left

First up, the stats:

GP G A P +/- PIM
2011-12 Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
65 28 30 58 16 82

Leipsic has shown good offensive skills with the Winterhawks and has 28 goals to show for it. Of those 28 goals, 10 came on the power play. Oddly enough though, he doesn't get a ton of prime offensive opportunities as he plays behind the older, very talented trio of Ty Rattie, Sven Baertschi and Marcel Noebels. Nonetheless, Leipsic had quite talented linemates to work with in Brad Ross and Cam Reid. He has a strong hockey sense and his role on the team this past season was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, sometimes being used as an offensive player but sometimes getting tough defensive assignments.

Leipsic's best attributes are probably his skating, speed, and energy. While he might sometimes get inconsistent results, his effort level is always consistent. Leipsic is a very energetic player who plays bigger than he is and plays a very physical game for a player of his size. He plays a very aggressive style. He has the talent to be a top 6 forward (probably on the second line, mind you, unless he really exceeds expectations) combined with the work ethic of a grinder. While he does have talent, he is not a game-breaking talent like Baertschi or Rattie and he relies on his heart, energy, and work ethic combined with his good skill level and hockey sense to be effective. He plays more of a straight line, North-South style, is willing to hit anyone and everyone, and he plays fearlessly, even fighting much bigger opponents. While that style of play works well for him in the WHL, given his size, he might have to adapt his style a bit to make it as a professional. Also of note is that Leipsic was truly a 17 year old this season (he just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago) whereas some other draft-eligible players had already turned 18.

With the Portland Winterhawks having a slew of older, top tier talent the last couple of seasons (Nino Neiderreiter, Ty Rattie, Sven Baetschi, Ryan Johansen, Brad Ross, Marcel Noebels, Craig Cunningham) Leipsic was a 3rd liner as a 16 year old and didn't get significant ice time until this season. This is one of those situations where getting to watch another year of him would be really, really beneficial to see what he could do if given prime offensive opportunities. With Baertschi, Rattie and Ross all likely leaving the Winterhawks' next season and Leipsic as the team's highest scoring returnee, it will be interesting to watch Leipsic play in a more offensive role next season.

Pros: Very good skater, good hockey sense, good skill level, works hard, pain in the ass, willing to hit anyone no matter how big they are, brings energy every shift, willing to fight a bit (if that's something you're into).

Cons: Size and strength are the main ones. Leipsic doesn't have ideal height and will need to add about 20 lbs of muscle before he can play in the NHL. He battles hard and is stronger than he looks but that just won't cut it at the NHL level. Leipsic likely doesn't have the skill level to be a top line player, at least not on a good team. It's not impossible, but he'd have to really exceed expectations to reach that level.

NHL Comparisons: If things go his way, Leipsic has the upside potential to be a top 6, 20-30 goal winger. One of those gritty, annoying, tough to play against but still talented types. Think along the lines of a slightly more physical and slightly less annoying Brad Marchand or Alex Burrows-type of player for Leipsic's upside. Or, if his offense doesn't quite work out, he could end up on the 3rd line, more along the lines of Matt Cooke (the new and improved Matt Cooke, not the dirty Matt Cooke), Max Talbot, Chad Larose, Torrey Mitchell, etc. In the scenario that his offense doesn't translate to the NHL at all, his skating is strong enough that as long as he bulks up he could likely carve out a career as a 4th line mucker like Scott Nichol or similar, although that is obviously not ideal.

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