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2023 NHL Draft Notebook: Leonard, Moore, Perreault


2023 NHL Draft Notebook: Leonard, Moore, Perreault

The 2023 NHL Entry Draft is just over a month away. At the end of June, the league will convene in Music City, where the Nashville Predators will have 13 picks to use, including seven in the first three rounds, starting at 15th overall. In my latest draft notebook, I broke down the game of three American forwards who should all be first-round picks this summer.

Ryan Leonard | C | U.S. NTDP (USHL)

Unlike in past years, this year’s crop from the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP) isn’t as deep; there are four skaters at the top of their depth chart, starting with Will Smith who will likely be a top-five pick. Behind him, Ryan Leonard, Oliver Moore, and Gabe Perreault each bring something different to the table.

Leonard (brother of Nashville’s John) is a 5’11” center who plays a game bigger than his stature. In 57 appearances for the NTDP this year, he scored 51 goals and 94 points before adding eight goals and 17 points, including the gold-medal winning goal, in seven games at the U18 World Junior Championship (WJC).

The Amherst, MA native is a forceful shooter with good accuracy, and the strength of his shooting arsenal doesn’t come at a cost to his hands either. His skating mechanics aren’t perfect, but he’s got a solid accelerating gear and constantly keeps his feet moving. Leonard engages early in puck races and one-on-one battles with good stick lifts and aggressive body positioning.

Leonard (#9, blue) attacks the neutral zone, springing himself into a race for the puck before bodying the defender and scoring.

He’s constantly scanning the ice well before he gets the puck, but he has north-south tendencies to his game that he doesn’t really stray from. His forechecking angles are solid, and he can be extremely effective at shrinking opponents’ ice. With some better edge control and more precision to his off-puck game, I think Leonard has the tools to be an excellent power forward in the NHL.

Oliver Moore | C | U.S. NTDP (USHL)

Playing on the United States’ second line, Oliver Moore is almost the opposite of Ryan Leonard. The 5’11” center scored 31 goals and 75 points in 61 games with the U.S. NTDP this year; at the U18 WJC, he added four goals and nine points in seven games.

Headed to the University of Minnesota next year, Moore might have one of the best accelerating gears in this draft class outside of Connor Bedard. He’s a quick and agile change-of-direction player but possesses a bunch of straight-line speed too. Moore is a confident puck mover who utilizes effective linear crossovers and good puck deception to stun defenders in transition. His size and strength showed their weaknesses at times this year—particularly in the corners of the offensive zone; but he’s got such a sleek set of hands that his puck protection skills will get there.

Moore (#11, blue) maintains good defensive positioning before jumping on a loose puck, blowing past the defender, and firing home a goal.

Defensively, Moore can get to chasing the play a little too much, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved to the wing one day. But with a little maturing, his playmaking and diverse shooting arsenal should complement his speed nicely at the pro level.

Gabe Perreault | W | U.S. NTDP (USHL)

Last but not least, Gabe Perreault might be the most complicated prospect in this class. Perreault, who lined up alongside Smith and Leonard on the U.S. NTDP’s first line, is the most prolific scorer in the program’s history. He became just the fourth player in NTDP history to score 100 points in a season, and he shattered Auston Matthews, Jack Hughes, and Cole Caufield’s scoring rates posting 53 goals and 132 points in 63 games. He then added 18 more points in seven games at the U18 WJC.

So how is the NTDP’s best scorer of all time not a slam-dunk top-three pick this year? The answer is…well, complicated. Perreault, son of former Nashville Predator Yanic, is a smart player; he’s good at finding soft ice and carving into defenses to get into scoring positions. He’s a dangerous shooter who doesn’t need much of a weight transfer to snap a puck quickly after receiving a pass. He dares defenders with his puck skills, diving into their wheelhouses before pulling up, making a move, or dropping his shoulder.

Perreault (#4, white) hunts down the puck on the backcheck before driving the transition and recording a primary assist.

On the other hand, Perreault is no Leonard when it comes to playing physically, and he has a ways to go to win more one-on-one battles. His skating is his biggest flaw; it takes him too long to bend his knees and get into a full stride, and he lacks strength in his stride extensions. He doesn’t always keep his feet moving when pressured and tries to rely on his edgework to beat defenders instead of just maintaining his pace. And finally, I think there’s legitimate concern about how much work Smith and Leonard did on that line this season. Regardless, it takes skill to score that many goals, and teams will pass him at their own risk—even if his projectable skills are 15th to 20th in this class.

All statistics are courtesy of

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