The Nashville Predators have no shortage of picks during the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. With a total of 13 picks through the first six rounds, there will be no break in the action for Predators fans when the draft takes place on June 28th and 29th at Bridgestone Arena.
With so many picks for 2023, which is the most currently in the NHL, including an unprecedented seven in the first three rounds, the Predators should be looking to shore up some areas that they have struggled in this season. The first of which should be goal scoring.
Now granted, part of the lack of goal scoring for this team this year was in part due to Matt Duchene, Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and Roman Josi being out of the lineup for extended amounts of time. However, even when they were in the lineup, the Predators had a hard time finding the back of the net.
With the Predators missing the playoffs this season, they are eligible to be in the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery. With that being said, it is unknown what position they will make their first pick.
“The window to project Leonard is quite clear based on him being one of the most physically developed players in this group.” -Sam Cosentino of SportNet on Ryan Leonard’s Game
One player that sticks out to me that the Nashville Predators should try to go after is Ryan Leonard. Leonard is a 6-foot, 190-pound forward that can play both center and right wing.
Ryan Leonard Junior Hockey Statistics
According to eliteprospects.com, looking back over the past couple of seasons, Leonard has played for the U.S. National U17 Team, USNTDP Juniors, U.S. National U18 Team, and the U.S. National U18 Team.
In total over those two seasons, Leonard dressed in 167 total games, including six in the World Junior Championships.
Leonard’s level of play has done nothing but increase over the years as he gets older, more mature, and more experience under his belt.
Starting with playing for the U.S. National U17 Team in 2021, Leonard played in 26 games and posted 10 goals and 10 assists. There was a downfall to his play during those games and that was the number of penalties that he took. He accumulated 43 minutes of penalty time during his stint on the U17 Team.
Later that season, Leonard played for both the U18 and USNTDP Juniors, where he skated in a combined 69 games. He became a more disciplined player over that stretch and had 44 penalty minutes.
Scoring at just over a half point per game with those two teams, Leonard started to come into form and play a well-rounded game. His 26 goals and 12 assists are what helped him to reach a remarkable +22 rating in the +/- column.
During the 2022-23 season is when Leonard really started to get noticed more and make a name for himself. The 18-year-old has skated in 66 games over the course of this season and has racked up an impressive 53 goals and 43 assists for a total of 96 points.
Leonard will play collegiately for Boston College for 2023-24.
Where Could Leonard be Drafted?
Draft projections from the Bleacher Report, The Hockey Writers, and Sportsnet Canada, have Leonard being drafted somewhere between picks 8-12.
With the chance that the Predators could improve their draft position in the first round, it is possible that he would be available when the Nashville Predators go on the clock.\
This is why having all of this draft capital is so important and why the trade deadline looks like it will play a major role in how the Predators draft this summer.
There is also the possibility of the Predators trading up, with the number of picks that they have, in order to be in a better position to draft a well-rounded player such as Leonard.
What Does this Mean for the Nashville Predators?
Combine his offensive ability with the discipline that he has learned to play with, and Leonard can help turn any team around. I think that if the Nashville Predators are able to draft Leonard, they should.
At this point, no one knows for sure how the 2023 NHL Entry Draft looks until the day of the NHL Draft Lottery on May 8th. With that being said, if the Predators have a chance to add talent that has star potential at the NHL level, they should, and Leonard could be that player to add to this already impressive pool of prospects the Nashville Predators have drafted in recent years.